The future of a downtown food hub received good news late last week when the Churchill Economic Development Authority and the Kent family agreed on a five-year lease to house the co-op venture at the former Kent’s Market on South Maine Street.
CEDA Executive Director Rachel Dahl said Monday the lease is renewable for five years. She said terms of the lease were not released.
“Our next step involves revenue generation, feasibility and a business plan to start shaping a timetable,” Dahl said.
To move forward with the co-op, a meeting is set for Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Churchill County Museum.
Nearly one year ago, Fallon was one of 26 communities selected nationally for a federal program intended to spur economic development by increasing access to healthy fruits and vegetables grown locally. CEDA qualified for the “Local Foods, Local Places” Initiative. The recipients will share up to $800,000 in federal technical assistance over the next two years. The program offers help from six federal agencies, with experts in agriculture, transportation, public health and the environment.
Furthermore, Dahl said having a food hub can capitalize on the local agriculture and the Dairy Farmers of America dry milk facility that opened in 2014.
“Food services is very near and dear to our heart, and we need to keep reflecting that to those outside our community,” she added.
As CEDA pushes forward on the food hub’s development, Dahl said her committee is looking at a revenue stream to begin the locally produced grocery store, which will resemble a version of Trader Joes. What the food hub will offer is a production facility, said Dahl, that will have vendors making and packaging food items such as salsa, jellies and baked food goods.
Furthermore, Dahl said framers will be able to contract with the local school district or hospital to sell local goods.
“We’re slowly moving along and including people who want to be involved,” Dahl said.
The food hub is intended to serve an 80-mile radius of bringing in produce and meat and then packaging and processing food items for delivery.
USDA GRANT — CEDA also received an $85,145 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program.
According to a release issued by CEDA, the Nevada Department of Agriculture issues block grants to fund projects that promote locally grown specialty crops that include fruits and vegetables as well as honey, tree nuts, and nursery crops.
One of 755 such projects awarded nationwide totaling $63 million in funding, CEDA will use the funds with partnering community organizations to increase specialty crop commerce for local growers and consumers by creating a space at the Fallon Food Hub/Co-op where specialty crops from regional farms can be processed and packaged and sold to local consumers.
In addition, CEDA said aggregating specialty crops produced by local small acreage farms will provide for distribution to larger buyers not always available to those individual farmers.
When CEDA submitted its paperwork for the initial grant, the local development authority envisioned a food co-op that would center on the area’s agricultural roots and productivity.
“It is our vision to create a gathering place in the heart of our historic downtown which provides an outlet/market for local farmers, local small food producers, and an emerging small manufacturing sector.
“This will provide for better access to locally grown products including value added local agriculture products. The building we are targeting is located in the heart of downtown, closer to the eastern edge of the community, within easy walking distance to the impoverished and disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the senior housing inventory.”