The Local Food Hub recognized farmers, businesses and nonprofits for contributions to Virginia agriculture at the organization’s annual Community Food Awards celebration Thursday.
“It takes a community to build a better food system,” said Local Food Hub executive director Kristen Suokko.
When volatile weather decimated peaches and other crops this spring, the Local Food Hub helped farmers implement alternative growing plans.
“It’s been a rough year for farming … but we were able to stick by our farmers, and our buyers stuck by us,” Suokko said.
The loading dock at the Local Food Hub’s Ivy warehouse became a makeshift stage at Thursday’s awards ceremony. Four of the 2016 Community Food Award winners are based in the Charlottesville area.
Heirloom Rooftop and Bar received the inaugural Virginia Wine Leader award, which celebrates Local Food Hub’s new partnership with the Monticello Wine Trail. Located on the roof of the Graduate Charlottesville hotel, the restaurant has served a variety of Virginia wines to guests from outside the state since opening in May.
“Winning the award is huge for us, especially being so brand new,” said Heirloom restaurant manager Elsa Winter. “It’s very welcoming.”
The Trailblazer award, which recognizes creative solutions to procuring local food, went to Greens to Grounds, a University of Virginia student organization. Greens to Grounds sells produce and snacks sourced from Local Food Hub farmers and community gardens on Grounds. Students can pay for weekly food deliveries with their UVa Dining meal plan.
“Part of our mission is to grow farmers, as well as food. We’re trying to spread the knowledge and let others learn from our mistakes.”
Bellair Farm manager Jamie Barrett
Bellair Farm received the Pioneer in the Field award. The farm has hosted workshops and educational opportunities for new farmers in collaboration with Local Food Hub.
“Part of our mission is to grow farmers, as well as food,” said Bellair Farm manager Jamie Barrett. “We’re trying to spread the knowledge and let others learn from our mistakes.”
Cora Diaz (5) chases her favorite bubble at the Local Food Hub's Community Food Awards, Oct. 20, 2016
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The Move2Health Coalition, an obesity prevention partnership coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Health District, was recognized with the Healthy Community Leader award. The coalition includes local hospitals, fitness centers and other public health organizations.
“Move2Health really is a prime example of community organizing in a way that streamlines collective efforts to enhance health,” said Laura Brown, Local Food Hub’s director of communications and marketing.
The Rookie of the Year award went to Riverside Produce Farm, of King William County, for its contributions to the wholesale market and food access programs in its first year as a Local Food Hub partner.
Riverside also won a $1,000 prize for innovation in agriculture. Riverside’s “Planting Assistant” is a wheeled platform that allows farmers to lie face down while planting seeds as they are pulled by a tractor.
Yoders’ Farm, of Campbell County, was awarded second place and $500 for a machine that automatically deploys and removes acres of protective cover for strawberry plants.
“It’s amazing to see the tenacity of young growers and the enhancements they make to better run their farms,” Brown said.
The Local Business, Community Impact award went to Homegrown Virginia. Its founder, Albemarle resident Allie Hill, also works with Virginia Food Works, a nonprofit that assists farmers and food entrepreneurs to make food products at the Prince Edward County cannery.
Saunders Brothers Orchard, of Nelson County, was named Partner Producer of the Year for reliably producing tree fruits despite this year’s adverse weather conditions.
The Institutional Leader award was given to DC Central Kitchen, a Washington nonprofit dedicated to culinary job training and hunger relief.
Union Market, of Richmond, received the Retail Leader award for its support of local food producers.
Local Food Hub’s Employee of the Year Award went to Adrianna Vargo, director of Grower Services. Vargo spent much of this year helping Virginia farms comply with new food safety regulations.