Hilo Food Hub Commercial Kitchen Space Under New Ownership
The new owners of a commercial kitchen space in Keaukaha are taking an innovative approach to addressing food security and agribusiness development.
The Hilo Food Hub commercial kitchen space is now under the management of Hoʻōla Veteran Services, better known as Hoʻōla Farms, with the help of a grant from the Not Yet Foundation.
According to a press release, Hoʻōla Farms decided to take over the Hub to improve local farmers’ access to commercial kitchen space and equipment. The merger was a result of a partnership between Hoʻōla Farms and Hilo Food Hub to bridge the gap between farmers and added-value production opportunities.
“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,” said Emily Emmons, executive director of Hoʻōla Farms, in the press release. “One of the barriers for small farmers is lack of access to facilities like affordable certified kitchens.”
Emmons said in the release that the acquisition of the commercial kitchen space will help Hoʻōla Farms increase the number of veterans and community members pursuing education and business opportunities in the food and agriculture sectors on the Big Island.
“Our long-term goal is to decrease our reliance on imported foods and increase our local economy and community resilience,” she said. “We’re excited and grateful to have this opportunity with the help of our partners at Not Yet Foundation.”
“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,” said Zach Larsen, founder of the Hilo Food Hub, in the release.
The Hilo Food Hub currently serves more than 25 farmers and small business owners who use the commercial kitchen to make a variety of products such as cured meats, wontons and baked goods. There are also several small businesses that rent office space at the Hilo Food Hub.
The Hub’s mission of providing 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 Farms ownership, but will expand to include additional services and resources, the press release said, such as additional equipment, upgraded facilities and health and wellness classes.
The Hub will also be used 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,” said Anthony Florig, program manager at Hoʻōla Farms and owner of Big Island Box, in the release. “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.”
Florig becomes the new full-time manager of the Hub this month.
Hoʻōla Farms also operates a variety of agricultural training and small business incubation support programs for veterans and the local community around the Big Island as well as the weekly online Hawaiʻi Farm-to-Car Market in Keaʻau.