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Availability for May 15

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. I hope your day was a pleasant one. I also hope you manage to find more days than just this one to call your own.

There’s a bunch of new items again this week. Many of you have been asking about more seedlings for your garden, so you’ll be happy to see many eggplant, pepper, tomato, and tomatillo seedlings listed. There are also lots of new veggies already grown out and ready to eat listed, including the season’s first cucumbers!

We’ve also begun taking reservations for our first “Farmer For A Day” event, coming up in a few weeks, May 31, at Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton. These popular events typically consist of a couple hours of fun projects around the farm (no experience needed!), lunch (free for all helpers), and then a full tour after lunch. These events are free, but since space is limited, we ask that you make reservations. You can do so by adding them to your order—you’ll find them in the “Event Reservations” category. You can find more information and a schedule of all events by clicking on “View Details” for the “Farm Tour” listing on the “Our Growers” page.

The Athens FArmers Market opens this coming Saturday, at its new location in Bishop Park. All of the vendors selling there meet the same strict sustainable standards as here at Athens Locally GRown, and indeed, most if not all of the growers there also sell here. They’d love to see you there, and it’s also your chance to tell them in person how much you appreciate their efforts both there and here at Athens Locally Grown.

Thanks for all your support. We’ve been seeing a steady stream of new faces, and almost all of them tell me they were referred by our existing customers. Thank you for that! We’ll see you all on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at Gosford Wine!

Availability for May 8

There’s over 450 items listed on the site this week, and a good number of them are new items this week. Give the “New Products” carousel (at the top of the “The Market” page) and you’ll see what I mean. And except for a few specialty items (such as the strawberries and asparagus), there is plenty to go around and in many cases multiple farms and varieties to choose from for each item.

As I was watching the new items get added to the site today, I knew I’d need to make room in the fridge for everything that caught my eye, so I took everything I had, from ancient carrots (back this week), turnips, onions, garlic, greens, fennel, potatoes, you-name-it, chopped it up and threw it in a big pot with a little butter and sauteed a little. I added a half box of broth from the back and let it all simmer for a bit. I found a partially freezer-burnt chunk of salmon in the back of the freezer and tossed that in there, too. After a while, I stirred in the last of the cream I ordered four weeks ago (yeah, it was just starting to sour, but that’s OK). In the end, I had the best pot of “clean out the fridge” chowder, and I’m all ready to get more this week.

There’s several upcoming events you may interested in. If you’re up for a bit of a road trip (less than an hour from Athens), member farm Fancy Feathers Emu Farm is having their spring festival on Saturday. You can find more details and directions on this website. Only, instead of taking I-85, take US 29 straight from Athens to Royston, and then turn south on 17.

Closer to home, the following week is the grand opening of the newly located Athens Farms Market. Now at Bishop Park, this market will feature many of the same growers that sell through Athens Locally Grown, giving you two opportunities a week to buy local sustainably grown food.

Finally, a good number of you took advantage of pre-paying for your Locally Grown orders, either via credit card or by just paying extra with check at the pick-up. Some of you asked which we’d prefer: pre-payment or pay when you pick up. And really, it makes no difference to us, so do whichever is best for you. I know I never write checks anymore, and my credit card gives me refunds back on my mortgage principal, so I use it for most everything. Got to pinch those pennies wherever they show up, you know.

Anyway, thanks so much for all of your support. If you have friends that don’t know about us, fill them in! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30pm to 8pm at Gosford Wine!

Pay in Advance & Draw Down Your Balance

I didn’t get this set up in time for last night’s email, but it’s all in place now.

Many of you have wanted to pay by credit card, instead of having to tote around cash or checks. It’s not feasible for us to take credit cards during the order pickup, but I’ve enabled the next best thing.

On the website, on the “Your Account” page, you’ll see some new information on pre-payments. Here’s the details:

  • You can put money in your account using credit card or checks via PayPal (even if you don’t have a PayPal account)
  • When the payment goes through, I’ll put the money in your Locally Grown account
  • Orders you place after that will draw down on your balance, just as if you were using a gift certificate
  • You’ll get to skip the payment line at pickups

Also, there’s two important stipulations:

  • To make it work efficiently, please pay at minimum $100. You get to set the exact amount
  • To cover the processing fees, I will deduct 3% or the exact fee, whichever is less. The current fee PayPal charges me to process a payment is 2.9% + 30 cents.

We’ve been using the account balance system to manage gift certificates and volunteer work credits for some time, and other markets operate on a 100% pre-pay system. It works very well. For example, if items you order (and are charged for) are not able to be filled, the money gets automatically added back to your account.

We’re not moving to a mandatory pre-pay system, so you’ll still be able to pay with cash or check when you pick up. This is just an added convenience for those who wish to use it.

If you have any questions, just let me know!

Availability for May 1

As we head into May, I see a lot of new items listed this week. The first strawberries, the first snap peas, many varieties of lettuce, lots of kales, herbs, flowers, radishes, turnips, and more.

It’s great to see so much variety coming out of small farms around Athens. Food security has been on my mind lately. I don’t mean security as in the “Homeland Security” sense, but in the “if it comes to it, can we feed ourselves?” sense. There’s been a number of troublesome news stories this past week alone: the Wall Street Journal advocated hoarding food, large grocery chains are limiting rice purchases here in the States, and in Japan butter has disappeared from store shelves. Food shipped in from around the globe is becoming more expensive by the day, and unfortunately, much of the world’s people get food that’s been shipped in from around the globe.

The 50 or so growers who sell through Athens Locally Grown cannot feed all of the Athens area, not even close. But they are growing a variety of foods intended for local kitchens instead of monocropping something meant for the processing plants, and they’re encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. Their work and your support combine to make our community a lot better off than most cities our size, and things look to be even better in the future.

One of our newest member farms will be hosting our first “Farmer For a Day” event on May 31. Nature’s Harmony Farm outside Elberton is modeling their operation off of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, and will be offering pastured chickens, pork, and beef, as well as a variety of vegetables. They’ve also been taking deposits for Thanksgiving turkeys, and they will almost certainly sell out for the year this week. We’d love to have you come out for the event, and we’ll have more information and begin taking reservations next week. We’ll have one such event each month through October, and the rest will be even closer to Athens.

If you want to get on a farm before then, two of our member growers are hosting their own events. First up next Saturday is Split Creek Farm’s “Spring Means Babies” festival on their farm, off I-85 just inside South Carolina. More information and directions can be found on their website. The following Saturday, Fancy Feathers Emu Farm will be holding their spring festival. Their farm is located between Royston and Elberton on Hwy 17 (right near the drive-in movie theater). I’ll have more details on that next week.

Thanks again for all your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at Gosford Wine.

Availability for April 24

What a beautiful weekend! I was able to get out and get all sorts of work done in the gardens. Some planting, some weeding, some mowing. Just enough to make me not think I’m a month behind.

The average last frost date for Athens passed this last weekend. And sure enough – there was a frost. For my house (and a couple other growers), the average last frost is about the 10th of May. It’s funny what difference 25 miles can make! Anyway, the time is right for many of you to put out your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, squash, and other summer plants and seeds. Keep an eye on the forecasts, though – even if we don’t get another frost, tomatoes don’t care for nights below about 45 degrees. IT won’t kill them, but it’s likely to push back your first fruit by a week or two if you don’t protect them.

Plans are progressing for the opening of the new Saturday Athens FArmers Market, starting May 17th at Bishop Park. Their website is now up, and while they have plans to expand and improve upon it, you can find details about the grand opening and other info there:

There are over 350 items listed this week, including a good number of new items. There’s too many to list here, but you’ll find them highlighted on the new product carousel at the top of the market page on the website.

And finally, here’s another reminder about the Old Timey Seed Swap next Saturday. Details can be found at that website.

Thanks so much for all your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at Gosford Wine!

News for the Week

I’ve mostly got my computer problems at home sorted out. It took getting a brand new computer to fix some of the trouble, and the rest just comes with living in a rural area without access to true broadband internet. But, things are better to the point that I can send you what I’d wanted to on Sunday.

First, now that the veggies are coming in, Thursday pickups are busier than ever. We’ll be tweaking out system to allow more orders filled at a time, but still our volunteers are working non-stop for hours to get everything filled. There’s a few things you can do to help the process. First, double check our work to make sure you get everything on your invoice. If we forget to give something to you and the item is labelled, I’ll know to give you a refund. A good number of things, though (meats, dairy, breads) have no label, so we don’t know who should have gotten it. Second, our growers are dropping everything off between 3:30 and 4:30. If they all arrive early, we can often get set up with time to spare, but more often than not, we’re all running around trying to get organized before we “open the doors” to you at 4:30. Please understand that if you arrive at 4pm and demand that we fill your order early, we probably won’t be able to help you (and indeed, we’re probably still waiting on produce to arrive). We’ll open early if we can, but our first priority will be to get organized so that the following three and a half hours go smoothly. Finally, I start making reminder phone calls to everyone who hasn’t arrived by 7:30. Lately, there have been so many that it takes my 20 minutes or more to make it through the list. If you have a cell phone number, make sure that you’ve listed it on your account (you can do so in the “Your Account” page of the site). I spend most of my calling time leaving messages on home answering machines and voice mail. Reaching a person speeds things up considerably.

We’re also expanding our volunteer workforce. We’ll be having five volunteers plus myself working each week. If you’d like to get on the list, please send me an email. I’ve got a core group that are working most weeks, but I’d like to get more trained up that can fill in from time to time. Volunteers get $50 credit for working about five hours.

Finally, I’m sad to say that I can see the day when Gosford Wine won’t work well any more. It’s already very crowded with customers, and we have veggies spread out over much of the back parking lot. I’d hate to leave, as both the place and the people there have been wonderful to us, and I’ll keep us there as long as I can. But if we keep growing at the rate we have been over the past year, we won’t make it through summer there. I’m not sure where we’d go—the ideal place would be indoors, with lots of room to spread out, and plenty of parking. The fellowship halls at those large churches on Prince Avenue come to mind, for instance. I’d like your input, though. Specifically, what changes would make you less likely to order from us?

Changing the subject, there are a couple events coming up you might be interested in. First is the Southern Seed Legacy’s Old Timey Seed Swap out by Crawford on April 26th. This event, organized by Locally Grown member Jim Veteto, draws people from all over the Southeast and features live music, barbeque, a tour of the heritage farm, the seed swap itself, and other activities. My first visit was last year, and I was nine years overdue. One highlight was an heirloom tomato grower from North Carolina who arrived with hundreds of tomato seedlings of many varieties I’d never heard of. He sold them for $1 each with all the proceeds going to the Southern Seed Legacy. All of the tomatoes out of our garden came from his plants. You can find more information, including a map to the farm, at the website linked above.

Second, the state Ag Department is holding a free egg candling school in Athens on May 20th. This free class is required for everyone who wants to sell eggs at retail. I know quite a few of you are thinking about or have gotten a small flock of backyard hens. Even if you’re not planning on selling your eggs, going through this class is a great way to learn about safe egg handling. If you’re interested, call Wayne Marks at 1-800-786-0175.

Finally, the new Athens Farmers Market has been officially announced. This will be held at Bishop Park on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm starting on May 17th, and will be limited to organic and sustainable growers—just like Athens Locally Grown. Many of the growers who sell at our market will also be at that one (but not the dairies, by federal law), so you’ll be able to shop at either one or both and be assured of getting local and sustainably grown food. This market will replace the one that has been held at Big City Bread the past seven or so years. I’ll have more details about the new market’s grand opening celebration as it gets closer.

That’s plenty of news for now. Thanks so much for all of your support, and we’ll see you on Thursday at Gosford Wine! Stay warm these few nights of winter!

Availability for April 17

I’m fighting some technology problems at home that has kept me from even looking at the website, but I’ll go ahead and turn it on.

I’ll send another email tomorrow with news and so forth.


Availability for April 10

This cold, damp weather is exactly what the spring plants love, and so you’ll see a number of new items this week. There’s over 340 items altogether, and hopefully plenty of most things to go around.

The herbs especially love this weather, and there’s a large selection there. The young beets are starting to come in, both tops and some roots, along with carrots, greens of all sorts, onions, green garlic, and other goodies. There’s even a few surprise tomatoes and summer squash from Michael McMullan’s greenhouse.

The amount of items available isn’t the only thing growing, either. Last week we crossed 1000 households with accounts at the market. Thank you all for continuing to tell your friends about us. Demand for locally and naturally grown foods is stronger than ever, and all of our growers are increasing their plantings this year to do their best to keep up.

One last thing… don’t let the recent wet spell lull you into complacency. Athens still had nearly 30% less rain than average for March, and with a few exceptions, the water table and reservoirs for all of North Georgia are well below where they were at this time last year.

Thanks again for all your support. All of our growers truly appreciate it, and indeed wouldn’t be here without it. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at Gosford Wine!

Availability for April 3

It’s clear that our market keeps growing in every way, and here’s another sign: I just sent out essentially collection letters to customers with past due balances for a total due over $550. It’s the first time we’ve ever done that in seven years (and as far as “normal” business goes, the total is astonishingly small).

I know many of you reading this email have joined us in the past year, so it’s probably high time I spell out the financials of how our market operates on the business end. If this doesn’t interest you, feel free to jump straight to the website, where you’ll find a number of new items listed this week.

First off, we’re legally a “sole Proprietorship”. 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, were always sure to run things in a cooperative spirit, and when 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 cover its own expenses. When things are good, it covers ours too. Just like all of our member farms are sustainable growers, the market itself needs to be sustainable. I’m still finalizing the tax figures for last year, but it looks like we might have broken even for the first time. Either way, it was close. My wife and I do not get paid, and for now that’s working out for us.

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 invoices, 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 about 375 paid members out of the just over 1000 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. The dairies in South Carolina pay a few percent more to help cover our transportation costs, since by federal law we have to go to them to pick up your orders. This money covers the many coolers we use, the tables and cots used to spread out and organize your orders in the back, the truck we recently bought, gasoline, the food allowance we offer our volunteers, etc. During the winter, the sales are not enough to cover our weekly costs, but in the summertime there is extra. Last year, it all evened out in the end.

We pay our growers when they drop off their sales, during the hour before we open the market. Then, you arrive and pay us for our order. We then rush to the bank to deposit the money to cover the checks we just wrote. 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.

So, in probably far too much detail, that’s how we operate. Our market is more expensive to run than a traditional “booths and tables” farmers market, the 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 means that should my wife and I not be able to continue managing it for whatever reason, someone else can without having to worry about sinking a lot of time and money into keeping it going.

I’ve gone on long enough. Thank you all for your constant support. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at Gosford Wine!

Availability for March 27

I hope you all had a good Easter weekend. Mine was very productive, thanks to my own personal migrant workers (as my parents call themselves). They always come visit from Missouri over Easter to help with spring chores. This year, I put them to work building and filling the first 16 of my Square Foot Gardening beds. I probably should have rented a cement mixer, as mixing by hand the compost, peat moss, and vermiculite needed to fill those boxes was hard work. You can see the results of our labors on our farm’s photo album here.

There’s a number of new items this week. The first will be good news to those of you who remember the wonderful baked goods sold by Whole Earth GRanary over a year ago. That business is gone, but their baker, Jeff Nunes, is now baking using the same methods at the Black Cow Coffeehouse & Bakery in Honea Path, South Carolina. He’ll be listing more products in the weeks to come, but you’ll find five types of bread made from freshly milled grains listed this week.

In other news, several of you asked last year about locally raised heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving. Believe it or now, the time to think about those things is now. New Locally Grown growers Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton is raising turkeys this year, and are now taking deposits for Thanksgiving delivery. Details are on their own website, and they expect to be sold out for the year by May.

Thanks again for all your support of our local growers! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30pm to 8pm at Gosford Wine.