Dream Hub awarded contract for Kane County Food Hub operation
Kevin Echevarria, CEO
Dream Hub/PKE Enterprises, Inc.
Dream Hub awarded contract for Kane County Food Hub operation Geneva, Il
The Kane County Board announced Tuesday its selection of Dream Hub/PKE Enterprises to the operate a county-wide food hub as Dream Distributors.
The Memorandum of Understanding now awaits Kane County Board President Chris Lauzen’s signature.
More than four years in development, once fully operational Dream Distributors is expected to produce over $2 million in revenue for agricultural producers in and around the county, maintain up to 850 acres of agricultural land, and have a total economic benefit of $5.9 million generated for the community, according to the county’s feasibility study.
“A local food hub will encourage Kane County farmers to produce more fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products – which also supports the long term viability of farmland – our county’s greatest resource,” said T.R. Smith, Chairman of the Kane County Agricultural Committee.
“This will be a well-rounded food hub that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Kevin Echevarria, CEO of Dream Hub.
“People will look in and ask ‘How do we replicate this and bring this to our own community?’,” Echevarria said.
Dream Distributors will be located adjacent to Shared Dream Kitchen, 1544 Fleetwood Dr, Elgin. An additional 3,000 SF of food processing space will be added to Shared Dream Kitchen to facilitate the new enterprise, bringing the total to 9,000 SF, said Echevarria.
At Dream Distributors, produce and other farm products will be washed, packaged, and distributed to restaurants and other institutional users in the region.
Dream Distributors will also coordinate the logistics — working with farmers and producers to plan crop planting and harvesting, truck the foods to the plant for preparation, and create the wholesale channels to sell the produce.
Plans for Dream Distributors does not stop at getting locally-grown foods to large-scale users, however. A “food box” subscription service would get fresh fruits and vegetables into the kitchens of the county’s neediest residents while also teaching them how to cook with fresh ingredients.
Link cardholders would be invited to participate in the subscription box program beginning in 2018. “Those with Link benefits, and using their Link card, would be able to eat seasonally and attend cooking classes to show them how to use it. That is part of the programming we can do,” Echevarria said.
Using Dream Hall — a food service concept currently planned for downtown Elgin in early 2018 — Echevarria plans to hold cooking demonstration classes free of charge to food box recipients. “There is a huge food equity component,” in the Dream Distributors plans, Echevarria said. “We will work with the county to create food equity, using cooking classes and our program space to help the underprivileged cook,” he said.
Dream Hall also plans to hold farm-to-table dinner events to showcase foods grown in the region and marketed by Dream Distributors. “The vendors would be coming out of our own ecosystem,” of producers and chefs using Shared Dream Kitchen, Echevarria said.
He also envisions a Dream Market which would allow some of the produce from Dream Distributors, as well as prepared foods from Dream Kitchen vendors, be available to the public at large.
Dream Hub will up-front much of the start-up costs to launch Dream Distributors. The county is funding one consultant position while the company ramps up production, and one $65,000-foundation grant will help purchase processing equipment.
Kane County concluded a feasibility study for the operation of a local food hub last year; a recommendation of the county’s food system plan, Growing for Kane. The plan identified a food hub as a potential resource to farmers, enabling them to distribute their food products to wholesale buyers who would otherwise be discouraged from doing business with them.
Kane County’s feasibility study also identified a series of health equity strategies that could be adopted as part of the food hub’s operating plan, including the healthy subscription box program. The food hub project and the planning process that proceeded it is a reflection of Kane County’s ‘health in all policies’ approach to community planning efforts, recognizing the connection between land use and health.
Patty Marco of Maple Park-based Wiltse’s Farm is just one of the producers who have taken part in the food hub’s development, meeting with the consultant and county planners during the feasibility study phase.
She is excited, Marco said, because the hub will allow the family-run operation to expand its market locally. While they will still sell to farmers markets and local retailers “this is another market that we haven’t touched. This is a bridge to get us to the next step,” in bringing their produce to area customers,” Marco said.