Charlotte-based food hub supports local farmers

CHARLOTTE — Wednesdays are busy at the Charlotte food hub Freshlist — it’s the day product pours in from farms across the area.

The company buys produce and goods from local and regional farms, then sells it to local food producers and customers each week.

“We believe that everyone should have access to healthy, fresh, local produce, and we want to make sure that the farmers are successful enough where they can sustain their business,” CEO and Co-Founder Jesse Leadbetter told Your704′s Elsa Gillis.

In the five years Freshlist has been operating, they’ve worked with more than 200 farms. Each year, more than 150 restaurants, caterers and bakers source from the company, including some of Charlotte’s top chefs.

“All three James Beard nominees from Charlotte are longtime customers of ours. So that’s pretty cool,” Leadbetter said.

“Basically, (we are) giving a one-stop shop to people who want to buy local and support local products and their home producers,” farm coordinator Erin Bradley explained.

Leadbetter and Bradley are passionate about the work they do for many reasons.

“North Carolina is losing farmland at the second highest rate in the country,” Bradley said. “We built this state on agriculture and we are at a precipice right now. If we don’t take the time to consciously make good purchasing decisions as individuals, we’re going to lose that tie that helped build this state.”

Leadbetter says it’s important to build a strong local food system so we don’t have to rely on ingredients that are coming from somewhere else, plus it’s better for the environment and helps supports the local economy.

“It’s better for the environment to have smaller, diversified farms,” he said. “The dollars that you spend local with us or with a chef, the majority of that, 90+ percent, is staying within this community ... If we want to be resilient and independent and successful long term as a society, I think we have to kind of reassess our values there and really pay attention to where we’re spending our money,” he added.

Freshlist also works with community partners to provide fresh boxes to people in need.

“Healthy food and good quality food should be a right. It shouldn’t be a privilege,” Bradley said.

“The long-term health of the entire world in which we live, both culturally and environmentally, is only going to be successful if we have a healthy food system,” Leadbetter added.

For more information on Freshlist or to place an order, go to freshlist.com.

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