La Montañita: USDA's Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program
La Montañita, a retail cooperative in New Mexico, established a regional food hub in 2007 to expand the amount of local food available to the co-op's four stores and to assist regional producers in accessing other wholesale market channels for their products. The co-op and hub market more than 1,500 products from 900 producers within a 300-mile radius of Albuquerque, employ more than 200 full and part-time staff, and serve 17,000 coop members. The food hub offers producers 1,500 square feet of refrigerated storage, 500 square feet of refrigerated space and over 4,000 square feet of dry storage; refrigerated trucks for pick-up and delivery; and marketing services. By 2010, the food hub had sales of $2.7 million. Says former General Manager C.E. Pugh of the co-op's decision to gain a competitive edge through local sourcing: "We began to look out and say... how are we going to maintain our position in the marketplace 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now? It just seemed clear that the support of local products made a lot of sense." He continues, "As a result of this work... we've seen sustained double-digit growth when the industry as a whole has dropped to single digits." In 2010, La Montanita received support through USDA's Rural Cooperative Development Grant program to expand the co-op's work.