The Walton Family Foundation has announced plans for a new food hub in Northwest Arkansas. The Market Center of the Ozarks will be located in Springdale to offer resources to farmers, food entrepreneurs and Northwest Arkansas residents.
The Market Center of the Ozarks will be a 45,000-square-foot facility providing crop aggregation capabilities, commercial kitchens and community spaces for learning. The development of this facility will be part of Northwest Arkansas Food Systems, an initiative focused on improving access to local food.
“Market Center of the Ozarks is another bold step to position Northwest Arkansas as a national model for locally grown food,” Tom Walton says. “This innovation and community hub will offer farmers and entrepreneurs the support they need to get healthy food on tables across the region.”
Farmers will be offered areas to aggregate and process crops for wholesale. Washrooms, cold storage, dry storage, loading docks and office space will also be available. With resources for value-added processing, this will help farmers maximize their crops with offerings such as fresh and frozen produce for school lunches and hospital food service.
For food entrepreneurs, certified commercial kitchens and coworking spaces for technical assistance and culinary education will be available. This will include areas for community learning and gathering for both Springdale and NWA residents.
Springdale serves as a centralized location in the region, providing access and opportunities for farmers across NWA, enhancing distribution of locally grown food. The center will complement Springdale’s growing downtown while being located near popular amenities such as the Razorback Regional Greenway and The Jones Center.
“This food hub is great news for the region and for small-scale local farmers like myself,” says Andrew Schwerin, owner of Sycamore Bend Farm. “The resources it will offer will help us deliver our organic produce to more people in Northwest Arkansas and provide a gathering place for producers to connect with buyers.”
The Market Center of the Ozarks celebrates the rich and diverse agricultural heritage of Springdale that has spanned for decades. The Market Center of the Ozarks was originally used as a phrase on a 1950s chamber of commerce billboard welcoming visitors and hailing it as the “Main Street of N.W. Arkansas.”
“Despite Northwest Arkansas’ growth, there are families who continue to lack adequate access to fresh food,” says Amanda Echegoyen, COO of Community Clinic. “This facility will improve access to affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables to ensure under-resourced communities can benefit from a healthy diet.”
The center, worth nearly $31 million, will help increase regional economic activity, encouraging innovative product development and generating new jobs for the region. The St. Louis-based architecture firm, Patterhn Ives, will oversee the design of the building. Construction is expected to begin in June 2022, with an early 2024 completion date.
For more information about Northwest Arkansas Food Systems, click here.