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Hudson Valley Harvest: Transparency is Key to Scaling Local Food

Hudson Valley Harvest: Transparency is Key to Scaling Local Food

Hudson Valley Harvest is bringing local food to larger markets through its network of small farmers.
The Hudson Valley of New York has a long, rich history of agriculture, and currently boasts more than 5,000 farms that generate upwards of US$500 million in annual revenue. However, despite the regional growth of direct-to-consumer models such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmers markets, small farmers may still struggle to bring their products to larger buyers, such as restaurants, schools, and other institutions.

Hudson Valley Harvest, the leading local food company in the tristate area (New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey), has grown to fill this niche. Paul Alward, a farmer of 10 years, co-founded the company in 2011 with three friends who met at farmers markets in New York. According to Alward, now the chief executive officer of Hudson Valley Harvest, the company “grew organically from the market system.” Embracing transparency, traceability, and sustainability, Hudson Valley Harvest serves food stores such as Whole Foods Market and FreshDirect, and universities such as The New School in New York City.

When asked what a good food system looks like, Alward says, “I think it’s one filled with information. The most effective tool is information. Let the consumers decide.” To this end, the company emphasizes transparent labeling that not only identifies both product and producer, but also includes information on proximity and processing.

Hudson Valley Harvest has grown from about 10 partnerships with farmer friends to more than 50 farms harvesting more than 6,000 acres. Seasonality and year-round availability were big challenges at first, but by embracing technology for frozen foods and reinventing infrastructure, the company has scaled their business model and achieved greater operating efficiency. “We found very early on that, as a start-up, we weren’t built for mainstream stores right away,” says Alward. “[We therefore] went to small independent stores where the owners were present.”

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