The New Barn Raising

Even a black-thumbed plant assassin like me can love the tradition of a barn raising: it’s a beautiful thing to envision a community gathering together to put its collective shoulders and backs into the heavy lifting required to assemble an essential new structure for a neighbor’s ranch or farm.

Gothic1Everyone involved gets the satisfaction of helping improve the community as a whole by directly supporting an individual. The farmer gets a new barn, the community gets a thriving, happy neighbor producing and flowing both food and money back into the local economy. Importantly … and it really is important … everyone also gets to revel in shared victory inside the newly completed structure.

Of course, in today’s online world communities are bigger and more diffuse. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities on the Web to capture the spirit of a barn raising: Supporting those that are doing Good Things while – importantly – having a little fun in the process.

Take, for example, the Tahoe Food Hub. Sierra Business Council has been helping this nascent nonprofit get rolling, and I, for one, am thrilled that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know its Executive Director Susie Sutphin. It’s inspiring to see the tireless energy she devotes to what is at once both a simple and deceptively complex mission: to bring food directly from local farms to North Lake Tahoe restaurants, grocers and schools.

It’s simple, because the mission is smack-your-forehead obvious: Local food is fresher and healthier, and purchasing and eating it is both better for you and better for the local economy than eating food that was grown in, say, Costa Rica and flown and trucked into our community by a big company who’s profits are amassed in urban areas outside of our region.

It’s also complex: The modern food distribution infrastructure in general isn’t designed to accommodate local food, and, well, growing food in one of the snowiest places on earth is not for the faint of heart.

The Tahoe Food Hub is addressing all of this by lovingly building a network of farmers and ranchers in the foothills that surround Lake Tahoe’s iconic tourist destinations. These are real growers that have real relationships with Susie and the Food Hub. The food is then transported and distributed to great local restaurants like Dragonfly and Squaw Valley’s Rocker, plus to grocers like New Moon in Truckee.

Susiecrop1Tahoe Food Hub handles all of the money and transportation logistics, so the other members of the network can focus on what they do best: Farmers can focus on growing delicious, sustainable food and restaurants can cook it up in creative, taste bud-exploding new ways. Importantly, the Food Hub also provides its food to local schools, so the awesome young minds that live here can power up on wholesome grub.

But the Food Hub has reached an inflection point: In order for it to all come together and continue its rapid expansion throughout the region (it started with six restaurants and is already up to 20!), it needs a refrigerated van to make the rounds. I worked with Susie to help her put together a crowdfunding campaign (to check it out, click HERE) to encourage anyone and everyone who cares about local food and about the mountains to quickly and easily pitch in.

At the Tahoe Food Hub’s crowdfunding campaign Web page, you’ll see a brief video that’ll tell you more about Tahoe Food Hub as well as about the great “thank you” gifts Susie and the community have assembled. I know I’ll be sporting my custom, Tahoe Food Hub trucker hat from Truckee’s own Big Truck Hats and I hope to see lots of folks out using their Hub Club cards to save money at local restaurants and ripping it up on the slopes of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, thanks to the free lift tickets Squaw has kicked in to help the cause.

Let’s come together as a community and put our shoulders (and some love) into this very genuine and worthwhile effort. And yeah – let’s have some fun while we’re at it!