“…growing for their community and region is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle”
For the past decade, the Puget Sound Food Hub Cooperative (Food Hub) has worked as guiding hands for several of our local farmers to bring fresh agriculture products to your favorite restaurants, universities, and local stores across the region. This farmer-owned cooperative is driven by the opportunity for local farmers to develop and maintain relationships with customers throughout the Puget Sound.
General Manager Andrew Yokom has worked at the Food Hub for almost a year now. Andrew developed a passion to influence the American food system in his final years at Macalester College in Minnesota, receiving a degree in Biology and Environmental Science in 2009. Andrew began getting his hands dirty in the agricultural system while working at Mountain Bounty Farm in northern California, where he worked for one season before moving on to manage a small urban farm in Reno. While in Reno he started Prema Farm with a partner while working at Great Basin Community Food Co-op as their Operations Manager. Over the years Andrew has developed an appreciation for the many processes needed to operate a successful farm: what goes into providing for a community on a more sophisticated level and just how important the local food web is to the surrounding community.
In 2019, Andrew and his partner Nikki Boyce moved to the Skagit Valley to be closer to family. Andrew’s new position at the Food Hub allowed him to continue honing his expertise in wholesale food distribution in one of the most agriculturally productive and valuable farmland in the world: Skagit Valley is ranked in the top 2 percent of soils.
Starting out in 2010 as a weekly wholesale market, the Food Hub has evolved by immersing itself in the digital realm we now live in. With online ordering for products from specific farms or for just a single product and robust delivery systems, the Food hub has found a market niche that not only benefits the farmers involved, but also their customers’ growing demand for locally produced products. From select accounts as far south as Olympia, up through Whatcom County in the north, the Food Hub delivers products twice per week with more than four routes.
Today the Food Hub faces new day-to-day challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the state’s shelter in place order lasting for at least the next several weeks, the ability for local farmers to sell their produce and products to their traditional markets has been turned on its head.
To meet this challenge, the Food Hub is now selling directly to the public with retail sales from their facility on Best Road west of Mount Vernon. This transition not only benefits the community, it also creates an opportunity for direct retail sales as a new business model for the Food Hub.
To keep everyone as safe as possible, the Food Hub has increased sanitation of all products employees’ handle, both in the office and in the warehouse. They have adjusted how farmers drop their products off at the co-op and modified their delivery system to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed and enforced. “We are concerned about keeping our employees, customers, and the many farmers who are part of the cooperative safe from potential exposure, too”, Andrew states. Each truck has its own sanitation kit and is cleaned between each use, and employees wear protective gear when handling products.
With more unknown challenges ahead, Andrew expresses the optimism the Food Hub has, even during such a tough time. “Our farmers and staff truly believe in the mission, that growing for their community and region is more than a job, its their lifestyle.”
When asked how the community can continue to support the Food Hub and its efforts during this time, Andrew stated, “Buying local foods is the number one thing.” The Food Hub’s website is packed with information about buying local, and its participating farmers from our community work tirelessly to support and grow our local food web.
With an eagerness to search for the best way to sell local products directly to the community, the Food hub is constantly exploring ways to make it easier. To learn more about the Puget Sound Food Hub Cooperative, the products they offer, and where to find them, check out their website, Facebook and Instagram.