At HDFFA, we help consumers that value fresh food and healthy communities to support local farmers by helping them discover and buy their products. We do this by promoting and amplifying the voices of local farmers, ranchers, and food entrepreneurs, and by sharing the story of their hard work and creativity. In January, we had the chance to provide an inspirational experience of visiting a bustling, vibrant regional food hub, created and organized by Ecotrust, and to understand the amazing resources available from Oregon State University during a full-day “Food Innovation Road Trip” for local food entrepreneurs.
After an early-morning start and good weather on the drive to Portland, we arrived at The Redd on Salmon Street. There, 12 HDFFA partners and interested food businesses got a fantastic tour of this regional food hub. The Redd serves as a collection, preparation, retail or wholesale sales, and distribution center for all kinds of products – from frozen fish, meat and ready-made meals to nut butters, kombucha, soup, and more. Representatives from Ecotrust, which runs the public/private partnership that’s at the heart of the Redd, showed us through the warehouse and explained the opportunities to connect with the Portland Metro market, and then we sat down with Ecotrust folks to a delicious local lunch made by one of the food businesses who started at The Redd.
After lunch, we headed over to OSU’s Food Innovation Center, where the inimitable Sarah Masoni gave the group an overview of the many decisions to consider when creating a value-added product, and how the Food Innovation Center can help with consulting, lab, and other services. A highlight was a visit to the food lab, where participants got to learn about the scientific testing that can determine shelf life and other food safety considerations.
Members of the group headed home with new ideas, inspiration, and connections. The trip was underwritten by a Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), which allowed value-added producers from Central Oregon the chance to attend at a reasonable price and allows HDFFA to remove financial barriers to activities like this that can help grow the local economy. We are so appreciative of this team effort between ODA, Ecotrust, OSU, HDFFA, and of course our inspired, entrepreneurial participants.