Pee Dee food hub to benefit both farmers, restaurants

Pee Dee food hub to benefit both farmers, restaurants

MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Marion County Economic Development Commission is focusing on on making the jobs of farmers easier, while also benefiting the people buying their produce.

The commission is planning to open a food hub by the end of the summer as part of the Pee Dee Agriporium at Bluff Road and Highway 501.

"We have far more demand than we do supply, so our task is to reach out to growers in the Pee Dee region and beyond and convince them that this is the way to go," said Julie Norman, executive director of the Marion County Economic Development Commission.

A food hub is not a farmers market, but instead a place where farmers drop off their produce and somebody else washes it, packages it and delivers it directly to restaurants and stores.

"Farmers historically know how to grow it," said Dupree Atkinson of Atkinson Farms. "They just have a hard time marketing it."

Local farmers have difficulties breaking into restaurant and major retail industries alone, Norman said.

"A group of 50, 60, 70 growers using a food hub certainly can," she said.

The food hub will collect the produce from the farmers then bring it down to customers, mostly on the Grand Strand.

"We've done a good bit of research and we've learned from the restaurants on the Grand Strand that they are screaming for fresh, local produce because that's what their customers are asking for," Norman said.

The Marion County Economic Development Commission will be closing on the property at the end of the month. There are more plans for the Pee Dee Agriporium in the future including an FDA-grade commercial kitchen incubator.

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