House of Hope Packing House Creates New Possibilities for Fresh Produce and Revenue Stream
STUART, Fla. – The packing house at House of Hope’s Growing Hope Farm in Palm City is open for business.
Freshly harvested lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, melons and other fruits and vegetables grown on the farm move through the water in the bath vats, along the conveyor belt and to the spin dryer, into packages, and onto distribution vehicles. From there the fresh produce moves to House of Hope’s Client Choice food pantries or to their 30 food pantry and soup kitchen partners throughout the Treasure Coast.
“This is another major step in our vision for serving the community with fresh and healthy food,” said House of Hope CEO Rob Ranieri. “We know that healthy kids are better learners and healthy adults are better earners. So this is not just about food---it’s about helping our friends and neighbors build a better life.”
The packing house sits on farmland on loan to House of Hope from the Dawson family, owners of the adjacent Palm City Farms Produce & Market. The House of Hope farm now includes 65,000 cubic feet of growing space including hydroponic green houses, vegetable beds, and a grove of fruit trees. Every week House of Hope is able to distribute more than 1600 packages of fresh produce.
The packing house also has a wider purpose. “It has been our dream to be able to process and pack our own fresh produce,” according to Dave Lee, Director of Food Procurement & Distribution. “But it doesn’t end there. We want to provide small local farmers a way to add value to their own products. The packing house fees paid to House of Hope---in dollars or in donated product---will offset our costs, and this new revenue stream will enable us to feed more people in need.”
Water is key to the packing process. House of Hope has strategies for being water conscious. “The water we use in processing is drawn off and used to water the fruit trees,” Ranieri said, “and we’re going to add additional rain barrels to capture even more rainwater to supplement our well water.”
The packing house is fully equipped with industrial and food-grade cleaning, weighing, packaging, and storage capabilities. Volunteers have been trained to work in the packing house and maintain high safety standards.
Grants from Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, Impact100 Martin, The Frances Langford Fund of The Community Foundation of Martin-St. Lucie, United Way of Martin County and other private donations have made possible the expansion of the greenhouses and addition of the packing house and orchard.
With produce becoming more expensive even at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, the ability of House of Hope to increase its supply of fresh fruits and vegetables is welcome news to clients and partner agencies. “Everything we do is community-driven,” Ranieri said. “So this is another way to serve the community. And it’s really cool!”
About House of Hope
Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 7,000 people directly each month, helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, and financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future. Over 6,000 additional residents are served through House of Hope’s food partners, bringing the total served to over 13,000 people each month. The organization has service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach, and Thrift Shops in South Stuart, Hobe Sound and Indiantown. House of Hope’s Enrichment Centers in Stuart, Jensen Beach and Indiantown offer free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being. House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit hohmartin.org or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Hohmartin, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/houseofhopemc/, and Twitter https://twitter.com/hohmartin.