Hub to connect small farms with consumers opens in Twin Cities

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There's a new CSA in town.

That might not mean anything to you immediately – but it's essentially a center to get Twin Cities residents buying and eating produce from small farms.

The Good Acre Food Hub debuted Friday, with a 1-6 p.m. grand opening at its location in Falcon Heights (1790 Larpenteur Ave. W.).

It's a multi-farm Community Supported Agriculture operation (more on what a CSA is below), its mission being to connect local Twin Cities farmers with consumers by serving as essentially as a go-between.

"This program will improve marketplace opportunities for diverse, independent farmers with an infrastructure that will generate a reliable income stream and a fair wage," said Rhys Williams, general manager of The Good Acre, in a press release.

The goal, the nonprofit's site says, is to get a lot of the necessary-but-expensive infrastructure local farmers need out of the way. That includes transportation, storage, packing and distribution opportunities.

The hub is basically a place for that all that, where disparate food producers without much support – whether they're immigrants to the community, start-ups or just under-served small urban farmers – can get their food up to required safety standards and out to mainstream markets, the Star Tribune writes.

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Good Acre has a kitchen and training center to educate the community and farmers, and is located right next to the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus, a press release says.

Three hoop houses are planned near the hub, with one to be used by the U for research and demonstration.

(Editor's note: BringMeTheNews is owned by Go Media, a part of the Pohlad Companies – the Pohlad Family Foundation initially funded the Good Acre Food Hub project.)

So what's a CSA?

Local Harvest explains it pretty simply:

Farmers offer "shares" in their product – but not as a stock thing. Instead, a share is a bag or box of vegetables or other farm products.

"Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season," the site writes.

Consumers get fresh, locally grown food at regular intervals – and farmers end up with customers that pre-pay ahead of time, helping cash flow and spreading out the risks associated with a bad crop. It also lets them focus on farming during harvest season, rather than having to worry about marketing, the USDA writes.

Local Harvest has a map and search function to find CSAs in your area – for Minneapolis, the site lists 80 in the area.

The USDA has an outreach program to help local farmers. Census data from 2007 shows farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are getting older, and medium-sized farms are disappearing, the USDA says. Because of that, farmers often need to have another source of income now, besides simply farming.

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