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 Market Open for March 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

Isn’t this weather wonderful? I spent some quality time out in the garden today, and was happy to see so many flowers in the strawberry patch. If mine are blooming, that means our growers ought to be harvesting theirs any time now. And that means the asparagus ought to be starting to come up about now, too!

I don’t have any news to share this week, so I’ll let you get right to ordering. 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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for March 1


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

It’s been a really beautiful last few days, nearly t-shirt and shorts weather, and that’s had me itching to get into the garden and get to work. My rental house has a nice area of raised beds in the back yard, just out the back door, so I can take my basket of hand tools and get right to it. Even though I don’t have my own vegetable farm any more, I still grow the same things I did then — unusual heirloom varieties from around the world. My favorite source for seeds is Sow True Seed, just up the road from us in Asheville, NC. But my favorite source for live plants is right here at Athens Locally Grown. Right now there are just shy of a hundred listings for live plants on the market, and you can expect that to double as gardening season get into full swing. I can’t wait to be taking flats home with me on Thursday nights and getting them into the garden on the weekends.

The early heat wave of the last few days is reminiscent of last year’s weather, where a string of days in the 80s convinced all the fruit trees to start blooming, only to be killed off by a freeze later on, wiping out a good portion of the area fruit harvest. Our growers are keeping a watchful eye on the forecast, but things are looking pretty good so far. We’ll be getting lots of rain this week, which should keep the temps from getting out of control, and it’s looking like the nights will be back down to the 30s this coming weekend. Hopefully that’ll be enough to convince the trees to hold off just a little longer.

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for February 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

It’s been a slow news week here, so I don’t have much to share with you. The weather is turning just right for all the spring veggies out in the fields, with a nice mix of sun, clouds, and rain. Today in particular was exactly what they love, and it looks like this next week will be more of the same. Don’t let the 80 degree days fool you, though. We’re bound to get more cold night, and more freezes before spring is here for good.

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for February 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

This week, I’d like to highlight a feature of the website that you may have missed. When we started filling orders paperlessly a several 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 offically 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 officially open until 4:30pm, so if you’re in a hurry at 4 and want your items right away, there’s a good chance 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.

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for February 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

By some calendars, spring is here! In Celtic tradition, this weekend marked Imbolc, the half-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and the beginning of spring. Some years, weather wouldn’t cooperate with this astronomical event, so people would watch for badgers coming out of their burrows for guidance. If one came out and didn’t like what they saw, back they went and there’d be six more weeks of winter. Most of the other traditions of Imbolc have passed away, but we still make a to-do about Groundhog Day.

We may be in for several more weeks of cold, but the daylight hours are long enough now that plants are taking note and waking up. Seeds can sense the daily cycles and those from cool weather plants are starting to sprout on their own. Time for me to finish weeding my garden and put my lettuce, pea, radish, and carrot seeds in the ground!

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for February 1


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 rainy weather is really getting me in the mood to get out and garden. Not in the rain, no, but it’s the perfect weather for going through my favorite seed catalogs, organizing my tools, and getting everything ready for when the sun shows up and warms things up again. I can’t wait! In the meantime, our farmers have got you covered, with leafy greens from their outdoor beds and warmer weather crops coming out of their hoop houses.

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for January 25


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 a week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I served on the staff of the annual conference for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year we had about a thousand farmers from across the south and beyond gathering 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.

While I was away, Doug restocked the salmon freezer he keeps at my house, so you’ll notice his products are back and ready for you to 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!

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return on their website here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Pickup OPEN Tomorrow!


Hello! Even though schools are closed and the early morning roads will be dicey, we will be open as scheduled tomorrow, from 4:30 to 8pm. By afternoon, the weather should be nice and balmy, and our volunteers will be ready and waiting.

See you then!

ALG Market Open for January 18


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

One note for the week, before I talk more about the gritty details behind ALG: This week I’ll be in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the annual conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG). About 1000 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’ll be leaving our Thursday market here in the hands of our many capable regular volunteers while I’m gone. However, 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, but the good news on that front is Doug has restocked the freezer, so there will be plenty to go around when I get back.

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, At my farm I sometimes used 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 eventually dropped my certification 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 had 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 continually try 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.

And, as always, if you have any concerns or complaints about the items you receive, please let me know (and the sooner the better). Sometimes descriptions don’t always match the products delivered, or the quality isn’t want you were hoping for. We try to catch those cases before you arrive, but if anything gets by us, please let me know, and we’ll make it right and do our best to prevent it from happening again.

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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market might still be up and running, Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, and you can find out more here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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 Market Open for January 11


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.

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 my Schedule F in addition to my regular tax forms. For now, while my 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 since 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 cover the costs of having customers: 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 236 paid members out of the 3594 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 $152,191. This is a slight decline from last year, and I’m ok with that. The continual rise of so many other markets in the area is the biggest reason for this. 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 Athens-area farmers markets throughout the week, but there are many other locallygrown markets serving customers that used to drive to Athens. About 90% of those sales went straight to our growers, and the rest went to a food allowance for our volunteers ($200 a week), rent ($350/month), web hosting, and transportation. The “profit” gets counted as personal income or loss on my tax forms, and almost always comes out even.

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 $3644 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 $65 came from this last year. On the flip side, $4631 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 4323 orders placed last year, so that averages to $35.20 spent per order. There are many people who asctually place several small orders each week that we combine when we fill them, so really the average is quite a bit higher than that. 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

Most other area markets are closed down for the season or have moved to winter hours. The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the season. They’ll return in April, and you can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market might still be up and running, Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, and you can find out more here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.

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!