Nourishing News: Headwater Food Hub

Although the year 2020 is in the rearview mirror, it presented lasting challenges to the food community and those struggling with hunger in the Finger Lakes and beyond.
Headwater Food Hub’s monthly specialty goods box for March (Women’s History Month). Photo provided by Headwater Food Hub

By Shannon Hazlitt Harts

The year 2020 is (thankfully) in the rearview mirror. However, it certainly made a lasting impact in showing the importance of local agriculture in times of crisis. To make it possible for small farms and food producers to feed local communities in turbulent and less tumultuous times, fortunately, there is Headwater Food Hub.

This foodservice distributor is focused on managing the logistics of getting nutritious foods grown and produced on about 200 small to mid-size sustainable farms in the Finger Lakes and other parts of the state to businesses, community organizations and individual families.

Although the farms and food producers that Headwater works with are small-scale operations—including Autumn’s Harvest in Romulus, Stick and Stone Farm in Ithaca, and Lively Run Dairy in Interlaken—they have had a major impact. In 2020, the organization delivered about 2.5 million pounds of fresh produce, according to its website.

“One of our values is providing agricultural families with a living wage,” says Mary McClelland, Headwater Marketing & Communications Manager. “By giving small farms a way to have a larger market that is also reliable, they can have better income guaranteed.”

Headwater is also currently partnering with Nourish NY, an organization that routes surplus agricultural goods in the state to those who need them through the state’s food banks, to help combat food insecurity intensified by the pandemic. Headwater’s boxes of produce were recently distributed via a Catholic Charities pop-up food pantry featured on CBS New York.

The farm-fresh produce and other goods that Headwater distributes can be ordered online in quantities appropriate for both residential and commercial-size kitchens. There is then a delivery and drive-through pick-up option at multiple locations in the Rochester and Ithaca areas.

In addition to offering specific online food orders, Headwater Food Hub has a box of specialty goods made by small-scale food producers that changes monthly.

For Women’s History Month, the box includes goods made by New York State women-run businesses. This includes seeds from Fruition Seeds run by Petra-Page Mann and based in Naples in addition to dark chocolate bark from Rue Clare Lavender Farm in Lodi, which is owned and operated by Claire Benjamin, a Certified Professional Master in Confectionary.

McClelland explained many of the products for this box were selected because their history connects with women’s history in food production.

McClelland also said Headwater is often connecting with more farmers and small-scale food producers for products in this specialty-goods box and that can be ordered to create nourishing family and restaurant meals.

“We are always changing our offerings and finding ways to bring new farms—even very small two-acre farms—into our mix,” she said.

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