August brings many new people to Athens, and many new people to Athens Locally Grown, so I thought this week I’d give a brief primer on how ALG works. Those of you who have been with us during these last eleven years probably already know all this, but I’ll try to keep it interesting for you too.
First off, ALG is best thought of like a traditional farmers market, because except for the lack of tents and tables, that’s very much how we operate. The growers are putting their own items up for sale directly to you, at prices and quantities they have set. The market volunteers and I are here to make sure it all happens smoothly, but the growers are all selling their products directly to you. Growers do have to apply to sell through the market, and I personally approve each of them before they list their products. Here’s a summary of the standards we have set:
- All growers must use sustainable practices and never use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
- All growers can only sell what they themselves have grown
- All growers must be from the greater Athens area. Right now, this means within about 75 miles
- All animals raised for meat or eggs must be pastured
- 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
- All growers must first participate in the market for a few weeks as customers, so they can clearly see how it all works
When I’ve turned down requests to sell through ALG (and I have turned down many), the items clearly broke one or more of those standards. There are a few edge cases that I take on a case by case basis, such as coffee. In cases like that, we set the standards as strict as we can. With coffee, for example, the beans must be sustainably grown, they must be roasted locally, and the roaster must have a direct business relationship with the farm that grew the beans.
So, the growers list their available products and set their prices. For most all of the products, they do this before they’ve harvested the items, so they have to estimate how much they will actually have. They’ve gotten pretty good at this guess, but it is a guess, and the unpredictable nature of farming means they may have far less than they thought (thanks to deer, a hail storm, etc.) or they may have far more than they thought (a nice rain can double the growth of lettuce overnight, for example). Most of them are conservative with their estimates, and so they let you continue to order, even if they’ve already sold more than they guessed they’d have. That’s why popular items may have a quantity in the negatives when you look at the listings. The system will still let you order, on the chance that they’ll actually have enough, but you’ll get warnings along the way that you’re taking a gamble.
I do not collect items from the farm, and do not know myself until Thursday afternoon what the growers were able to harvest and bring in to town. The growers do have each other’s contact information, so if one grower is short and another has a surplus, they may arrange with each other to get all the orders filled, but in general, if a grower cannot fill an order for something, they’ll remove that ordered item, and you’ll see a comment on your invoice indicating that. Since I’m not a middle-man, I can’t arrange for substitutions myself.
When the growers bring in the items you ordered on Thursday afternoon, packaged and labelled with your name, I pay them on your behalf out of our shared cash box during the hour before we open the market. Then, you arrive and pay into the cashbox for your order. We then rush to the bank to deposit the money to cover the checks we just wrote to the growers. 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 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. We have recently started accepting credit card payments on the website, and many customers take advantage of that and skip the pay table. The cards don’t actually get charged until after pickups on Thursday, so your charge will reflect any adjustments that had to get made along the way.
For a number of legal reasons, ALG never takes possession of your ordered items. We don’t buy them from the growers and resell them to you, nor do we repackage them in any way. The growers drop off your items for you, and you arrive and pick them up. The market volunteers facilitate that happening. Because of the need to maintain that separation, we cannot deliver, nor can we generally hold your items later than 8pm on Thursday if you fail to come pick them up. We start calling those who haven’t arrived by 7:30, but most of the time we just get answering machines and voice mail. Anything still at our pickup location at 8pm will get divided up among those there at the time, primarily our volunteers, and then we finish loading up the truck and leave. There are some things you can do to insure you won’t get charged for things you didn’t come get:
1. If you know prior to Tuesday at 8pm that you won’t be able to come get your order, send me an email and I will cancel your order.
2. If you find out later that you can’t come, send me an email. So long as I know before market begins, I can put the things you ordered on the “extras” table, and your fellow customers will almost certainly buy them for you.
3. If you discover Thursday while we’re at market that you can’t arrive, give me a call at 706-248-1860. I’ll put your items on the “extras” table, and if they sell, you’ll be off the hook.
4. If you have a cell phone, make sure that number is the number on your account. You can go to the “Your Account” page on the website to be sure. If you’re out and about and I get your home phone or your work phone, no one gets helped.
There’s often a sizable pile of things up for grabs at 8pm. If you’re in the area and want to do a little extra shopping, swing by at about ten til (or wait until then to come get your own order). There may be things for sale you want, and you can save a fellow customer a charge to their account. Our volunteer workers get to split things up as a benefit of working, but paying customers do come first. And it usually seems there are several things sitting there that were in high demand that week.
Finally, ours is a paperless system, so we do not have paper receipts for you when you pick up your order. An electronic receipt is generated, though, and can be found on the website. Go to the “Your Account” page, view your order history, and you’ll see an invoice for each order. By 2pm on Thursday, it will show what we expect to have for you that evening. After we fill your order, it will show exactly what we packed for you, and what, if anything, was missing. You can view that at any time, even years from now. If we didn’t get you something we should have, or if anything you got was of unacceptable quality, please contact me ASAP. I’ll share the problem with the grower so we can insure it won’t happen again. If you’re logged into the site, most of the growers have their contact info on their profile page (off the “Our Growers” page), so you can contact them directly if you choose.
So, that’s ALG in a nutshell. If you have any questions, concerns, complaints, or even complements, please send them my way!
Thanks 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!
Please, share your recipes with us on the website, on the Recipes tab. We’d all love to know how you use your Athens Locally Grown products, so we can try it too!
These make a great simple dinner with sausages (either meat or veggie-type) and applesauce. The addition of sweet potatoes makes the pancakes much higher in vitamin A and vitamin c, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, while the addition of white potatoes keeps the pancake from being too moist and soft. You can peel the potatoes if you prefer, but keeping the skins makes the dish even healthier.
Source: our own recipe (Entered by Janice Matthews)
1 white potato, scrubbed and grated
1 sweet potato, scrubbed and grated
1 whole egg or 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/2 cup green onions or scallions, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. mild oil (or nonstick spray) for fry pan
Step by Step Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. (Plan to fry them right away because grated white potatoes turn a strange pinky brown if left to sit.)
2. Heat large nonstick skillet or seasoned cast iron pan for a minute over medium heat. (Add a bit of oil if you’re not sure of the nonstickness…)
3. Drop the potato mix by tablespoonfuls into the skillet and flatten them slightly. Cook about 5-6 minutes on each side.
Upcoming Local Food Events
Sunday September 23rd: Farmers for a Day at 3 Porch Farm in Madison County. It’s your LAST CHANCE in 2012 to participate in our Farmer for a Day Events. This is the fifth FREE event in the Farmer for a Day Tour Series of 2012. 3 Porch Farm is Certified Naturally Grown, but their commitment to sustainability goes way beyond certification standards. Their farm equipment runs on recycled waste vegetable oil from Athens restaurants, and they recently converted the entire farm to solar power. Their goal is to be as close to carbon neutral as possible and to use as many locally harvested building materials or green products that they can in their infrastructure. They have an exciting mission to fill the void of naturally grown local fruit. They are experimenting with a wide variety. Items will be on sale at their farm store during the event.
Each “Farmer for a Day” event will offer you a chance to experience real work on the farm, so come prepared to work! The work session will last for two hours. You may want to bring your own work gloves, weeding or digging tools, etc. if you have them. Be sure to prepare for the weather appropriately and dress for getting dirty or muddy. You will be in an agricultural setting and can expect sun, rain, bugs, wildlife, dogs, electric fences, pets, and farm animals to be part of the experience. Do not bring your dog with you for a day in the country. Please plan to closely supervise your children during all activities. Water will be provided during the work session and lunch is provided by Athens Locally Grown and Earth Fare – Athens. Farmers may have products available for purchase at the event, so you may want to bring cash/checks and a cooler with you. If you have special dietary needs, plan accordingly to bring those with you. To save resources, bring your own water bottle and dishes with you.
Chores to be completed will involve preparing the garden area for fall. This will include pulling tomatoes, preparing beds for sowing, and planting new crops.
The schedule will approximate this:
9:30-10:00 AM Gather, meet and greet
10:00-12:00 Noon Do farm chores
12:00-1:00 PM Lunch and visit
1:00-2:00 Tour the facilities, Q&A, shop at the store
We are reserving 20 spots for the event. Don’t be left out! I will be taking names for a waiting list once we’ve filled our quota. lease note that you do not need to be a member of Athens Locally Grown to purchase an event ticket. Non members can sign up by emailing Cathy Payne. Address any questions to organizer Cathy Payne at 706-416-6611 or email email@example.com. Find out more and share photos and comments at http://tinyurl.com/6vtu6n9.
Other Area Farmers Markets
The Athens Farmers Market is held every Saturday morning at Bishop Park from 8am to noon and every Tuesday evening from 4 to 7 at Little Kings downtown. It’s a totally separate entity from Athens Locally Grown, but you’ll find many of the same growers at both. And of course, you can learn more about that market on their website.
Also, Watkinsville has a thriving farmers market every Saturday morning, in front of the Oconee County courthouse. And further east, Comer has a nice little market Saturday mornings as well. Further east still, Lexington, GA has a nice, growing farmers market on Saturday mornings from 8AM-noon and Tuesday afternoons from 4-7PM. All are worth visiting. If you know of other area farmers markets, please let me know so I can list them here as well.
Many of the ALG growers sell through more than one market. Don’t feel like you have to choose a favorite, either. We have many items here you can’t find there, and I’m sure the reverse it also true. Many people stop by the supermarket several times a week, so it’s only natural that you might wish to stop by a farmers market several times a week. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so. We’ll see you there!