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Grand Opening: Clatskanie Food Hub opening June 8

Dec 08, 2023

The Clatskanie Food Hub will be at 80 Steele Street in Clatskanie.

For those in Clatskanie who want access to local food and produce year-round, the Clatskanie Food Hub will be opening June 8, located at 80 Steele Street in Clatskanie.

Under the umbrella of the non-profit Clatskanie Food Market, Executive Director Jasmine Lillich and her partner and Clatskanie Farmers Market Board President Brandon Schilling are spearheading a project that they hope will bring the community closer to its local food systems. The Clatskanie Food Hub will be a marketplace, farm-to-table venue, and food literacy classroom.

The stores hours will be:

The grand opening at 2 p.m. June 8 will start with a "vegetable cutting ceremony." That day, people will be welcomed into the store, greeted by 32 vendors lined up for that day. There will be festivities throughout the day, including free pizza while supplies last from Blue Bell Knoll Farm and Bakery, beverages from Crooked Creek Brewery, and live music by Blair Borax, sponsored by Fall Creek Preserve.

Building a food system

The Clatskanie Food Hub arose out of Schilling and Lillich not being satisfied with the unsustainable food model of pulling large amounts of produce for a one-day-a-week vending opportunity at Saturday markets.

"'Stacking it high and watching it fly' is what they call it in the Saturday market world, where you have to stack your table full of produce; otherwise, no one will buy it," Lillich said. "What happens is there is a lot of, naturally, waste because you have produce sitting out in the sun all day. And if you just put out what people would buy, they wouldn't buy it because they want it to look abundant. So we were sick of that model."

The food hub is a way for people to buy their local produce more than one day a week at the farmers market. Lillich said the only places where people can get groceries in Clatskanie are Dollar Tree, Safeway, and the local gas stations.

"That seemed like a problem to us," Lillich said. "And we wanted to support the producers. There are all these producers who aren't included in the Saturday market model."

Lillich and Schilling are not only part of the leadership at the Clatskanie Farmers Market, but also vendors. They are farmers and co-owners of Wild Locals Kitchen and Farm.

Lillich's parents donated the building that will house the food hub to The Caltskanie Farmers Market in October of 2021. Initially, the plan was to open a separate non-profit for the food hub, but it worked out that when they moved back to Clatskanie in 2020, they could fold the idea into the existing Clatskanie Farmers Market non-profit. Lillich and Schilling assumed their positions within the Clatskanie Farmers Market as Executive Director and President as old board members stepped back.

Lillich and Schilling began writing grants to help raise funds for the food hub. In February 2022, they started a fundraiser in the community that raised $35,000 dollars. As part of a matching grant, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) gave $15,000 to go toward cool storage for moving seafood down the Highway 30 corridor from the North Coast.

They also received donations from Ford Family Foundation, Columbia Pacific Economic Development District, Oregon Community Foundation, and countless in-kind donations from within the community. The Clatskanie Food Hub aims to help producers get their food to a market.

"Whether that's a wholesale institution, direct to consumer, aggregation, onto a delivery truck, it's just helping producers get their product to the end user," Lillich said.

A consignment model

The Clatskanie Food Hub will be open year-round on a consignment model. Producers will get 80% of the retail price, and the hub will take 20%. Lillich said this model is based on other food hubs on the North Coast, like Food Roots and North Coast Food Web. The 20% cut that the food hub gets is to cover operating costs and expand their work to help producers.

The hub will be a seasonal store, meaning that only locally grown products will be in supply at a given time. All the inventory will be used, and if food is out of season, there may be a derivative of that product that is preserved and sold. Schilling described it as a way to educate and add value, so people understand how to get the most out of their food.

"For instance, we've got a rack of fresh, beautiful tomatoes; they've been in the store for a week, maybe some of them are starting to turn, well before they all turn, we want to capture those and have a class on how to can tomatoes," Schilling said. "So people come in, they can those tomatoes, we're able to buy the rest of the tomatoes from the producer to reduce their risk of consignment, and we're actually able to turn that into a value-added product through an educational experience."

It will look like a grocery store, but a different kind of grocery store, Lillich said. Beyond that, the food hub is looking to address the infrastructure issues needed to establish a local food system.

"There are so many missing links to having a local food system. It is like building from scratch. There's been a lot of work already in the works; we're sort of able to stand on the shoulders of giants at this point," Schilling said. "You think about the way that our national and global food system has developed. They have a massive infrastructure, and we have basically zero infrastructure. It's not just about having a refrigerator for people to go shop and buy these goods; it's so much more dynamic in nature."

Lillich and Schilling want to create a local and regional food network in Clatskanie and Columbia County. The food that will be in the Clatskanie Food Hub will be limited to a 100-mile radius, though they are not accepting any products from the Portland metro area. Lillich said they have about 50 percent of their vendors from Clatskanie and Columbia County and 50 percent from Astoria, Washington, and other surrounding areas.

Lillich said that currently, there are 32 producers signed up for the food hub, but the applications are open and will be accepted year-round. The food hub offers not only the market component but also a classroom that will offer classes to help educate people about buying directly from farmers and ways to grow and support local food systems.

Community Goals

Lillich and Schilling said that this year would be focused on intake and getting producers into the market. They will gauge their hours and availability based on the buy-in and participation they get. The hub is volunteer run, but Lillich wanted to make sure that hub manager Candy Uskoski also got credit for her role in running the hub.

As the food hub gets off the ground, Lillich and Schilling wanted to emphasize that this venture's success will hinge on community support.

"We can only support you if you support us. It's going to require people to shift their purchasing habits and what they're used to and comfortable and familiar with, but if they can take the dive with us and trust that the more, they can support us as a community, the more we can invest into making this a more robust and resilient food system," Schilling said. "Their dollar goes further, spending it in the market because it goes direct to their neighbors. If we want to see a stronger quality of life in our community, county, and region, then we have to invest in our locals, in our people, and this is a powerful and easy way to do that."

For more information about the Clatskanie Food Hub, call Jasmine Lillich at 503-412-8678.

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