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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Availability for March 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

Today was just the most perfect day ever to be out in the garden, cleaning out the overwintered debris and getting seeds and plants in the ground, Just perfect. I spent it looking at dinosaurs at the museum in Atlanta, though, because my daughters asked me to take them. And of course I was more than happy to put the rake down and jump in the car. That, perhaps, is why I have far few items growing in my garden than I did when I was childless. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

This week, I thought I’d highlight a few features of the website you may have overlooked.

At the top of the Market page, there’s a carousel of “Featured Products”. Each grower can flag up to five of their products as “featured”, and they’ll show up on that list. In addition, if anything catches my eye (as market manager) that the grower didn’t mark, I can put it in there too. Up to ten of the items will be things I hand-picked to go in the list. Before I added this carousel, I was always missing items that were just coming into season or items that the growers wanted to highlight for the week. Now, I can guarantee you that when I do my shopping, before I go anywhere else on the site, I’ll be spinning that carousel around and adding items to my cart. Next, I’ll hop down to the “New Products” carousel right below, which shows the last thirty items that have been added to the site.

I understand if you might not want to do the same, though. You can shop however you want, in any section you want. This isn’t IKEA. So, if you’d rather not see the Featured Products carousel, or the New Products carousel, or your Order History, you can turn off all three of them. Just look over to the left side of the page, in the little section called “Display Options”. Click the links to hide what you want, and it’s done. If you change your mind later, you can turn them on in the same place. (A note: due to some problems with older versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, visitors using those old browsers won’t see the carousels at all. Instead, you’ll see a little note in the “Display Options” box letting you know I’ve had to turn them off for you so the rest of the market would still work.)

There’s another little-used feature of the site there in that same section. Did you know that you can turn off and on specific growers? You can do that, and it’ll remember your preferences every time you come back to the site (with that browser on that computer). One example I’ve seen is you can turn off all of the meat farmers if you want a vegan version of the site. I can understand that you might not want to be scrolling up through beets and suddenly see a thumbnail picture of beef cheeks. If you’d rather that not happen, uncheck the meat producers, and you’ll have a meat-free product listing. Or, if there’s a farm that for whatever reason you’d rather not order from, even on accident, just turn them off and be done with it.

Another nice thing over there is a link to subscribe to an RSS feed of the product listing. If you don’t know what that is, just skip over it. But if you do use a news reader to keep up with your favorite weblogs and news sites, add the ALG product feed, and you’ll see new products right as they get added to the site. It’s a great reminder, and a way to whet your appetite during the weekend, as the growers are busy getting the site ready to open for the week.

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!

Upcoming Local Food Events

March 23rd: Be a Farmer For A Day at Long Shot Farms Have you ever wanted to learn how to plant asparagus? How would you like to give it a go? Here is your chance to do it with no risk! Long Shot Farm in Arnoldsville, Oglethorpe County, is a new establishment focusing on Granax onions, tomatoes, and perennial blueberries and asparagus. It will take some time to establish their beds, and Rochelle Long needs your help. Come join a small group of volunteers to help plant asparagus. Participants will go home with asparagus crowns of their own while supplies last. The event will be held on Saturday, March 23 and will begin at 10:00 AM. You will spend two hours planting asparagus crowns into the prepared bed, enjoy a free lunch around noon, and tour the farm after lunch. Sign up for this free tour by adding reservations to your order (look in the “Event Reservations” category). For more information, contact Cathy Payne at broadriverpastures@gmail.com.

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for March 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.

Recipes

ASSERTIVE GREENS WITH ONIONS OR SHALLOTS AND CREAM

A bit of background — all leafy greens are not interchangeable. Some are delicate enough for salads; others can be tough as shoe leather. In general, though, they fall into two categories, each of which is handled differently. Within each category, though, the type of green used is pretty much interchangeable. The “tender greens” (beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach) are delicate and moisture-rich. The “assertive greens” (kale, mustard, turnips, collards) are stronger in flavor, and require added liquid as they cook.
This is a great recipe for those more assertive greens. Technique is the key. The initial shallow blanching erases some of their bitterness without robbing them of their character. It preserves their color and flavor, saves time, and allows them to be cooked more quickly.Once the greens have been blanched and drained, they can be used in any number of tasty recipes. In this one, the sweetness of the onions and the richness of the cream mellow the bitterness of the greens.

Source: Perfect Vegetables: A Best Recipe Classic, 2003, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine (Entered by Janice Matthews)
Serves: serves 4 (about 2 cups of cooked greens)
Vegetarian!

Ingredients

2 pounds kale, collards, mustard or turnip greens, washed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. unsalted butter
2 medium walking onions (white portion only) or shallots, chopped fine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Step by Step Instructions

1. The essential blanching step: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a deep pot, add the salt and greens, and stir until wilted. Cover and cook until the greens are just tender (about 7 minutes). Drain in a colander. Rinse the pot with cold water, refill it with cold water, and pour in the greens to stop the cooking. Gather a handful of greens, lift out of the water, and squeeze dry. Repeat with the rest. Roughly cut each bunch of greens, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
2. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onions or shallots and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the squeezed, cut greens and stir to coat them with the butter.
3. Stir in the cream, sugar, thyme, and nutmeg. Cover and cook until the greens are heated through (about 2 minutes). If any excess liquid remains, remove the lid and continue to simmer until the cream has thickened slightly (about 1 minute longer).
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Market News

Just a short note this week, so you can get right to ordering. I’ve included a great recipe up above from the website. There have been several nice recipes added to the system this week, and I encourage you to share with us how you use your ALG purchases there. There are currently 60 recipes now marked as being in season using ingredients you can buy right now, and many more there you can browse. As the ingredients come into and out of season, the recipes themselves do too, and that has made for a great way to find new ideas and make the most of what’s available from our growers. Unlike other recipe sites on the ‘net, this one is built right in to the market, and you can add ingredients to your shopping cart right from the recipes themselves (or view recipes while looking at specific products for sale). All the recipes come from your fellow shoppers, and we’d really like to see your recipes there too!

I’ve also noted our upcoming farm tour down below. It looks like this spring will see many wonderful local food events around town, and I’ll share them with you in this space. Please let me know of any you might know about. I consider myself “in the know” about these things, and still there are events going on that I don’t find out about until they’ve come and gone.

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!

Upcoming Local Food Events

March 23rd: Be a Farmer For A Day at Long Shot Farms Have you ever wanted to learn how to plant asparagus? How would you like to give it a go? Here is your chance to do it with no risk! Long Shot Farm in Arnoldsville, Oglethorpe County, is a new establishment focusing on Granax onions, tomatoes, and perennial blueberries and asparagus. It will take some time to establish their beds, and Rochelle Long needs your help. Come join a small group of volunteers to help plant asparagus. Participants will go home with asparagus crowns of their own while supplies last. The event will be held on Saturday, March 23 and will begin at 10:00 AM. You will spend two hours planting asparagus crowns into the prepared bed, enjoy a free lunch around noon, and tour the farm after lunch. Sign up for this free tour by adding reservations to your order (look in the “Event Reservations” category). For more information, contact Cathy Payne at broadriverpastures@gmail.com.

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for February 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

My family and I returned this afternoon from this year’s annual Georgia Organics conference, held this time next door to Atlanta Airport. Yeah, they can’t always be held at beautiful scenic locations. Truth is, though, there are many wonderful farming and food stories going on right in the big city, and it was nice to be right in there with them. Farming is still though of as a rural pastoral activity, but there is a lot of vacant land in the city, and even more when you count the roof tops. And an awful lot of food can be grown on even a small city lot.

Like in Athens, there are a lot of regulatory and zoning hurdles that most be navigated to grow and sell food in Atlanta. Athens has recently re-examined the rules on the books and has decided that small-scale production inside city limits is ok, within reason. Atlanta is poised to take it a step further and give a blanket approval to market gardens within the city. If that does go through, we can expect to see a lot more urban farming going on here in Georgia, much like is being seen in cities elsewhere across the country. I always get the Talking Heads’ “Nothing But Flowers” going through my head when I talk with urban farmers (“This was a discount store / now it’s turned into a cornfield”), but it’s really been transformative in places from Minneapolis to Houston.

For me, one of the most inspirational things every year at the conference is the spectacular “Farmers’ Feast” on Saturday night. It consistently rates as one of my best meals of the year, and it’s prepared by the state’s finest chef’s using the state’s finest sustainably grown produce and meat. I can’t afford to eat at most of their restaurants, but thanks to Athens Locally Grown, I have access to ingredients just as good as what they use, and I can practice and learn the skills required to cook dishes that tastes as good as theirs. But I’m constantly reminded that not everyone lives near a market as great as ours, and not everyone who does can afford to regularly shop there. So, that’s where I get inspired throughout the year as I think back to the great feast at the GO conference: what can I do to help everyone who wants it to have access to food like this and the knowledge to use it, so that meals like that don’t have to be a special once-a-year thing? This has what has kept me moving forward these past twelve years.

And with that, I’ll open market. There is nearly 1000 items available this week, and that number is likely to grow from here on out. The spring peepers are loud, and warm weather is right around the corner!

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for February 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

I’d like to remind you this week about a feature of the website that’s been there for some time, but that you may have missed. When we started filling orders paperlessly a few years ago, I revamped the “Order History” that you can view by looking at the Your Account page. Back when we had a sheet of paper with your order on it, you could see right then if a grower couldn’t fill an item you had ordered. Now, we try to tell you (we can see that on our little screens), but there have been many times recently when I’ve been 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 each week.

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.

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

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for February 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

It’s just a short mailing today, so you can get right to ordering. First, though, I want to bid a fond farewell to longtime Thursday volunteer Regan Huff, who left Athens this past week for work in Seattle. She’ll be missed! I’ve been living in college towns for 24 years now, and the ephemeral nature of relationships made never gets easier.

We’ve started planning our monthly series of farm tours, and the first is on the calendar for Saturday, March 23rd at Long Shot Farm in Oglethorpe County.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to plant asparagus? How would you like to give it a go? Here is your chance to do it with no risk! Long Shot Farm in Arnoldsville, Oglethorpe County, is a new establishment focusing on Granax onions, tomatoes, and perennial blueberries and asparagus. It will take some time to establish their beds, and Rochelle Long needs your help. Come join a small group of volunteers to help plant asparagus. Participants will go home with asparagus crowns of their own while supplies last. The event will be held on Saturday, March 23 and will begin at 10:00 AM. You will spend two hours planting asparagus crowns into the prepared bed, enjoy a free lunch around noon, and tour the farm after lunch. For more information, contact Cathy Payne at broadriverpastures@gmail.com.

You can make reservations for this free space-limited event by adding them to your order. Look in the “Event Reservations” category on the website.

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for February 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

There are a number of events coming up, so I’ll devote this weeks mailing to them.

First up, “Building Nourishing Traditions”, a full-day workshop from the Weston Price Foundation, hosted my ALG member farm Rancho Allegra. You can find all the details here: http://buildingnt2013.eventbrite.com Come learn about nourishing, traditional foods, and receive practical guidance for implementing a nutrient-dense diet! The full-day conference will include speakers on many important topics, and the afternoon is full of practical workshops will include expert presentations teaching how to make nutrient-dense foods including Bone broth, Cultured dairy (yogurt, kefir), Preparations of grains, Vegetable ferments (sauerkraut, ginger carrots, beets), Cultured beverages (water kefir, kombucha), and more!

Local edible landscape experts Hungry Gnome is offering a variety of events throughout the year, but now is the time to get a jump of thinking about growing your own veggies this year. To that end, they offer a variety of individual Vegetable Support programs. You can find more details here: http://www.hungrygnome.org/hungrygnome/Garden_Support_by_Hungry_Gnome.html. They are also looking for two interns for the season. If you’re a student looking to get into landscaping, permaculture, garden design, and related careers, this is for you. More info here: http://www.hungrygnome.org/hungrygnome/Internships_with_Hungry_Gnome.html.

The South Carolina Organic Growing conference is being held on March 2nd in Columbia, SC. Even though it’s one day, it looks like a dense conference with lots of learning opportunity. Full details can be found here: http://www.scorganicliving.com/2013_Conference.html.

And of course the Georgia Organics conference is coming right up, February 22-23 in Atlanta. This conference is always well worth attending, and is close to selling out. Information is here: http://georgiaorganics.org/conference/

Our local cooperative extension agents are coordinating a series of workshops you may find interesting: Program Series for Small Organic and Naturally Grown Farms. Northeast Georgia is home to many small farms that are using direct marketing and alternative production practices to market to local consumers, retailers, and restaurants. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is hosting a series of programs to provide the latest research-based information to these producers. These programs are designed for small farm producers that are implementing organic or sustainably grown practices (not necessarily “certified” organic or naturally grown) on their farms. All programs will be held at the J. Phil Campbell Research and Education Center in Watkinsville and will start with a meal at 5:30 PM. Cost for registration is $15 per session.

February 12 – Food Safety for Small Farms (Register by Feb. 4th)
February 19 – Small Farm Grazing Management (Register by Feb. 11th)
March 5 – Profitable Marketing for Small Farms (Register by Feb. 25th)
To register, contact the Oconee County Extension Office at 706-769-3946.

I think that’s all of my list of events. Even though we just had our coldest night of the winter so far this week, it’s time to start thinking of waking up the garden, and all of these will help you do just that.

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for January 31


I’m somewhere in far West Georgia as I type this, returning from a week in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the annual conference for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. I was joined by about 1200 other like-minded individuals, swapping information, stories, and inspiration. I got to meet a number of other Locally Grown market managers, many for the very first time face-to-face. There are 18 markets in Arkansas alone using the system we built together here in Athens, and hundreds more across the country. I absolutely love how the food system in Athens has grown over the last fifteen years, and it warms my heart meeting people from other communities who have looked upon what we have accomplished here and are working on doing the same there.

I haven’t had a chance yet to look through the availability for this week, but I see there are nearly 1000 items listed. We might have short days and cold nights, but the food is still growing, thanks to the hard work of all of our farmers.

Thanks for all of your support of Athens Locally Grown, our farmers, and your community. Know that many other people from literally around the world are watching what we’ve done here, and are envious. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!

Availability for January 24


Athens Locally Grown

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

Market News

I’ve been focused most of this week getting things ready for a week-long trip to Little Rock, Arkansas 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. It’s also exciting for me that it’s being held in Little Rock. Many, many online markets have popped up throughout Arkansas using our Athens Locally Grown system, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them and the people behind them first hand. I’ve left our Thursday market here in the hands of our many capable regular volunteers, so I’d imagine you’ll never even notice I’m not there. There are a few things they can’t do, such as looking up account history and resolving old payment issues, so you can send those queries to me via email or wait until the following week.

Now, in the past few 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 in that 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 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 items clearly broke 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 purchas 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 last year 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 monthly 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’m 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, 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.

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for January 17


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 first, last week I promised I’d 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 just an extension of my wife’s and my small farm. We file a Schedule F in addition to our regular tax forms. 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 my wife and I in 2004, we’ve tried to do the same thing. I’ve renamed it to “Athens Locally Grown”, but you’ll still hear a number of people refer to us as “the co-op”.

We’re not a non-profit, either, but we’ve structured things so that over time the market can just cover its own expenses. Just like all of our member farms are sustainable growers, the market itself needs to be sustainable. So how does the market cover its expenses? One small way is through the memberships you pay. The $25 a year you give to the market is enough (to put it bluntly) to cover the costs of having you as a customer: banking fees from depositing your checks, paper and ink for printing, web hosting fees, and that sort of thing. What’s left over goes to helping fund farm tours, food donations to like-minded area groups and events, etc. We currently have 484 paid members out of the 3743 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 $359,442. This is actually a very small decline from 2010, 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.) About 90% went straight to our growers, and the rest went to a food allowance for our volunteers ($400 to $500 a week), rent ($200/month), tables & shelves ($1000), our farm tours (about $750 total), web hosting, and transportation. The “profit” gets counted as personal income on our tax forms, and comes out to roughly $2000. I haven’t yet calculated milage allowances and other minor expenses, and I expect that the profit total will pretty much come out to zero when I do.

The growers get paid out of the shared cashbox when they drop off their sales, 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 several days 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 $2672 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 fifth of the US retail industry’s “shrinkage” rate, and almost all of it is owed by only ten people. Only $600 came from this last year. On the flip side, $5241 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 9749 orders placed last year, so that averages to $36.87 spent per order. There are no good studies on this number, but I’ve seen a few surveys conducted by the USDA indicate that the average customer spends $25 per trip to a farmers market. We continue to far exceed that average, which I think says a lot about the advantages ALG offers over the traditional market. And to your dedication to supporting our growers.

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

One administrative note: next week I’ll be in Little Rock for the annual Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s annual conference. Since Doug’s Salmon keeps his fish at my house, it will not be available to purchase next week. If you want some for then, order it now! It’ll return the week after.

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!

Other Area Farmers Markets

The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too. The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.

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!

Availability for January 10


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

Given that we’re starting a new year of Athens Locally Grown (our twelfth!), and we’re continually welcoming new members to our market, I’m be devoting the next few mailings 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 an extension of my wife’s and my tiny vegetable farm. There’s no board of directors, no shield corporation, no pot of grant money. It’s just us, and while that keeps things very simple, it also exposes my family to a ton of potential liability. It’s never been an issue (except when the whole raw milk thing erupted) but there are several things we do specifically toward that end:

  • 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.
  • When you pay, you’re paying into a shared cash box for all of the growers. This lets you write a single check for convenience, but you are really paying all of the growers directly and individually.
  • The growers give a small percentage of their sales, generally 10%, back to the market to cover the 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 can’t deliver, 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 want to be into. Many food co-ops and even some farmers markets aren’t as careful with all this as I try to be, and that has gotten other groups similar to us into serious legal trouble (deserved or not). There are so many grey areas in all this, and the written regulations 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 Locally Grown has grown over the years. Everything we do has legal ramifications, and the state of Georgia has a reputation for being no nonsense when it comes to enforcement — with the little guy, anyway. That has became extra obvious in recent years, and the FDA is also putting pressure on groups like us too. I’m not a lawyer, but every time we enter those grey areas, I make sure we follow the intent of the laws, don’t flaunt anything, and have a good defense and a paper trail should we need it. And when that doesn’t work, the good folks at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund are behind us. They have consumer memberships, too, and I do encourage everyone who is able to become a member of the FtCLDF.

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

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

A few other notes this week: One of our meat producers, BPH Farms, has changed their farm name to BG Farms. Their products remain the same. Also, the website has undergone a bit of a cosmetic facelift. Everything still works the same, but the colors are a bit different. As many of you know, there are several hundred markets like ours around North America using the software I wrote for ALG. One farmer in Tennessee is also a graphic designer, and is working on a set of “skins” he can offer to those other markets. I’ve installed one basic skin at our market, and may put in others to look at as he makes them. It’ll never affect how the site works, so don’t let the colors throw you off.

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!

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 too. All but Athens Locally Grown, that is.

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!