From the farm to your kitchen
Madison Locally Grown connects farmers to residents
By Kathryn Schiliro
Eat your (local) veggies, Morgan County.
Last week, newly established Madison Locally Grown launched its operation, set to bring locally produced food to county residents. Considering it a community service, Madison Locally Grown organizer Betsy Garrard wants to make it easy for Morgan Countians to get their hands (and mouths) on local food, and to support local farmers.
And, thanks to the organization, it's now as easy as your weekly trip to the grocery store.
Similar to a co-op, where you take out a membership to get a box of groceries from local growers, but different in that you choose (and pay for) the goods you receive instead of getting the same pre-determined box of food that everyone else in the co-op gets, Madison Locally Grown allows customers to go online, sign up for accounts, and become members. The process works in that farmers have to have their weekly selection to Garrard, who runs the Web site, by Sunday; she sends out an e-mail with the list of the week's offerings to members, who then have until Tuesday evening to place their orders. Farmers have Wednesday to harvest the needed goods and deliver them to Betsy, stationed at Madison Produce Company, by 4 p.m.; finally, members can pick up their orders at the downtown Madison location between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"A lot more people will buy from the local farmers if it's as easy as a once-a-week pick-up," Garrard said. "A mom like me isn't going to schlep out to all the different farms to get groceries."
By partnering with Madison Produce Company, a business not only locally owned and operated but that carries locally produced goods, it's Garrard's hope that Madison Locally Grown members will go in the store and continue their shopping for the week, further supporting local farmers.
"With Andy [Oller, Madison Produce Company owner and operator] letting us use his space, if people plan ahead they can get a lot of groceries there locally," Garrard said. "If people take advantage of it, they can get a lot of good, local stuff and support a local business."
"I wanted to help Betsy out. I wanted to help out local farmers," Oller said of why he chose to be the drop-off / pick-up location. "I want to develop a better relationship with local farmers. ... If I can get more business, I can sell more of their stuff here, too."
Inspired to start Madison Locally Grown by several factors – membership in a large co-op in Michigan (she grew up going to the co-op in the summer) and relationships with local farmers – Garrard contacted Athens Locally Grown and used their business model to start up the Madison organization.
According to the Web site, madison.locallygrown.net, Madison Locally Grown is comprised of farms varying "in size and specialty, but all carry the common thread of dedication to community, environment, health and education." Additionally, growers farm their land "using strict standards to ensure that everything produced is chemical-free."
Right now, there are more than 120 products to choose from, ranging from meat and seasonal vegetables to honey, candles, even lip balm.
The cost for membership is $25 per household (a good deal, Garrard says, as it's $250 to belong to her Michigan co-op), but the first order is free, so potential customers can try it out. Of the orders that go through the Madison Locally Grown Web site – orders are paid with cash or check at pick-up – Garrard keeps 10 percent of the proceeds; 3 percent of that 10 goes to keep the Web site running and the other 7 percent is placed in an account for publicity and future projects.
"The more people that buy from it, the more farmers are going to want to join...and there will be that much more diversity," Garrard said.
Right now there are 16 participating farms.
"We hope it works because if we can make it work, it will be something that will be around for a long time in Madison," Garrard said. "The farmers aren't going anywhere, and people aren't going to quit eating food."
Printed in November 11, 2010 edition