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!



 
Subscribe to an RSS Feed

ALG Market Open for March 3


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

The annual Georgia Organics conference was held this past weekend, over in Columbus, GA. Its generally one of my favorite events of the year, and the Saturday night “Farmers’ Feast” is always the best meal I have all year, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it over there this time. It’s been nice seeing all the updates and photos posted to social media, though, and I’m hopeful next year I’ll be able to attend again.

Two weeks ago at pickups, we had some representatives from the campus organization “Real Food UGA” who are working hard to get more locally-sourced food available in the university’s many kitchens. I’ve asked them to write a few words about their important project to share with you, and here they are:

In 2009, a couple of UGA students learned about a campaign taking place on college campuses across the country called the Real Food Challenge. By harnessing the multi-million dollars of purchasing power that colleges and universities hold, the food industry could finally see positive change. The RFC classifies ‘real food’ as meeting at least one of the following criteria: fair, local, sustainable, ecologically sound, or humane. Since then, students at UGA have been working to get the President to sign a commitment stating that 20% of our food will meet a higher standard by the year 2020. And, as we have entered the 6th year of this campaign, we know that now is the time that real change can actually be made.

What exactly does this “work” look like? Examining, researching, and tracking all the food purchases UGA makes, educating students about the global impact of the food economy, meeting with faculty and administration, and uniting with other campus organizations and Real Food campaigns across the country. But, now we are asking for the help of our community. If issues such as workers’ rights, farmers’ livelihoods, community health, or animal treatment matter to you, we ask you to do one thing: sign our petition. The more names we have, the more our administration will know that this is something we need, and something we need now. When you’ve signed it, pass it along. If you wish to raise your voice alongside us, please check out our website or get in touch with us at realfooduga@gmail.com and we would be happy to give you more information.

Member farm Brad River Pastures is hosting their annual spring educational tour on their Elberton Farm on April 16th. Participants will learn about the role of heritage livestock on small sustainable farms, including managed rotational grazing of rare Gulf Coast Native Sheep and rare American Guinea Hogs. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay to attend and provide contact information. The cost is $10 for adults and children over 13 ($5 for Broad Rivers CSA Members!). $3 supervised children, and ages 3-12 Children under 3 years are free. To sign up, or for more info, contact Cathy Payne at broadriverpastures@gmail.com.

Finally, this week Shalley Carrell from Carrell Farms will be at our “Meet the Grower” table at order pickups. They were popular last time they took the table, teaching us about their 100% pastured water buffalo, lamb, and alpaca farm.

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 Comer Farmers’ Market is continuing, weather permitting, on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm on Friday evening for their plans. 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 Market Open for February 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 don’t have a lot of new information for the newsletter tonight. It’s been a really beautiful last few days though, and that’s had me itching to get into the garden and get to work. I’m lucky that there is a community garden in the apartment complex where I live, practically right outside my door, so I have take my basket of hand tools and get right to it. Even though I don’t have my own vegetable market 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 of 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 40 listings for live plants on the market, and you can expect that to climb into the hundreds 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.

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 Comer Farmers’ Market is continuing, weather permitting, on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm on Friday evening for their plans. 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 Market Open for February 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

This week, I’d like to remind you about a feature of the website 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 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.

Finally, this week Chuck and Amy from Mill Gap Farm will be at our “Meet the Grower” table, featuring their sunchokes and burmese peanuts. It’s always a treat to have them there, and if you haven’t met them yet, I think you’ll enjoy getting to know them.

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 Comer Farmers’ Market is continuing, weather permitting, on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm on Friday evening for their plans. 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 Market Open for February 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

Here at the beginning of the year, growers everywhere are putting together their plan for the gardens, deciding what to grow where, how much they hope to harvest, what tools they need to do the job, and making sure they have a market for everything so they don’t, at minimum, lose money. It’s a pretty expensive time of year, too, since they need to buy everything they need now but they won’t be seeing income until later on. If they’re doing exactly the same thing as last year, and they saved wisely, then maybe they have enough from last seasons sales to get them through the beginnings of this years. But if something went wrong, or some expensive equipment needs repaired or replaced, or they want to expand the operation, what they’ve got stashed away just won’t cut it. Every farm in the world goes through this at the beginning of the year, and it’s why, in this country, theres a multi-billion dollar industry of “Farm Credit” banking. Years ago, every farmer could go down to their bank and sign a note to get them gong for the year. But as farming has become consolidated and industrialized over the years, the banks have changed their scale too, and now they just have no idea what to do with small farms like those that sell through ALG.

Community Supported Agriculture, also known as subscription farming, is one recent innovation that allows some small farms to get the capital they need early in the year. They get their customers to pay up front for the food they’ll be getting throughout the year, often at a substantial discount over retail, and so the farmer has their money right when they need it and the customers (hopefully) get their share of the harvest when they need that. There are several CSA farms in the Athens area, and it can be a very good model for those farmers and customers who can work within that structure.

Crowd Funding is another new way farmers have raised money in recent years. We’ve had several ALG growers use crowdfunding campaigns to successfully fund a milking parlor and cheese production facility, fencing and vegetable bed renovations, and other expensive one-time projects. Burnell Farm out in Royston is currently in the middle of a similar campaign, to replace a borrowed 1951 tractor that has broken beyond repair. The Burnells have an interesting story. They moved here a few years ago after losing everything they had in the Iowa floods, and through a Herculean amount of work have built one of the area’s most productive vegetable farms from the ground up. You can read more about them and participate in their campaign (and get a number of items in return for your contribution) here: https://www.barnraiser.us/projects/burnell-farms-much-needed-tractor

Rockin’ H Farm in Statham have another large expense coming up: doubling the size of their pastures and gardens. They’ve obtained the land and now just need to pay for the labor of clearing brush and such. Instead of starting a crowdfunding campaign, they’ve turned to a much older method of fundraising — a good old fashioned raffle. They’re selling 1500 raffle tickets for a chance to win a tractor, a utility garden vehicle, a mower, and a nice ice chest. You can read more about their farm, the plans they have, and the raffle on their website here: http://rockinhfarm.com/Raffle/.

However you choose to support your local farmers, even if it’s just reading this email and seeing what they have to offer this week, we all 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 Comer Farmers’ Market is continuing, weather permitting, on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm on Friday evening for their plans. 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 Market Open for February 4


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 Lexington, Kentucky, 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 was the largest one ever with over 1400 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.

I haven’t had a chance to go over the listings this week in any great detail to gather notes for this week’s mailing, but I do see lots of great food available. I did get contacted a few days ago by a group in town who has begun the process of putting together a bulk order of solar energy collectors for houses and businesses around Athens. They’re called Solarize Athens, and have a coalition of public and private alternative energy and community groups behind them. If you’ve been considering converting to solar generated electricity, or are just curious what it would take, you’ve got two months to get in with them. The first phase of assembling the coalition and finding an equipment supplier and installation company has already happened, and now they’re putting together the bulk order with them for submission on March 31. For more information, check out their website at http://www.solarizeathens.com.

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 Market Open for January 28


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 don’t have much new to report this week. I’ve been spending my last few days getting ready to drive up to Lexington, KY tomorrow for the annual SSAWG conference, my favorite educational farming conference of the year. I’m on the staff, and they keep me busy, but I never fail to learn a ton of stuff and meet many wonderful people all the same. The very first SSAWG conference I was on the staff for was in Louisville, years ago, and it’ll be nice to see that part of the country again. Some of it is under considerable snow and ice, but it’ll be good to see it anyway.

While I’m away, I’ve left our Thursday market here in the hands of our many capable regular volunteers. 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 place 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.

I hope you all have a pleasant week. Looks like it should be both warmer and drier than the one we just had. And as much as I miss the occasional heavy snow (the Yankee in me hasn’t left completely yet), I’m glad we didn’t get the 30 inches some of my friends in the mid-Atlantic got. I know our growers feel the same.

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 Market Open for January 21


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: Next week I’ll be in Lexington, Kentucky 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’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 next week the fish will not be available to purchase, so if you’re a regular purchaser, you’ll want to get enough to last you two weeks now.

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 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 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 Market Open for January 14


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 our Schedule F in addition to our 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 292 paid members out of the 3813 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 $199,240. This is 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 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 $3887 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 $200 came from this last year. On the flip side, $4149 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 5373 orders placed last year, so that averages to $37.08 spent per order, an increase over last year. 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 Market Open for January 7


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 2016, and another year of Athens Locally Grown! This will be our fifteenth 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 by me, so I can have a place to sell items I occasionally offer from my own gardens. 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 me and my family to a ton of potential liability. It’s never really been an issue (except when the whole raw milk thing erupted a few years ago) and 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 someday 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 as 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 and even tightened the rules right afterward, so raw milk is still rather 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 Market Open for December 30


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’w got to say, I’ve always wondered how it must feel for those who celebrate Christmas in Australia, where the holiday falls in the middle of summer. I’ve had to turn the A/C on in the house to keep the pets happy, and have gotten the shorts and thin T-shirts back out of the closet. All of the fruit trees in my neighborhood are in full bloom, too. It’s really pretty strange.

Since Thursday is New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Eve is a bad day to hold a farmers market,this week we are holding a special ALG pickup day on WEDNESDAY December 30. I’ve opened the website for you now, and you have through Monday night to get your orders in. Then on WEDNESDAY, we’ll have pickups from 4:30 until 8pm, and just pretend like it’s Thursday. Some of our growers are taking the week off, so the selection is a little less than usual, but most of them have told me they’ll have things that need harvested (and eggs that need collecting, etc.), and you’ll find all that now on the website.

I’ve relaxed the deadlines for the growers this week, so if you order early you may want to check back on Monday to see if anything interested has gotten added to the listings by tardy growers. It’s always ok to place multiple orders, and we’ll combine them for you when you arrive to get them.

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 WEDNESDAY at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

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!