The Black Hills Food Hub, a program run by Black Hills State University in collaboration with Cobblestone Science, coordinates the purchase and delivery of fresh food from local farmers to cafeterias in the region. The Hub works with more than 20 farmers located throughout the Black Hills – from northeast of Belle Fourche all the way to Custer.
Katie Greer, assistant director of facilities at BHSU, said the idea of the Black Hills Food Hub is to bridge the gap between local producers and area cafeterias.
“The University is committed to supporting the local food economy for all the benefits it provides to our community,” said Greer. “It’s great to be working with Mt. Rushmore, where people visit from all over the world. We think part of the experience of visiting the Black Hills should involve enjoying locally-grown food.”
This is the first season the Black Hills Food Hub has delivered locally-grown food to Mt. Rushmore. Deliveries this growing season have included strawberries, rhubarb, turnips, and radishes. By 2025, Mt. Rushmore is committed to purchasing 70 percent of its food from local and/or sustainable sources; in 2015 total local/sustainable food purchases was 52 percent.
For more than a year now, the Hub has been making deliveries to Rapid City Regional Hospital. Even throughout the winter, the Hub delivered lettuce greens grown in area greenhouses and locally-raised beef to Regional Hospital.
Rachel Headley, owner of Cobblestone Science, said the Hub receives orders for its produce each week.
“The Black Hills Food Hub gives farmers a new market and new opportunity to sell their produce. It’s wonderful seeing fresh, locally-grown tomatoes, for example, in places that serve both our local community and out-of-town visitors,” said Headley. “The Hub has had a very positive ripple effect in our community as we look to increase the number of local food producers and support them. The need for locally-grown food is there.”
Headley said one of the newest producers in the Black Hills Food Hub is a local grain farmer growing organic, specialty grains. The Hub is now delivering freshly ground flours including grains that are a lower-gluten alternative with high protein.
BHSU received a grant from the USDA Local Food Promotion Program to launch the Black Hills Food Hub in 2015.