Shrewsbury, Ma. – With over 1500 farms across Worcester County and a burgeoning farm-to-table food scene, the region is friendly to locavores. No surprise, then, the network of farmers, food entrepreneurs, chefs, business leaders and local food advocates partnering with the Worcester Regional Food Hub is growing, with over 300% more business in the region than same time last year.
Recently, the Food Hub hired Shon Rainford as Senior Project Manager, lending strategic leadership and day-to-day oversight to its core operations, including the aggregation and distribution of local food to area buyers and the management of an incubator program for food businesses operated from a commercial kitchen at Worcester County Food Bank. The kitchen is available to anyone interested in starting a food business.
Rainford, who moved to Massachusetts from South Carolina 10 years ago to accept a position at Heifer International in Rutland, served as a Managing Partner there before coming to the Food Hub in February. In South Carolina, Rainford says he lived “off-the-grid” in a tiny house (think: solar power, composting toilet, and hand-driven well) on 20 acres. Today, he’s living with his family in an 18th century farm house in Rutland raising chickens, sheep, and honeybees and selling eggs from pasture-raised hens on Rainford Family Farm. The position at the Food Hub is a natural fit.
“I’m passionate about local, healthy food, supporting small farmers and business owners and using resources wisely. I see the beauty in what we’re doing, in connecting farmers to markets, allowing them to focus more time on farming while keeping more of the food dollar. Watching food businesses start up, develop, grow and become a real part of the scene here in Worcester County is something special.”
The Food Hub, said Rainford, aspires to bring together people who care about creating a healthy, sustainable, and just food system in the region. The program itself is rooted in collaboration. The Food Hub launched in 2015 under the leadership of the Regional Environmental Council and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. It’s funded by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, and Worcester County Food Bank serves as its fiscal agent.
“Worcester County Food Bank’s involvement with the Food Hub is a wonderful example of the different, yet complementary, ways our organization collaborates with a variety of partners and connects them together – from supporting a network of food pantries and meal programs for hunger-relief to supporting local people and the local farm economy as part of a healthy and sustainable regional food system,” said Jean McMurray, Executive Director of Worcester County Food Bank. “Shon’s energy and enthusiasm is inspiring, and great things for the Food Hub will continue to happen under his leadership.”
This spring, Rainford and his team at the Food Hub are increasing its engagement with local farmers by diversifying local food sourced to include meats, cheeses, mushrooms and grains. It’s also increasing market access for members at Worcester Common’s Out to Lunch Concert Series and Farmers Market.
For more information, see: worcesterfoodhub.org.