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 January 15

I was going to talk today about the finances of Athens Locally Grown, but I haven’t finished the books for 2008 yet. It looks like we were a couple thousand dollars short of breaking even, but I’ll know for sure later on and will have a full report then.

In the mean time, I’ve been preparing for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s conference next week in Chattanooga. I’m on the conference staff, in charge of all the computers and projectors used in the many presentation rooms, and that’ll keep me busy. I’ll also be getting together with market managers and growers from the many other communities using my model (39 now up and running and another 13 getting underway), and I’m looking forward to that.

The conference runs from Wednesday through Sunday next week, but even though I’ll be gone, Athens Locally Grown will be up and running, thanks to our weekly volunteers and Michael McMullan (who’ll be going to pick up the milk).

I see a few new items this week, including the first new onions. Onions get planted in the fall here, and now is the time to thin the rows, and those thinnings provide you with green onions. We are coming into the coldest time of the year, though, so our availability will be more unpredictable than usual for the next few weeks.

Thanks again for all your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street.

Availability for January 8

As we start our eighth year at Athens Locally Grown, I’m going to take the next few weeks to discuss the hows and whys of ALG. We’ve come a long way from the first half-dozen farmers putting together boxes for the couple dozen customers out at Heirloom Organics in Winterville. Three of those first growers are still with us, as are many of those first customers, but now we’re approaching seventy growers and two thousand customers. I’ve worked hard to keep the spirit of cooperation intact even as we’ve grown, but in the convenience of our system the reasons for why we do what we do sometimes get glossed over.

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 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 liability.

Some of you have sent me news items about the raid last month by armed law enforcement officers (some have described it as a SWAT raid, but it wasn’t quite that bad) on the home of John and Jacqueline Stowers, who run the Manna Storehouse, an organic food co-op in Ohio not too dissimilar from Athens Locally Grown. You can watch the Stowers tell their side of the story, or read news accounts, or read lots of web chatter about it. However it all plays out in court, undisputed is the entire family (including children) were held at gunpoint for hours while their house was searched and food and computers were seized. I’m doing my best to avoid having the same thing happen to my family, and 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 of the food. The growers drop it off, and you pick it up.
  • The raw milk is a little different, since by federal law the dairies in South Carolina are not allowed to bring their milk into Georgia. In this case, the price for milk on the site includes a separate amount you pay us to go pick up your milk for you.
  • Everything at the market has a customer’s name attached to it. 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.
  • The growers give a percentage of their sales back to the market to cover the expenses of keeping the market going. I’ll cover 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. That might be a good business for someone, but it’s not at all what I want to be into. Many food coops and even some farmers markets aren’t as careful with that as I try to be, and indications are that’s what got the Manna Storehouse into trouble. There are so many grey areas in all this, and the regulations don’t even consider that something like Athens Locally Grown might exist. We’re 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. 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.

On that note, let’s get on to the food! The bakers have returned from their holidays, and the cold has bitten back some of the greens, but apart from that the list looks much like last week. January and February tend to be hard months to grow anything, even in greenhouses, so we’re likely to see the variety dip a bit in coming weeks. It won’t be too long, though, now that the days are slowly getting longer, that we’ll start seeing the spring goodies come back.

Thanks for all of your support. If it wasn’t for your desire to eat freshly harvested, locally grown food, we wouldn’t be here at all. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street!

Availability for January 1

I hope the last two weeks have been good to you. I’m still a couple hours from home, completing a nice visit with family in Florida. No need for you to wait on me, though, so I’ll go ahead and open the market now.

I did see a few new items this week, including diced bell peppers and sliced squash from Backyard Harvest, all harvested at the peak of their season and then hand processed and frozen in their on-farm certified kitchen. Georgia makes it more difficult than many other states for growers to get you preserved items, and I’m glad that Boo & Becky at Backyard Harvest was able to navigate the system and, on their own, build an acceptable facility.

Even though Thursday is New Year’s Day, we are operating on our normal schedule. We don’t have another week off on the calendar until Thanksgiving next year, in fact.

Thank you all for your constant support, and Happy New Year! I know some of you have just discovered us, but 2009 will be Athens Locally Grown’s eigth year, and we wouldn’t be here without you. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.

Closed for the Holidays!

This is just a reminder that Athens Locally Grown is closed this week in observance of the multitude of holidays occurring.

We will reopen next week, with pickup during the regular times on New Year’s Day.

All the best to you and yours!

Availability for December 18

I’m not sure where the time went, but this Thursday will be the last pickup day for 2008. We’ll be off next week for Christmas, but we will return the following week with pickup on New Year’s Day.

There are only a “mere” 400 items to choose from this week, but I do see a few new items on the carousel. It has been a good growing season so far this fall, and all of the growers who keep going year round (and those who do do so largely due to you all sticking with us even after the tomatoes go away) are still planting more. It’s the tail end of the garlic and onion planting season, and we’re coming into time to plant broccoli, cauliflower, and head cabbages for an early spring harvest. The lettuces and salad mixes get planted pretty much every other week from here on out as well. It is risky, since an ice storm or two can wipe out a couple months of hard work, but the rewards are the beautiful produce we have available now, produce that hasn’t been shipped here from thousand miles away.

A few of you have asked about our dairy schedule for the holiday. This week we’ll pick up your orders from Cows R Us dairy, and next week we’ll be off, and the week after we’ll visit Milky Way and Split Creek dairies. We’ll then alternate weekly, as we normally do, from there.

Some of you have also expressed interest in expanding your existing organic gardens and joining the other growers here at Athens Locally Grown. We actively encourage this, since there is no way our community can be food-independent without a lot more growers. And this market’s operations makes it easy to get started. If this interests you at all, please check out the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, also known as SSAWG. Their annual conference is in January in Chattanooga, and is one of the best investments a grower can make. The Georgia Organics conference is in March in Atlanta, and though a lot smaller than the SSAWG conference, it is also worth attending. Details about both conferences can be found on their websites.

Thank you all for your continued support, and whatever holidays you celebrate this season (we celebrate most all of them around here), peace and love to you and yours. We’ll see you this Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street!

Availability for December 11

People eat locally for many reasons, but one great reason is keeping the money they spend on food circulating locally rather than fly off to Bentonville, Arkansas or Cincinnati, Ohio (the headquarters of Wal-Mart and Kroger, respectively). Money spent locally tends to get re-spent locally, and this multiplying effect is what drives a healthy economy (local or otherwise). This is especially important in economic times such as these.

I bring this up to highlight a sister organization to ours, Athens Locally Crafted. This group of artisans make some stunningly great items, and they’ve got a website that works pretty much exactly like ours over at This Thursday, they’ll also be sharing our space to hold a good old fashioned craft fair. Not everything you’ll find on the website will be there in person, but you’ll have an opportunity to pick up plenty of items for your gift giving list (or a little something for yourself).

We’re also expecting 1000 Faces to have their farmers market stand set up, which means there’ll be freshly brewed 1000 Faces coffee to warm you up while you look over the tables.

On our end, we’ve got over 450 items this week. There are a couple new items, and a good many that were added last week. I hesitate to mention them because they are so good I’m tempted to just keep them for myself, but be sure to look at the heirloom chinese cabbage from Lazy Willow Farm and the dried beans from Backyard Harvest. We’ve had beans and cabbage before, but these new items from both farms really raise the standard for the rest of us.

This is also the last trip to Split Creek Farm and Milky Way Dairy before Christmas, so if you need cheeses, fudge, or cream for Christmas, it needs to be ordered this week!

Thanks for all of your support, and for keeping your shopping dollars local! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street.

Availability for December 4

Welcome back from our Thanksgiving hiatus! We have one more week off planned for Christmas week, but until then we’re back open.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I’m writing this from I24 somewhere in middle Tennessee while my wife drives us back from a few days with my family in Missouri. We only get up there once a yet at best, and we had a really nice visit.

There is some exciting news to report this week. We have had three South Carolina dairies offering Grade A Unpasteurized milk for some time, but without getting into the whole raw milk debate, I know there are a good number of you for whom raw milk is not an option. Enter Johnston Family Dairy from Morgan County, Georgia. They have just opened their on-farm Grade A low-heat pastuerization facility and are now offering their milk from pastured Jersey cows through Athens Locally Grown. They have a great website of their own, which you can find linked to on their info page on our “Our Growers” section.

There a great many other new products, including a new egg producer, but since I’m writing this on my cell phone, I’ll leave it to you to find them on the “New Products” carousel. Thanks so much for your continued support, and special thanks to those of you who wrote me to tell of how Athens Locally Grown fit into your Thanksgiving celebrations. That meant a lot to me. Also, thanks to all of you fpr your patience at our last pickup. Our two largeat deliveries arrived late, throwing everything akimbo, and making some of you wait much longer than normal Thanks to your patience and a few membets who jumped in to fill orders, we finally did get caugjt up. We’ll see you Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street!

Athens Locally Grown Closed for Thanksgiving

This is just one last reminder that we’re closed next week for Thanksgiving. I hope you have a happy one!

I also forgot to mention that Split Creek Dairy is having their fall open house tomorrow from 11am to 4pm. If you’ve already eaten the fudge you were hoping to save for your Thanksgiving dessert tray, it’s not too late to zip up there and get some more. They’re off I85, just inside South Carolina as you pass over the mud flat that used to be Lake Hartwell. You can find more information at their website.

Availability for November 20

First off, here’s a reminder that we’re taking next week off for Thanksgiving. We wish you and yours a wonderful holiday, ideally including a Thanksgiving feast containing a variety of locally grown ingredients.

Pickup will be a little more hectic than normal, and not just because orders will probably be a bit larger than normal. We’ll be sharing the space with the Northeast Georgia Food Bank as they hand out donated turkeys to a couple hundred deserving families. I doubt they’ll be set up to take food donations, but I doubt they’ll turn down money if you’re so inclined. Their services are in more demand than ever, I’ve been told.

In addition, a UGA student film crew will be on site gathering footage for a documentary on the Athens local food system. They’ll have notices posted stating that by being in the pavilion you consent to have your image appear in their documentary. If you don’t consent for whatever reason, just holler at us from the parking lot or something and we’ll bring your food to you.

Also, those of you who put deposits down on turkeys from Nature’s Harmony Farm are hopefully well aware by now that they will not be delivered on Thursday, but will instead be at the Lowes on Lexington Rd on Sunday afternoon. If you were somehow not aware of this, let me know and I’ll give you the details.

Now with all the announcements out of the way, on to the food! There is about 550 items listed this week, including the ingredients for many classic Thanksgiving dishes. From salad mixes and micro greens to sweet potatoes and winter squash, with a handful of green beans and summer squash in between, you’ve got plenty of ways to show off Athens Locally Grown to your visiting relatives.

Thank you for all of your support, and we’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street!

Availability for November 13

Sustainable farming is hard work. Everyone who has been to one of our “Farmer For a Day” events can tell you that, and if you don’t believe them, any of our growers would be happy to go on at length on the subject. Still, even with all the work, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Ron & Kate Khosla, operators of the very successful Huguenot Farm in New York and founders of Certified Naturally Grown, shows off the fun in the hilarious seven minute video that give a “behind the scenes” look at their operation.

I’ll be putting a few extra hours this week too, as I’m driving down to Southern Alabama tomorrow evening for the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network’s annual conference. I’m on the schedule there to talk about the success of Athens Locally Grown and to plant the seeds for more markets to begin over there. This will make my third conference in three weeks, but it’s my last one until January, when the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group comes to Chattanooga. Of all the conferences I’ve been to, I think this is the most “can’t miss”.

My place is going to have another night in the 20s tonight, but surprisingly, several of the farms nearer to town have yet to have their first freeze. There are still just a handful of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers to be had, but more and more the fall leafy greens have replaced them. Our growers also have winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes, and even some baby summer squash coming out of Michael McMullan’s greenhouses.

Remember that we’re taking the week of Thanksgiving off, so if you only buy milk from Cows R Us, it will be three weeks before we return to them. Next week we’ll go to Split Creek and Milky Way, then take a week off, and then return to Cows R Us the week after.

Finally, those of you who put a deposit down on Thanksgiving turkeys from Nature’s Harmony Farm way back in May should have received an email from them detailing your pickup options. Note that due to logistical issues, they will not be at Athens Locally Grown next Thursday (they will be in Athens on Sunday the 23rd). If you missed that detail, check the email again. If you didn’t get it, let me know and I’ll forward it on to you.

As always, thank you for your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.