The Weblog

This page contains news, event information, and other items added by the market managers, including the weekly availability email. Be sure to check back regularly!



 
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ALG Open for March 5


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

There are several events coming up to tell you about. The first is the regular ACC Commission meeting, this Tuesday at 7pm. As most of you know, it has been illegal to have backyard chickens (even a single hen) within the city limits. A recent citation on a resident went to court, and it was decided that the current prohibition had a number of legal problems. The Commission seems to be on the verge of agreeing that ACC should allow backyard chickens (and other small-scale backyard food production), and the meeting on Tuesday is when they could take that step. An ordinance is on the agenda to get approved that does not have the language that approves chickens, and so the commission could reject that new ordinance and direct the department that wrote it to include the language and re-send it to the commission. A strong showing from Athenians would help that happen, and so you are encouraged to attend the meeting, to speak briefly (if you feel so inclined), or even to just email the commission to let them know you’re in support of small-scale food production in our town.

Second, TEDxManhattan is holding a one-day conference Saturday called “Changing the Way We Eat” where a diverse group of speakers will be talking about issues in the sustainable food and farming movement. While it would be nice to be there in person, Cine and Daily Groceries have teamed up to stream the entire event at Cine, for free. The events begins at 1pm on Saturday, and you can learn all about it here.

Finally, the Southeastern Sustainable Livestock Conference is coming to The Gwinnett Center (6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth) on 3/28/15 9:00am – 9:00pm. The aim of the conference is to bring together farmers, chefs, and consumers with a mission to promote sustainably produced meat through education, sharing resources, and networking. The day will comprise of seminars and panel discussions, lunch and dinner will be provided with a cash bar & bluegrass band in the evening, and coffee and pastries will be served at registration. The morning keynote speaker is Mary Berry (Executive Director of the Berry Center, KY), & evening keynote speaker is Temple Grandin Prof. of Animal Science at Colorado State University. There is a preview of the agenda on the website (www.southeasternsustainablelivestock.org) and tickets can be purchased at the website also. An additional option tour White Oak Pastures 3/27/15 is available – a coach will be provided from the Gwinnett Center departing at 7:30am. Contact gillian@southeasternsustainablelivestock.org or call 770-634-0175 for more information.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for February 26


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

This last week was a great one for local food in Athens. Everything that we have build together over the last 20 years was on full display for people around the country in town for the annual Georgia Organics conference. Friday saw tour busses fan out from the Classic Center to visit farms, community gardens, markets, food businesses, research plots, and more. Intensive workshops were held at sites about town teaching others how our treasures were created and how they could go back home and build on our experience. Hugh Acheson, originally just the founding chef of Athens’ 5 & 10 but now a nationally known celebrity chef, gave an impassioned keynote address Friday night about his vision for re-inventing Home Ec in our schools and his new non-profit to get that vision in practice (led up by former ALG volunteer Almeta Tulloss). Saturday saw dozens of instructional sessions taught by nationally known experts (many of the Athenians). And the topper was the renowned Farmers Feast, always one of the best meals I have all year.

All through the weekend I heard from people who were new to Athens marveling at all our community has done to build a local food system, and also from those who have been here many times marveling at how much more we’ve done since the last time they visited. It’s easy to get lost in the routine of daily life, such as ordering carrots from a favorite local farmer and picking them up a few days later, and forgetting that what we have available here, while far from perfect, is still the envy of so many other communities. We should be proud of what we have available here, even while working to make it better (by pushing for a backyard chicken ordinance, and trying to grow local grains, and starting and supporting local food businesses, and introducing your neighbors to the joy of really fresh lettuce).

Two awards were given out during the farmers feast. University of Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Julia Gaskin was awarded the 2015 Land Steward Award for her work as a soil scientist and champion of sustainable agriculture in the halls of academia and in fields across Georgia. “Julia has been the college’s strongest supporter of sustainable agriculture,” said Dr. Scott Angle, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Because of her efforts, the college has made great strides in recognizing that agriculture comes in all shapes and sizes. We are a much different college compared to 20 years ago thanks to the efforts of Julia Gaskin.” It’s a common trope across the country that the state ag department, and especially the outreach teams from the ag colleges, are working against organic foods and for the corporations behind much of industrial agriculture. You hear that sometimes in Georgia, too, but thanks to Julia the extension agents across our state are well versed in organic growing practices and fully supporting of new growers staring farms and conventional farmers wanting to convert to organic. She is truly a local hero for sustainable agriculture, and her award is so well deserved.

The Barbara Petit Pollinator Award, given to someone, not necessarily a farmer, who has made a difference in promoting sustainable agriculture and local foods, was given to me for Athens Locally Grown and all of the locallygrown.net markets across the country. It is a huge honor, one that inspires me to work harder on making the system accessible to all. Athens Locally Grown wouldn’t exist without all of the growers big and small who work through all kinds of taxing conditions to make food available to us, all the volunteers that help get food from the farmer to you during our market days, and to all of you who buy the food our growers are offering. Even ordering one dozen eggs makes a difference, and is one dozen less that has to be laid by chickens in cages somewhere and shipped here. Thank you all for helping make my crazy idea come to life in such a spectacularly successful fashion! Over five hundred other communities have begun markets based on ours here, and its a testament to all of you.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for February 19


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

I’ve been out of town much of this last week, and haven’t really been able to put together a proper newsletter for you this week. Georgia Organics is in town this coming weekend for their annual conference, and I’m really looking forward to that. When I first started going to their conference in 2002, it was a tiny affair, with all of the attendees fitting in the lodge at Unicoi State Park up in Helen, learning from each other in two small classrooms there. Now, well over a thousand people come from all across the country to learn and celebrate the thriving local food systems that have sprung up across Georgia. The movement in Athens has grown during that time from a handful of farmers and gardeners selling to a small but dedicated group of customers to one that’s a model for cities all across North America. Athens Locally Grown has been part of that growth, starting in 2002 as the world’s first online farmers market and now the flagship of a system that is used by around 400 communities world-wide. We have so much to be proud of here in Athens, and I’m happy we get a chance to show it all off this weekend when the GO conference rolls into town.

Looking through the new product listings this week, I notice a lot of great products from Piedmont Provisions, including marmalades, jams, jellies, and other preserves. You may have seen her at some of the other markets around town, and I’m really glad they’re now at ALG too (and even easier for me to keep in my pantry). There is also listings from Carrell Farms for alpaca meat. This lean red meat (often compared to venison, but more tender) is gaining popularity in Australia and South America, but is hard to find in the US. The first of the spring flower bouquets are on the website, too. We’ll be having a cold week, maybe even with snow and ice, but you can warm your house up a bit with a splash of local color in a vase.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for February 12


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

This week, I’d like to remind you about a feature of the website that’s been there for some time, but that you may have missed. When we started filling orders paperlessly a few years ago, I revamped the “Order History” that you can view by looking at the Your Account page. Back when we had a sheet of paper with your order on it, you could see right then if a grower couldn’t fill an item you had ordered. Now, we try to tell you (we can see that on our little screens), but I do sometimes get asked days or weeks later about missing items (often when someone else picked up the order, and word didn’t get passed back). The system records every time a grower takes something off your order by adding a note to the comment section of the order. Sometimes they’ll also email you in person, but not always. Additionally, the system records when we put an item in your basket or bag, and how you paid. If something turns up missing because the grower didn’t bring it, or if we later discover a bag with your name on it (usually because we accidentally gave you someone else’s), it’ll record that too. We automatically issue refunds for items you paid for but didn’t receive (and you’ll get an automated email each time), and that gets recorded also. You can see all these notes and details about your order by pulling it up in your order history and clicking the link for the PDF Invoice.

If you want to double-check our packing as we hand you your order, you can print out that invoice and bring it with you or load it up on your smart phone. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we welcome your diligence. By 2pm on Thursday, it should accurately reflect what you’re going to be getting that day. I will say that the paperless system has improved our order filling accuracy tremendously. We still have to refund a couple things each week, but well over 99.9% of the items are getting to where they’re supposed to go.

If you have entered your credit card into our system, we do not run those cards until after pickups close on Thursday night, and the total charged to your card reflects any adjustments that had to get made along the way. If there is any question, the PDF has an item by item accounting of everything you received and was charged for, so we can go back over that at any time.

If you’ve ordered something one week and want to order it again, but can’t quite remember what it was called or who sold it, there’s a simpler version of your order history right on the market page. If you never use it, you can hide it, but what makes it really useful is the items you ordered previously will have an “add to cart” link right next to them if they are currently being offered for sale again. If you like to buy the same things each week, it can really speed up your shopping time.

Also, just a reminder that we don’t actually open and begin filling orders until 4:30pm on Thursdays. Sometimes we get a line of people forming at 4pm, when growers are still trying to load and unload. I get a little worried about having all that truck traffic going through a crowd of people for one, and it’s also just human nature to get a little frustrated when you’ve been waiting in line for a while. If the growers have all come early and we have things under control, we will start filling orders early, as soon as we’re able. But keep in mind that we don’t open until 4:30pm, so if you’re in a hurry at 4 and want your items right away, odds are we won’t be able to help you. We’re usually in a mad rush ourselves just trying to get everything organized in the back. The growers fill items in the order that they were bought, not in the order that you arrive, so getting there super early won’t help you get items in short supply.

It’s been a while since we held a “Grower for a Day” event, but we’re in the beginning stages of planning one out at Blackbriar Farm for Saturday, March 21. We’ll start in the morning working on fencing and sorting some stuff out in their growing orchard, break for lunch (on us), and end with a tour of the whole farm. I’ll have more information later on this free event, but if your interest is piqued, mark your calendars!

And finally, Jeff & Tammy Sosby of Peacefield Farm wrote me to say “we will not have tomatoes until the middle of March due to unforeseen circumstances. So Sorry for the inconvenience.” Several others of our growers are growing tomatoes in greenhouses too, so I’m hopeful you’ll still be able to get some from someone in the meantime.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for February 5


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

There are a number of workshops and conferences coming up that those of you who are gardeners might want to look in to, especially if you think you might want to expand your gardens and begin selling at ALG or other area markets.

First, there’s Sound and Sensible Organic Certification Workshop on February 5, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). This workshop is intended to enlist new farmers and ranchers and help them learn how to become National Organic Program (NOP)-certified. It will provide information and expertise to farmers interested in NOP and answer questions regarding organic farm practices and NOP certification. This day-long event is free, and lunch will be provided. Location: Athens-Clarke County Cooperative Extension, 2152 West Broad Street, Athens, GA 30606 http://www.ugaextension.com/clarke To register: Please visit https://www.ncat.org/events Questions: For questions and more information, please contact Rockiell Woods at 479-575-1385 or email rockw@ncat.org.

Georgia Organics is again bringing their annual conference, attended by people from all over the county, to Athens next month. You can find details of what’s to come at their website, http://conference.georgiaorganics.org/. It’s one of my favorite conferences anywhere, and there’s something there for everyone involved in the local food system, from growers to cooks to eaters.

Just up the interstate in Greeneville, the SC Organic Growing Conference (known as GROW) will be held on Saturday, February 28 through March 2. COOK, featuring cooking classes taught by the chefs from the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas, will be held on Sunday, March 1. And edible Upcountry’s Food Hub (NETWORK) rounds out the event on Monday, March 2. The Culinary Institute will prepare a locally-sourced breakfast and lunch for GROW, an afternoon tea for COOK, and a locally-sourced happy hour for NETWORK. For more information, see their website: http://scorganicliving.com/GROW__2015_Conference.html

Finally, here’s a workshop you can have on your own time. Georgia has recently enacted cottage food laws, which allows low-risk foods to be prepared in home kitchens for sale at farmers markets and other locations. There is an online seminar that goes over the ins and outs of this new set of rules on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zryAP46dJ4E.

And, one repeat from last week: UGA graduate student in the department of Geography, and Athens Locally Grown Member, Aidan Hysjulien is conducting a Master’s Thesis project trying to understand how the values associated with alternative foods systems are incorporated into decisions at the supermarket. This research will consist of an interview during a shopping trip and will require a very minimal time commitment. For more information please contact Aidan Hysjulien at ahys@uga.edu or at (919)699-4288. Aidan will again be manning a table at our pickups this Thursday, if you’d like to talk to him and get a feel for his research project. He is needing to interview quite a few people for his project, and would love your help.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for January 29


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

This evening, as I was bouncing between looking through the list of items our farmers have listed this week and forecasts for the winter storm about to hit the northeast that may be unlike anything that’s happened there for several hundred years, it occurred to me again what a wise choice it was moving to northeast Georgia. Some of our northern growers may get some snow and ice this week, but not enough winter weather to really affect them.

UGA graduate student in the department of Geography, and Athens Locally Grown Member, Aidan Hysjulien is conducting a Master’s Thesis project trying to understand how the values associated with alternative foods systems are incorporated into decisions at the supermarket. This research will consist of an interview during a shopping trip and will require a very minimal time commitment. For more information please contact Aidan Hysjulien at ahys@uga.edu or at (919)699-4288. Aidan will be manning a table at our pickups this Thursday, if you’d like to talk to him and get a feel for his research project. He is needing to interview quite a few people for his project, and would love your help.

That’s really all the news I have this week — it’s been pretty slow. There are some conferences and other workshops about the business of growing for market coming up in the next month or two, and I’ll try to run through all of them next week.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for January 22


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

I’ve just arrived home from nearly a week in Mobile, Alabama, where I served on the staff of the annual conference for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. It’s one of my favorite events, where over 900 farmers from across the south and beyond gather to share stories of failure and success, learn from those, and inspire each other to return home and grow even more real food for their communities. The days there are extremely long, and I’m ready to drop into sleep as I type this, but it is always well worth it.

I haven’t gone over all the listings for the week yet, but there are about 850 items to choose from, including several new items. The winter has been cold and wet so far, and there is plenty more freezing nights yet to come, but our growers are doing a great job of keeping the food coming to our tables.

If you’d like to learn more about the business, there are several educational opportunities coming up for you.

First, there’s Sound and Sensible Organic Certification Workshop on February 5, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). This workshop is intended to enlist new farmers and ranchers and help them learn how to become National Organic Program (NOP)-certified. It will provide information and expertise to farmers interested in NOP and answer questions regarding organic farm practices and NOP certification. This day-long event is free, and lunch will be provided. Location: Athens-Clarke County Cooperative Extension, 2152 West Broad Street, Athens, GA 30606 http://www.ugaextension.com/clarke To register: Please visit https://www.ncat.org/events Questions: For questions and more information, please contact Rockiell Woods at 479-575-1385 or email rockw@ncat.org.

Georgia Organics is again bringing their annual conference, attended by people from all over the county, to Athens next month. You can find details of what’s to come at their website, http://conference.georgiaorganics.org/. It’s one of my favorite conferences anywhere, and there’s something there for everyone involved in the local food system, from growers to cooks to eaters.

Finally, in the past two weeks I’ve talked about the legal organization and considerations behind our market and then the financial operation that keeps everything running. I’ll wrap up my yearly primer on Athens Locally Grown this week with a few words about our growers and other market vendors.

First and foremost, let me preface everything by saying the decision to let a new grower into the market is always made by me alone. I know many farmers markets often get some press regarding one vendor or another feeling left out of the market and complaining that the committee running that market was a little too closed. Well, my efforts to run ALG in a cooperative manner aside, the responsibility here comes back to me. There’s no committee, and no formal application process. I’ve had some potential vendors that I’ve rejected get upset with me and complain that ALG is a “closed” market, and they’re right. It is a closed market, and it’s not open to just anyone to sell through. That doesn’t mean we have arbitrary standards, of course, and actually I think I’ve set the bar pretty high. A good number of our growers also go above and beyond to only bring “the best of the best”, and that pushes the de facto standards even higher. Here’s a summary of what it takes to be able to sell through Athens Locally Grown:

  • All growers must use sustainable practices and never use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. I’ll come back to this later.
  • All growers can only sell what they themselves have grown, made, or otherwise produced
  • All growers must be from the greater Athens area. Right now, this means within about 75 miles
  • All growers must be willing to be part of our ALG community, and not think of us as just a dumping off point.
  • All animals raised for meat or eggs must be pastured or sustainably wild-caught
  • Handicrafts must be made primarily from items produced or gathered on the farm
  • Prepared foods must use organic ingredients if at all possible, and locally grown ingredients if at all possible
  • All proper licenses, when required by law, must be obtained

That about covers everything, I think. When I’ve turned down requests to sell through ALG (and I turn down several monthly), the grower has clearly not met one or more of those standards. There are a few edge cases that I take on a case by case basis. Coffee is one. 1000 Faces was our first coffee vendor, and they offered direct trade coffees (they purchase directly from the coffee growers with no distributor or middle man) and did all the roasting and packaging themselves and to order. That set the standard, and other coffee vendors (such as GranCoffee Roasting Co.) have to match it. Mills Farm was a founding ALG member, but they buy in organic grains for their mill. We now have Sylvan Falls Mill in Rabun Gap as a vendor, and they primarily buy their grains from local (to them) organic growers. From now on, all future millers wanting to sell through ALG will have to meet that standard. And so on.

Let me get back to that first requirement: “sustainable practices”. There’s no set definition of that, and there’s really a sliding scale. For example, I sometimes use a gasoline-powered rototiller, and our no-till growers and the no-hydrocarbon growers would frown upon that. There is a generally accepted definition of what is “conventional” agriculture, and that includes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and confined and grain-fed animals. Those are easy to exclude. At the other end, there is the USDA Organic Certification and Certified Naturally Grown certification. Few small diversified growers can meet the expense of USDA certification, but a good number of our growers are CNG certified. This program uses the USDA rules as a starting point, made a few things more strict, and uses a system of growers certifying other growers to keep things honest. My farm had been CNG certified for nine years (though I dropped my certification the last few years simply because my garden got really, really small), and many others area farms have followed since then. If a new grower does not have a certification, then I talk to them, get information about them, and visit their farm in person when necessary. A good number of our growers were ALG customers long before growing for market themselves, so I’ve gotten to know the people and the decision to let them in was easy.

In short: the growers have satisfied my standards, and I personally have approved them for inclusion in ALG. However, I want you to not just take my word for it. We have farm tours during the warm seasons so you can go on-site yourself and see the farms in action. We have a semi-regular “meet the grower” table at the Thursday pickups so you can talk with the growers yourself face-to-face. We encourage them to take photos for their online photo album, to describe their practices, and to take care with their product listings. We want to facilitate communication between you and them, so when you place an order, they see your name and email address in case they need to clarify a request or offer a substitution, and likewise for most of our growers you can see their contact info when you view their grower profile (while logged into the site) so you can get clarification from them when needed.

I often wrestle with some of those edge cases. Doug’s Wild Alaska Salmon was one such case. The salmon and halibut they sell was caught in Alaska, but Doug and his family live here (well, just over the line in South Carolina). They own their own small boats, and catch the fish themselves. Their practices are certified sustainable by a reputable organization up there, and their products are high quality. They’ve worked out the logistics of getting fish to you every week (by keeping a supply at my house in a freezer they own). I have in the past talked with sugar cane growers from South Georgia, dairies from across the state, fisherman from Savannah, olive growers from Savannah, citrus producers from Florida, and other people making items we just can’t get from growers located right here. Often, the logistics of getting their items from there to here on a regular and timely basis is what breaks down, but I hope that over time we’ll be able to expand the items at our market without compromising our community of growers located right here.

Hopefully that explains how our growers get into ALG, what standards they have to meet, and so on. It’s a very important topic, perhaps the most important one for our market, but much of it goes on behind the scenes. I know you’ve put your trust in me, and I take that very seriously, If you’d like to talk with me in person about this or any other aspects of ALG, I’d love to do so. Just pull me aside when you come by to pick up your order.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for January 15


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

I’m devoting the newsletter these first few weeks of the year to documenting in detail just how ALG works. I’ll spend some time next week talking about how growers get allowed in the market, and what standards they have to meet. But this week, I’ll get into the details of how the market sustains itself financially. Many of you ask about that from time to time, and I’m happy to oblige.

Before I do, a note for the week. I’ve been focused most of this week getting things ready for a week-long trip to Mobile, Alabama for the annual conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG). About 1300 growers from across the country will be gathering to share knowledge and bring new ideas back home with them. I’m on the conference staff, and they keep me hopping, but I always look forward to going. I’ve left our Thursday market here in the hands of our many capable regular volunteers, so I’d imagine you’ll never even notice I’m not there. There are a few things they can’t do, such as looking up account history and resolving old payment issues, so you can send those queries to me via email or wait until the following week. Also, Doug’s Salmon keeps his fish at my house in a freezer, and I bring his sales in to market for him. Since I’ll be gone, the fish will not be available to purchase this week. It’ll all be back next week, though.

Now, to the financials. First off, we’re legally a sole proprietorship, and the market is owned and operated by me. In years past, it was rolled into my farm, and reported on our Schedule F in addition to our regular tax forms. For now, while the gardens have dwindled, it’s an item on my Schedule A, like many other small home businesses. When the market started in 2002, it was named “Locally Grown Cooperative”, but it was never legally organized as a co-op. Dan & Kris Miller, the founders from Heirloom Organics farm in Watkinsville, were always sure to run things in a cooperative spirit, and since they handed the business to me in 2004 (I’ve sold as a grower since day one), I’ve tried to do the same thing. I’ve renamed it to “Athens Locally Grown”, but you’ll still hear a number of people refer to us as “the co-op”.

We’re not a non-profit, either, but we’ve structured things so that over time the market can just barely cover its own expenses. Just like all of our member farms are sustainable growers, the market itself needs to be sustainable. So how do we cover its expenses? One small way is through the memberships you pay. The $25 a year you give to the market is enough (to put it bluntly) to cover the costs of having you as a customer: banking fees from depositing your checks, paper and ink for printing, web hosting fees, and that sort of thing. What’s left over goes to helping fund farm tours, food donations to like-minded area groups and events, etc. We currently have 335 paid members out of the 3810 active accounts on the website.

By far the bulk of our funding comes from the growers themselves. They generally pay a 10% commission on their sales through the site. This money covers the many coolers we use, the tables and shelves used to spread out and organize your orders, the truck we bought at the end of 2007, gasoline, the food allowance we offer our volunteers, rent and utilities at Ben’s Bikes, etc. During the slow parts of the year, the sales are usually not enough to cover our weekly costs, but in the busy times (late fall and early spring, for us) there is extra. If we plan things out well, it pretty much all evens out in the end.

Last year, the total sales and memberships combined through the market amounted to $235,091. This is actually a bit of a decline from last year, but the continual rise of so many other markets in the area is the biggest reason for that. We used to be the largest farmers market in this part of the state, but only because the others were so small. Now, not only are there several very large area farmers makers throughout the week, but there are many other locallygrown markets serving customers that used to drive to Athens. About 90% of the sales went straight to our growers, and the rest went to a food allowance for our volunteers ($200 to $300 a week), rent ($300/month), web hosting, and transportation. The “profit” gets counted as personal income on my tax forms, and comes out to roughly $2000. I haven’t yet calculated milage allowances and other minor expenses, and I expect that the profit total will pretty much come out to zero when I do. It almost always does.

The growers get paid out of the shared cashbox for their previous week’s sales when they drop off their items, during the hour before we open the market. Then, you arrive and pay into the cashbox for your order. We used to then rush to the bank to deposit the money to cover the checks we just wrote to the growers, but now the growers get paid the following week (money you pay via credit cards takes up to a week to reach our account). As explained elsewhere on the website, you are really ordering directly from and paying the growers yourself, but our shared cashbox system makes things convenient for you and them. (Imagine if you ordered from ten growers having to write ten checks when you picked up your items!) This shared cashbox system has so far satisfied the tax man, but it does mean that if you place an order and then never arrive to pick it up, we’re left holding the bag. For that reason, you are responsible for paying for orders not picked up, and that amount is automatically added on to your next order for your convenience. On the books right now (going back to 2007) is about $3769 of produce ordered but never picked up and so far never paid for at all (or picked up but paid for with bad checks). That might seem like a lot (and it is), but considering that the market’s sales total, that’s not so bad. In fact, it’s about a sixth of the US retail industry’s “shrinkage” rate, and almost all of it is owed by only ten people. Only $600 came from this last year. On the flip side, $4135 has been pre-paid into the cash box by people who pay online via credit card or who write large checks in person, and then draw down on that balance over time.

There were 6505 orders placed last year, so that averages to $36.15 spent per order. There are no good studies on this number, but I’ve seen a few surveys conducted by the USDA indicate that the average customer spends $25 per trip to a farmers market. We continue to far exceed that average, which I think says a lot about the advantages ALG offers over the traditional market. And to your dedication to supporting our growers.

So, in probably far too much detail, that’s how we operate financially. Our market might be more expensive to run than a traditional “booths and tables” farmers market, but that price buys a system that’s simple, time-saving, flexible, and in my opinion, just better. There’s no money in the bank, but the market is paying for itself and that’s my primary financial goal. If you’d like to talk with me in person about this or any other aspects of ALG, I’d love to do so. Just pull me aside when you come by to pick up your order.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for January 8


Athens Locally Grown

How to contact us:
Our Website: athens.locallygrown.net
On Twitter: @athlocallygrown
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/athenslocallygrown
On Thursdays: Here’s a map.

Market News

Welcome to 2015, and another year of Athens Locally Grown. This will be our fourteenth(!!) year in operation, and we are looking forward to many more. Many of our growers are have slowed down for the winter, delivering every other week or otherwise reducing their availability. Many others, however, are still going strong thanks to greenhouses and other season-extending methods. Now that the holiday season is behind us, we’ll be going every single week from now until our next week off — Thanksgiving.

Each year, I devote the first few mailings of the year to the behind the scenes operation of ALG. This week, I’m going to talk about the many legal issues surrounding our market. Even though many people call us “the co-op”, ALG is legally a market owned and operated me, so I can have a place to sell items I occasionally offer from my own garden. There’s no board of directors, no shield corporation, no pot of grant money. It’s just me, and while that keeps things very simple, it also exposes my family to a ton of potential liability. It’s never been an issue (except when the whole raw milk thing erupted a few years ago) but there are several things I do specifically to minimize that risk:

  • The growers list their own items and set their own prices. When you buy from them, it is from them, not from me, and not from Athens Locally Grown.
  • Athens Locally Grown never takes ownership or possession of the food. The growers drop it off, and you pick it up.
  • Everything at the market has a customer’s name attached to it when it arrives. ALG does not repackage any items, or buy in bulk for redistribution.
  • When you pay, you’re paying into a shared cash box for all of the growers. This lets you write a single check or swipe your card once for convenience, but you are really paying all of the growers directly and individually. Your money goes in, and the software I wrote to keep everything going spits out checks for each of the growers you buy from.
  • The growers give a small percentage of their sales, generally 10%, back to the market to cover the many expenses of keeping the market going. I’ll cover the details of finances another week.
  • ALG never buys from a grower and resells the items to you. Never.
  • When a grower sells items that need licenses from either the state or the federal government, ALG verifies that the proper licenses have been obtained.

The ownership issue is key. It’s one of the reasons why we don’t offer delivery, and why we usually can’t hold items for you if you aren’t able to pick up your orders. Delivery might be a good business for someone (if they could figure out all the legal requirements), but it’s not at all what I personally want to be into. I think it would be a valuable service for you, and I’m hoping someone will be able to partner with me for this. Many food co-ops and even some farmers markets aren’t as careful with keeping ownership straight as I try to be, and that has gotten other groups similar to us into serious legal trouble (deserved or not) over the years. There are so many grey areas in all this, and the written regulations still don’t even consider that something like Athens Locally Grown might exist. We’re so firmly in the grey areas with most everything we do that it’s just too risky for me to bring us into the areas that are clearly black.

So, these are the sorts of things that guide my thinking as Athens Locally Grown has grown over the years. Everything we do has legal ramifications, and the state of Georgia has a reputation for being no nonsense when it comes to enforcement — with the little guy, anyway. That has became extra obvious in recent years, and the FDA is also putting pressure on groups like us too. I’m not a lawyer, but every time we enter those grey areas, I make sure we follow the intent of the laws, don’t flaunt anything, and have a good defense and a paper trail should we need it. And when that doesn’t work, the good folks at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund are behind us. They have consumer memberships, too, and I do encourage everyone who is able to become a member of the FtCLDF.

The FtCLDF was my legal counsel in the federal lawsuit against the FDA I (and one of our members) was a plaintiff on. The lawsuit was in response to the seizure and destruction of 110 gallons of South Carolina milk purchased by ALG members in October 2009. During the pre-trial phase, the FDA moved to dismiss the suit, and went so far as to claim that the milk dumping, filmed and placed on YouTube, with an FDA agent clearly identified, never happened. The judge refused to dismiss, and gave the FDA six months to give a yes or no answer to whether what we did is really considered illegal. Exactly six months later, they responded that it was illegal, but also claimed that even though an FDA agent was at my house giving direction, they had no hand in the dumping. They also went on record stating that individuals were legally free to cross state lines and buy raw milk to take home with them (something that the FDA agent at my house said, on camera, was completely illegal under all circumstances). After that, the judge dismissed the suit without fully ruling whether ALG was also free to facilitate our members collectively ordering and picking up milk across state lines. In any case, the state of Georgia still says what we were doing was illegal, so raw milk is still very hard to come by.

And there in a nutshell is the legalities behind ALG. In the following weeks, I’ll get more into the nuts and bolts of finances and other aspects of how we work.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!

All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!

We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!

ALG Open for December 30


Since Thursday of this week is New Year’s Day, a terrible day to try to hold a market, we’re going to try something a little different. We’ll be moving the next ALG pickup to TUESDAY, December 30, from 4:30 to 8pm at Ben’s Bikes. The time and place will stay the same — only the day will change. The website is open for you now to place your order, and you have through Sunday night to get your order in. We’ll see you on Tuesday!

Your order confirmation email will still say Thursday, as it always does, but don’t let that confuse you. I’ll email those of you with orders on Tuesday morning reminding you of this one-time change of schedule.

In the meantime, you can help bring a wonderful local food related event to Athens. A recent episode of the Colbert Report hosted Eva Longoria, actress and activist, speaking about the movie “Food Chains”, for which she served as an executive producer. The film explores the Fair Food campaign of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and has been getting a lot of press. Athenian Dr. Shane Hamilton appears in the film as a talking head, along with Eva and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation). For anyone with even a passing interest in modern food systems, economic inequality, social justice, women’s rights, or activism, this is a film worth seeing.

And you can see it! CINE will be screening the film at 7:30pm on Wednesday, January 14th, to be followed by a short Q&A with Dr. Hilda Kurtz (Geography), Dr. Cecilia Herles (Women’s Studies), and Dr. Shane Hamilton (History). But because the film is being “crowdfunded,” anyone who wants to see the film to reserve a ticket today. If a minimum threshold of reservations aren’t made, the film doesn’t screen.

You can reserve your ticket at (and share with friends, colleagues, and fellow food folks) the following link: https://www.tugg.com/events/12322.

Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on TUESDAY, December 30, at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!