Excitement was high at the Gem County Food Hub Advisory Committee earlier this month when members found out federal and state monies are available to study the possibility of establishing a food hub. The feasibility grants allow 11 months for the project.

The group has been meeting for over a year, gathering information from both local producers and area buyers. A survey has been complied from area growers, asking them what they would want out of a local food hub.

The nature of a feasibility study has lots of questions at the beginning. Some issues that will be looked at include:

• What will be the geographic boundaries?

• Will it be a non-profit, a cooperative or some other business model?

• Will it include a certified kitchen for value-added products?

• Will agritourism be included?

Regularly at the table have been the Gem County Extension Office, Gem County Chamber of Commerce, Gem County Board of Commissioners, Emmett Mayor, Emmett School District, in addition to growers and buyers.

In addition to two grants of $16,500 and $5,000 for the feasibility study, another $15,000 grant was awarded to study the architecture needs. Local producers and buyers have put in a match of $4,150.

Because most of the producers are out in the field right now, the initial contacts will likely be with the buyers to determine what they need from a food hub. These consumers include the local Albertsons, Emmett School District and Walter Know Memorial Hospital as well as the College of Idaho, Boys and Girls Club of Boise and the Boise Co-op.

The architecture assessment will include evaluating existing facilities as well as a new location.