Mar 3, 2022 - News

Business hub for food entrepreneurs in the works for Springdale

rendering of food hub

A rendering shows plans for the Market Center of the Ozarks. Courtesy of Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is spearheading a new space to help local food businesses flourish.

What's happening: The foundation announced Wednesday it will fund construction and equipment for Market Center of the Ozarks. It's aimed at helping local farmers and food entrepreneurs grow their businesses and give NWA residents better access to locally grown food, Karin Endy, a consultant for the foundation, told Axios.

  • It's expected to cost $31 million.

Why it matters: Generational farmers are a shrinking population, and those interested in farming in NWA need resources to get started.

Details: The center will include commercial kitchens, washrooms, cold and dry storage, loading docks, office space and coworking spaces. Farmers and food entrepreneurs can use the center to aggregate and process crops for wholesale, as well as access resources for "value-added processing," such as jarring products.

  • The space can also be used for community events and classes, like healthy cooking workshops, Endy said.
  • While there is no dedicated retail space, some areas outside the facility could be used for pop-up events.
  • The goal is to also offer some education, such as how to write a business plan and include nutritional information on packaging.
  • The center will be 45,000 square feet and located at 713 E. Meadow Ave. in downtown Springdale.

The big picture: The Market Center of the Ozarks is part of the foundation's broader Northwest Arkansas foods systems initiative that seeks to strengthen local farming and access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • The foundation has given grants to the University of Arkansas' Center for Farms and Foods that trains new farmers; the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, which is tasked with ensuring continued access to farmland amid development in NWA; and The Food Conservancy of NWA, which focuses on food aggregation (coordinating with multiple food producers to create a more robust supply chain).

What's next: The foundation tentatively plans to start construction in June and open the center a year and a half later.

  • The project still needs final approval from the Springdale City Council. The planning commission unanimously approved the project.
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