The latest steps in establishing a downtown food hub could be happening as early as the first of the year, said Rachel Dahl, executive director of the Churchill Economic Development Authority, as she recently addressed a small group of businessmen and women.
Currently, her staff is developing a co-op file by Jan. 1 and will have bylaws and a business plan ready on Feb. 1.
But the big day Dahl has circled on her calendar is opening doors to the former Kent’s Market on March 1. Meanwhile, CEDA is asking for volunteers to work on many facets of the co-op ranging from fundraising to processing and planning.
“We hope to get the keys to the building on Jan. 1 and start working on the store,” she said.
CEDA and the Kent family have a five-year lease renewable with five more years. Dahl said resolving issues to agree on the lease was slow but worth it. No terms have been released.
Dahl reviewed the progress made so far on the co-op and its proposed function. She cited five goals that were important in making the project successful:
Organize stakeholders to initiate a community-owned grocery store.
Identify production and supply assets in the community.
Create marketing and outreach campaign for local foods and grocery store.
Identify physical and infrastructure needs of the grocery store site.
Link grocery store to local food-oriented programs and activities such as offering education classes to promote local food products.
Dahl said the initial plan for the co-op, when a grant was formulated in 2014, was to find a centralized location like the Kent building to revitalize downtown and the Maine Street Corridor.
CEDA’s target, therefore, is two-fold. Said Dahl, “What can we do to make this building beautiful and to draw business to downtown and Maine Street?”
Dahl said it is important to have a healthy downtown to attract more business.
Food grower Rick Lattin said the co-op needs the community’s help to make the project successful. One of the advantages about establishing a food hub in Fallon is that it will be advantageous for area farmers and potential farmers.
“We could also add Yerington and Lovelock (producers),” Lattin said.
Additionally, Lattin said Fallon sits in an idea location with two major U.S. highways — U.S. 95 north-south, and U.S. 50, east to west — intersecting Fallon.
Lattin said other co-ops are selling foods to their school districts, and he envisions the same thing can be done in Churchill County. He said having the support of the school district and other businesses is a major key in making the co-op work.
Jason Espie and Amanda Douglas from the Renaissance Planning Group guided the participants through various stages in building the local food economy during a two-day workshop earlier this year. Dahl showed both presenters what the county has to offer.
“Our goals are to establish a locally owned and operated food sortie in downtown Fallon with capabilities that will help support a more vibrant local food economy with values added production and distribution for return,” Espie had said.
Dahl said developing food hubs is a national movement