The Hilo Food Hub commercial kitchen space in Keaukaha is now under the new management of Hoʻōla Farms with the help of a grant from the Not Yet Foundation.
Hoʻōla Farms decided to take over the Hub to improve local farmers’ access to commercial kitchen space and equipment. What started out as a partnership between Hoʻōla Farms and Hilo Food Hub to bridge the gap between farmers and added-value production opportunities to grow their agribusinesses resulted in the merger.
“We’ve recognized a few pukas in our system after running agriculture training programs and now Hawaiʻi Farm-to-Car market over the last seven years. One of the barriers for small farmers is lack of access to facilities like affordable certified kitchens,” said Emily Emmons, Executive Director of Hoʻōla Farms.
“This acquisition will help us increase the number of veterans and community members pursuing education and entrepreneurship in the food and agriculture sector on Hawaiʻi Island. Our long term goal is to decrease our reliance on imported foods, and increase our local economy and community resilience. We’re excited and grateful to have this opportunity with the help of our partners at Not Yet Foundation,” she added.
Zach Larsen, founder of the Hilo Food Hub said of the transition, “This has been a great journey and I couldn’t be happier knowing that the Hilo Food Hub will be in such great hands moving forward.”
The Hilo Food Hub currently serves over 25 farmers and small business owners who utilize the commercial kitchen to make a wide range of products, from cured meats to wontons to baked goods. There are also several small businesses who rent office space at the Hilo Food Hub, including Compost Hawaiʻi, Big Island Box and Volcano Precious Plastics. The Hub’s mission “to provide affordable commercial kitchen space, cold and dry storage, product development, distribution services, and other resources to help businesses grow,” will remain the same under Hoʻōla, but will expand to include additional services and resources. More equipment, upgraded facilities, and even health and wellness classes will be offered. The Hub will also be utilized as part of Hoʻōla Farms’ Groundwork to Grow curriculum and workshops.
“This is such a great opportunity for Hilo Food Hub to increase innovation and development in the local food system. We are evolving from just a commercial kitchen for rent to an entire agribusiness incubator, where farmers and community members are given the tools, resources and training opportunities to help their agriculture business thrive,” said Anthony Florig, program manager at Hoʻōla Farms and owner of Big Island Box. Anthony will become the new full-time manager of the Hub starting in April 2022.