There’s not a lot to report this week. We got another four or five inches of rain, making getting out and starting the prep on the spring beds a bit difficult. The rivers out here are way up, and have been for some time, which tells me the ground water is recharged for the moment. It wasn’t that long ago that people’s wells were running dry and ponds were just a dirty spot of clay in the pastures, but now things are as full as they’ve ever been. Funny how quickly things can swing between extremes.
I talked last week about the Georgia Organics conference coming to Athens next week. It’s since sold out, but there will be tickets at the door for the Friday evening reception and affiliated events throughout downtown all weekend. There’s one other event going on next Thursday that’s special to me: the first ever conference for market managers of locallygrown.net markets. It’s been a while since I mentioned it, so some of you might not be aware that there are many other communities across the country and into Canada that are also using the locallygrown.net website to run markets for their growers and residents. We happened to be the first, and enough groups wanted to follow in our example that in 2007 I opened the system up for them to use. There are now over 100 markets up and running, and more get started every single week. Just last week, total sales of locally grown food to local customers passed $2,000,000 since I opened the doors.
Two million dollars is still just a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount spent on our food, but many of the markets are in communities that had no farmers market at all before and now have one that is thriving, with new growers getting started and more and more people buying from them. I’m very happy to have helped in some way to get that ball rolling, and I’m excited for the future of local foods. So, next Thursday a number of market managers are coming to town to talk about what’s worked for them, things that could go a little bit better, and to get ideas to take home. We’ll end the day at the Athens Locally Grown pickup. We’re still by far the largest market using the system, and they’re eager to see how we work first hand. By several metrics (number of vendors, variety of products, total market sales), Athens Locally Grown is actually one of the largest farmers markets of any sort in the Southeast! It’s hard to tell that when we’ve got everything crammed into one small back room of a bicycle repair shop, but it’s true.
So, when you brag to your out of town friends about Athens Locally Grown, tell them to take a look at http://www.locallygrown.net/markets because there may well be a similar market near them, just waiting on more customers, which attracts more vendors, which attracts more customers, and so on, until before you know it, another community has gone a long way toward being able to feed itself.
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!
We’re starting to put a plan together on how best to use the space at Ben’s Bikes when the weather warms up and we really fill the back room. The first thing we want to tackle is the parking/walking space outside. The rain really did a number on the soil, and to make things worse the last storm took out one of those huge pecan trees behind the building. The heavy equipment needed to cut the thing up turned a large area of the lot to mud. We want to spread some gravel back there. Do any of you know of a source of free or cheap gravel that we can get delivered to the lot there? We can spread it around, but if the deliverer is able to do that too, so much the better. ALG depends on volunteer labor, so we don’t have much funds for this sort of thing. If you know of anyone who can help with this, please let me know.
We’re also making plans for an awning to give us more working space outdoors. We’ll put out a call for workers when it’s time to build that.
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 too. All but Athens Locally Grown, that is.
Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!