The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has a new venture helping provide locally grown food to restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores while helping support area farmers. A Marion County family says the Harvested Here Food Hub is helping them continue doing what they love.

Katherine Merryfield and her family make rounds every morning to feed the pigs.  This family farm raises pigs and sells the pork at farmer's markets and other venues. 

Like many farms around the Tennessee Valley,  the Merryfields would like to get their product to more people, but running the farm is a full-time job that doesn't leave much time to market their goods. That's where the Food Bank's new Harvested Here Food Hub comes in.  "The Food Hub is able to move our product much easier than we can because they are using us and other farms to sell the same thing and sell at a higher volume", says Brian Merryfield.

Food Hub director Ray Rollison says the demand for locally produced products continues to grow and the food hub is one way to help local farmers expand their business and meet a growing need many can't do on their own.  " We're asking them to grow a little extra (above what they normally do) and allow us to market that for them, to extend their sales base, to improve their profitability", explains Rollison.

The Merryfield Farm processes about 50 pigs a year, but many restaurants want nearly 20 each month. "We can't keep up. They want too much, but with us working with other farmers, then they can keep up with the demand", says Katherine Merryfield.

The Food Hub is also able to provide cold storage which can be a challenge for many farms. Katherine says, "The Food Hub has the ability to store large quantities. If we sold them a pig and a restaurant only wants the loin, they can sale to other places that wanted those parts."

There are nearly 400 farms within a 120 mile radius of Chattanooga growing everything from vegetables and fruits to garlic and herbs to meat and fish. Yet Rollison says less than 10% of locally grown food stays in this region.  His goal for the Food hub is to make more local food available  while helping those who provide it.   "If we could shift $5 in weekly grocery purchases from out of state items and just get 5% in local purchases, that would inject about $1.6-7 million dollars annually in to the economy" says Rollison.

Back at the Merryfield Farm, Brian and Katherine are making plans to help the Food Hub meet the demand.   "We're expanding our chickens so we can give those to the food hub for business. We would like to expand in to either dairy or meat cattle in the future", explains Katherine.