Posted on Saturday, June 25th, 2011 by Megan

FoodHub Connections: Wahluke School District and Bella Terra Gardens make plans for the future

They are a local food triple threat. As growers, packagers and distributors in Zillah, WA, Bella Terra Gardens – along with the other branches of their company, Barbee Orchards and Obert Cold Storage – bring local produce to local buyers. They’ve been in business since 1914 and had one food market left to explore: local schools.

But they didn’t learn that schools were buying more local items by word-of-mouth. They found them on FoodHub.

Since joining FoodHub last fall, Gregg Everts of Bella Terra said he has made five connections with buyers from their Spokane, Seattle and Portland delivery triangle.

“The attitude among a lot of distributors seems to be ‘go big or go home’, but we don’t want to go big. We just want to serve local people,” Everts said, “and we’re finding great success with FoodHub. Those five people we connected with will know five other people. It’s just a snowball effect that’s helped us get more business.”

While searching the Marketplace for local buyers he saw a post from Wahluke School District Nutritional Services Director Diane Hyndman, based in Matawa, WA, about 60 miles away. Now, Everts is discussing plans to replace the current cucumbers and tomatoes on the school’s salad bar with Bella Terra’s locally grown products.

“It’s a learning relationship for us,” Hyndman said when asked about transitioning more school food to local. “Cucumbers and tomatoes were easy to transition to local because those were already things we were buying in bulk.”

While tomatoes and cucumbers are a good start, Hyndman expects Bella Terra will bring more to the table.

“Right now we’re starting out small at two cases a week, but we’re hoping there’s potential for growth. If they have a truck up here already it’s advantageous to see what else they could bring,” she said. And for Hyndman it’s all about planning ahead. Since she’s joined FoodHub, Hyndman said, seeing who’s available on the horizon has become clearer.

“I think FoodHub is a great tool to learn who is in your regional neighborhood and learn what they’re producing,” she said. “It’s hard to know what farms are 40 miles out there. They might be out of our immediate community, but still close enough to get food from. It gives me a real sense of who’s in my area. FoodHub brings the farmers market right into my office.”

“This is our first year that we’re selling to schools,” said Everts, “and it’s because we got on FoodHub and got connected. It’s easily accessible, it’s right there in front of you on the computer, and it’s just easy to get online and access points of interest.”

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