The Kearsarge Food Hub takes shape in Bradford.
The Kearsarge Food Hub was formed three and a half years ago when a handful of young adults moved back to their hometown of Bradford, New Hampshire to join the local food movement.
We started with a vision: a local food economy that thrives on community partnerships and values healthy food and farms. And we had this vision specifically for the Kearsarge area, the place where we all grew up. We wanted to help bring our community back to its roots. But we also knew our work could stand as an example for others yearning for the same kind of community connections as we were.
We got right to work bridging the gap between the farmers and eaters in our local network. We built a farm stand, started our own small farm, and joined the network of growers and producers in our area. We amassed a group of 30-plus producers, from veggie growers to meat producers to jam makers, and sold their products, and our own produce, through Sweet Beet Farm Stand. We opened for business in the heart of downtown Bradford on July 4th, 2015.
In a town where businesses have left Main Street and young adults move away and never look back, our presence in Bradford did not go unnoticed. We have gathered quite the following, and all of our projects have had the hands of community volunteers and other interested parties involved on an intimate level. It truly has been a group effort.
But there’s a problem - we lack key resources.
By the end of our second season at Sweet Beet Farm Stand, it became clear that we were quickly outgrowing our hand-built structure and improvised veggie cooler.
It also became clear that our local food network - our farmers, producers, eaters, community organizations and institutions - needed more resources and infrastructure to grow and thrive.
Our primary goals when we started a food hub were to create greater access to local food in our area, bring our community closer to agriculture, and support local farmers. And to a large extent, we've done just that.
BUT WE CAN DO MORE.
In our three and a half years, we've learned how to grow our own food, created new market channels for farmers, connected the community to local food through the Sweet Beet, donated over 3,000 lbs of food to local pantries, salvaged hundreds of pounds of farm waste, hosted community events, created connections between our schools and local agriculture, and brought technical assistance and training to our local network.
BUT WE CAN DO MORE.
We need a place to run Sweet Beet as a year-round indoor market, adequate storage for all the local goods we work with, a proper facility to process farm waste and create value-added goods, greater capacity for supporting small businesses and food-related entrepreneurs, and a space where our community can gather over food and conversation.
So when the old Bradford Inn was bought by two Bradford residents and Hub enthusiasts, Mike Bauer and Mike James (or, more simply, “The Mikes"), it was like a giant light bulb turned on and nearly exploded. This old crumbling building on the corner of West Main Street, this forgotten town icon that had been sitting idle for 10 years, emerged as a solution to our problems.
Here’s what we’re doing about it
The Kearsarge Food Hub, now in its third season, is partnering with The Mikes to revive the old Bradford Inn and bring much-needed resources, specifically relating to local food infrastructure, to our small town and surrounding Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area.
We call it the Bradford INNovation Project.
The mission guiding the Bradford INNovation project is to create a vibrant community hub wherein business innovation and community engagement is encouraged and supported on all levels. We are devoted to building a strong and accessible local food system through facilitating partnerships, sharing resources, building infrastructure, and creating opportunities for food-based and community-driven entities.
We've already moved our Sweet Beet operation to the old Bradford Inn, graduating from a seasonal roadside farm stand to a year-round indoor market. The farm stand has transformed into a washing and packing shed for our small farm.
But our vision is grand and there is much to be done to get this old (did we mention old?) building up and running to its full potential.
We plan to build a shared-use commercial kitchen, start a bakery, provide space for two local business women to open a cafe, and create a community event hall - and that’s just on the first floor!
And our project, as an example of how a community can come together to strengthen itself from the inside out, is going to change the world!
Through this project:
Farmers in our local network can use the commercial kitchen to process farm waste into value-added goods.
The Kearsarge Food Hub can take fresh produce and turn it into delicious meals for the local food pantry.
Sweet Beet Bakery can bake daily bread for the community.
Sweet Beet Market can provide local food year-round, 7 days a week.
An entrepreneur interested in starting a small food-related business can test out making and selling products with minimal investment.
A local school can bring their students in for a cooking class.
A local artist can play a set for folks enjoying their coffee and scones in the cafe.
Main Street in Bradford can come back to life a little through a new space for commerce and community interactions.
This project represents what is possible when young adults move back home to start something small that grows into something big. It’s an example of how a forgotten building can be transformed and brought back to life. It’s an example of how a town that has been in an economic downturn for years can turn the ship around and begin a new narrative.
Now more than ever people are feeling divided and we are all looking for ways to connect with our neighbor. When one community decides to join together over a shared mission, we all benefit. These days it’s all about small local efforts, and we are asking you to join us in creating something real, and really important. A rising tide really does lift all ships!
You can join us - and we really wish you would!
We are already well on our way to getting this building up and running, with multiple plans of action lined up. But this is a big project, and we need your help to see it through.
The Mikes are investing in most of the building’s much-needed renovations, including a new septic system, heating system, drywall, all new windows, exterior paint, roof and porch work, landscaping and more. These projects total at least $150,000. That’s a lot of work that’s already covered.
As a community organization, we want our community to be involved in our projects. A community space for the people, by the people!
We've RAISED OUR GOAL from $20,000 to $30,000. We will be using the extra money to go toward kitchen equipment for the shared-use commercial kitchen. When we began this campaign, we had a grant application our for a USDA Rural Business Development Grant to pay for commercial kitchen equipment. We have since learned that we will not be receiving this grant.
Due to this fact, and to the success we have had with this campaign thus far, we are raising our goal to cover costs of first-floor renovations on this old building and kitchen equipment.
-$3,000 for framing.
-$3,000 for flooring.
-$4,000 for painting.
-$8,000 to purchase and install a commercial kitchen hood.
-$9,000 for commercial kitchen equipment
-$3,000 for overhead costs.
Tell me about the perks.
Rather than sending out individual gifts to all of our generous supporters, we would rather honor your investment by allocating all funds directly to the Bradford INNovation Project. Our funds are limited and we are dedicated to seeing this project through.
If you invest today, you will be a part of creating an essential community space for a small town that really needs it. By helping us on our way toward building a shared-use commercial kitchen and creating a community commerce and gathering space, you will be strengthening local farmers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and community.
However, if we reach our goal of $20,000 we will host a giant party featuring a farm-to-table dinner and live music on-site at the old Bradford Inn for all to attend! We really want a chance to celebrate, so let's make it happen together!
To learn more about the Kearsarge Food Hub, its members, or the Bradford Innovation Project, visit our website: www.kearsargefoodhub.org
Stop by Sweet Beet Market in the old Bradford Inn, 11 West Main Street, Bradford. Our hours are Wednesday-Friday & Sunday 10am-6pm; Saturday 9am-6pm (closed Monday-Tuesday). We are happy to accept your donation in-market!
Many thanks for your support!