For me, one of the most valuable experiences in traveling is getting to support the local makers of a region. By local makers, I mean farmers, artisans, and other craftspeople. The Adirondacks has a thriving scene of local makers, especially an abundance of innovative farmers. The mountainous landscape may be rough, but these farmers make it work. I recently spent an afternoon at the Hub on the Hill, which is not only the hub for this local food scene and the farmers that make it, but it is also a food hub. A food hub is a centralized organization that helps local, small farms grow by offering them support in marketing, distribution, and sales.
Put simply, the Hub on the Hill is a market, cafe, distribution center, and commercial kitchen. You can visit the Hub’s market to buy local farmers’ products (all in one place), fresh homemade meals, and other sundries like handcrafted wooden bowls and handwoven rugs. In addition to the market, the Hub has a cozy cafe where visitors can grab a fresh cup of coffee and sit and relax.
I recently found out how special The Hub on the Hill is and why travelers to the ADK should stop in to see for themselves. The afternoon I stopped by happened to be the day they were processing over 1,000 pounds of butternut squash and pumpkin for nearby Essex Farm and another food hub in Rochester. I joined in the task of removing the seeds from pumpkins. Processing this amount of food is not unusual for the Hub. They regularly turn extra bumper crops (food that wouldn’t normally go to market) from farmers into something of value to them. In this case the pumpkin and butternut squash will be processed into delicious, usable puree.
My work was not in vain, though, because I was invited to join in a delicious lunch prepared by the Hub’s newest member of the catering staff, Shannon. She prepared Broccoli Cheese Soup in homemade rosemary and thyme bread bowls. For dessert, we enjoyed a Clafoutis, or skillet cake, with blueberries, apples, and fresh whipped cream. The Hub regularly enjoys meals this delicious, homemade, and ready for pick-up in the market.
After the meal, I had a chance to catch up with Meghan Brooks, who manages the kitchen and distribution, along with Anna Isserow, who coordinates the operations at the Hub. They both shared with me what an average day at the Hub is like. Basically this is where a lot of action happens. They work with over 70 entities including farms, restaurants, and other institutions. They distribute food five days a week to 30 different stops in the Adirondacks including schools, small stores, cooperatives, and restaurants. Some small farms they support are Fledgling Crow, North Country Creamery, Sugar House Creamery, Mace Chasm, and Tangleroot. The list is more extensive than this, though.
The Hub is the nearest place for already prepared, grab and go, food for Essex residents, so the market’s to-go meals are important and popular among the locals. According to Anna, the Hub can’t make food fast enough for the demand, which is a great thing because they are meeting their central mission to get the most good food to the most people possible. However, they still need even more supplies and support to continue expanding to best serve consumers and farmers.
Back in the market, I perused the items for sale. The market is a small scale grocery store with a selection of elegant handmade crafts. They carry dairy products, meat products, vegetables, condiments, pickled vegetables, including kimchi, and maple syrup. Anna said the market will even have greens available in the winter as much as they can. The selection of food and wares in the Hub is worth a visit alone.
The Hub is more than a market, though, which is why I am encouraging travelers to stop by. The Hub’s goal may be to reach consumers, but it’s also to help farmers expand their reach. As Anna pointed out, “Local food is a viable economic engine.” Supporting our Adirondack farmers is not only a delicious and healthy way to feed yourself, it’s a meaningful and positive way to support our local economy. When I asked Anna why she does this work, she told me that she believes “farming is an art,” and that farmers don’t need to wear every hat all the time, such as do all their marketing on their own. This is where the Hub comes in. The Hub can help with the marketing and distribution, so farmers can focus on their art and help the planet. Anna is rightfully proud to be representing Adirondack farmers and serving her community through the Hub on the Hill.
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