The Weblog

Welcome to Northeast Georgia Locally Grown’s weblog. Mainly this is a collection of e-mails that we send out each week to kick off the market, but also tells the tale of our little market. The market was officially OPENED and our first orders taken on Monday, April 26th, 2010 with our pick-up on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010. Though small at the beginning our market has grown pretty well, Selling $25,000 by December 31, 2010, and nearly $40,000 by our anniversary on April 28th, 2011. The site will be opened for shopping Friday evening at 9:00pm and remain open for shopping until 9:00pm Monday evening.



 
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Locally Grown Availability for April 9th, 2014


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Almost all the local food farmers in the North Georgia mountains got together last week for a small celebration of sorts. Starting two years and 3 months ago local farmers began having get-togethers at each others farms and discussing how we might all collaborate with one another. We called the group the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network (GMFN) and since then we’ve had 10 total get-togethers, hosted two weekend FARM TOURS, coordinated several bulk orders, and recently incorporated the group, formed a board of directors, adopted Locally Grown as a program, and wrote several grants to help us do things like expand the Locally Grown market to Gainesville

I mention all this because it really demonstrates the importance of building a community as part of the effort to eat local food. This community of farmers has exchanged a ton of information with one another, helped made contacts across a much broader region than we might have otherwise interacted easily, and created a ton of new opportunities, everything from purchasing shared equipment, to co-marketing our whole region as a hotspot for local food production.

I’d say right now we are on the very earliest edges of a local food movement, but many of these early efforts will insure that “farmers have a voice” in how local food and farming is developed in the years ahead. That’s important, as our conventional food system has pretty well eliminated the relationships between food, farms, farmers, and communities.

To celebrate these humble efforts the GMFN shared a meal together at Jamie Allred’s new restaurant in Clayton called FORTIFY. For the last couple of years or more, Jamie has been the single biggest buyer of local food in our whole region, creating the Featured Farmer Thursdays at Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant and now at his very own restaurant. It was quite a thrill to all sit together and enjoy a meal with corn meal from Sylvan Falls Mill, tatsoi from Mill Gap Farm, beef from Chattooga Belle Farms, microgreens from Trillium Farms, and a long list of items from farmers all sitting right there in the room together. There were 50 seats taken, and I’d dare to say this was likely the biggest gathering of local food farmers we’ve had in our region to date.

FORTIFY is now open for business, and it will be a business that supports local food farmers for a long time to come, and makes us local food eaters very very happy. Head on over and try it out! But you may want to make reservations as we expect they’ll be very popular for the next many weeks. Here’s a link

http://www.chefjamieallred.com/fortify-1.html

Even though the GMFN is a network of farmers, we’re also a community group that wants to make local foods a growing part of our North Georgia identity. To do that we need as much help from customers, educators, businesses, volunteers, and others who’d like to see the same thing. Last year we had over 30 volunteers for our Georgia Mountains Farm Tour. A few years ago a bunch of UGA students came up for the weekend and visited 4 farms, two each day. After an hour or more tour and talk they put in an hour or more of work on the farm. That was a mightily appreciated day for those participating farms, as you can accomplish a lot with 6-8 hands on a project, especially in late June when the weeds are trying to win.

In other words, there are a dozen ways for folks to participate in this rising tide. The Green Way and Old School Gardens in Clarkesville and Clayton is a great way to develop your own gardening talents. I just spent 3 hours yesterday transplanting asparagus crowns and raspberries and I find such efforts to be the most relaxing and fulfilling kind of work there is. I enjoy the rough dark callouses on my hands after they’ve been in the dirt or on the shovel for a a few days.

In addition to gardening, cooking, eating at local food restaurants there are the following options: write a little story for the local paper about your experience with local food, farms, cooking, gardening; pick your favorite farm and offer to organize a “crop mob” otherwise known as a volunteer work day for them sometime this summer. Even if it’s only 5 people with reasonably strong backs for about 2 hours, I guarantee most farms will love you forever. Post photos of all your local food meals to your facebook and steer people to Locally Grown or our other local markets. Educate people on local food, where to find it and how to prepare it. I bet many of you have ideas of other ways you can get involved that I can’t even imagine. If you’re artistic, help us design a new logo, or do a cool little sketch of some of our farm characters or some aspect of their farm. Develop a cool map of our area showing all the local food hotspots. Find 5 or 10 businesses that would sponsor this years FARM TOUR. Help us design farm tour SIGNS for each location that will stand out and won’t cost us too much money. We’d love to have you involved because each contribution adds character and charm to our efforts. Who knows it may even make the food taste better.

Speaking of that, we’ve got a lot of delicious food this week. We’re almost back up to 200 items listed this week. And more diversity is coming.

SO…..EAT WELL,

Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Well that’s some good ramblings for the week on local food.

Northeast Georgia Locallygrown availability list for April 9


The market is now open for orders. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy fresh local food.

Locally Grown Availability for April 2nd, 2014


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Spring is a busy time of year for local food farmers, and this year is no exception. Everyone I’ve talked to lately has that buoyant energy that comes in the spring where plans are being set, and new growth is coming on vigorously. The highlight of my day was pulling weeds. Garlic planted back in October and asparagus beds that haven’t been touched probably since then either needed some attention. The sun, the warmth and rain combined has officially brought on our first flush of wild strong growth. Those who have been fortunate to be outside have seen it. The grass is growing tall.

The big news this week was BEETS. Three different farms have them, but the cute little ones with greens on top look like they’ve already sold out. I’ll be faster next week. There should be more and more coming.

We’ll be launching the official opening of the LOCALLY GROWN 2014 season the weekend of EASTER (April 20th) for the pickup that Wednesday the 23rd. For those of you who shop year-round that doesn’t mean much but we do like to send out a few press releases to remind folks that we’re here. In a few more weeks we ought to have enough produce to invite a few more folks to enjoy the party.

If all goes well we’ll launch the Gainseville Market about a month or so after that, either late May or early June. We have been recruiting new farms and food producers to join the market around this time so it should be a quite exciting event.

Another exciting event is a farmer network meeting that’ll be happening on Monday. Our Georgia Mountains Farmers Network is now just over 2 years old but it’s made a lot of progress in a short time. Monday’s meeting will be our 10th official get-together and we’re celebrating incorporating into an official organization by sharing a meal at Jamie Allred’s new restaurant in Clayton, FORTIFY. You can bet I’ll be describing that meal this time next week and I’m certain it’ll be fantastic. The Locally Grown market is now officially a program of the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network, since our #1 priority for the network from our inception has been marketing collaborations, especially those that increase retail sales to urban markets. That’s where our Gainseville expansion idea came from.

Last but not least, we are beginning to plan our 3rd annual FARM TOUR. This is the best opportunity of the year to go out and see many of the farms that you buy from here on Locally Grown. We’re locking in the dates of June 28-29, which is just 3 months from now. One of the most important ingredients to this being a great event is volunteers. We had over 30 volunteers at last years TOUR and we’l need at least that many again. Not only will you get a free t-shirt for donating about 4-5 hours of your time, you’ll also get to attend the TOUR the other day for free. And you’ll probably make some of the best friends of your life and have a fun time in the process. That’s a win-win. If you’re interested in volunteering it’s not too early to put your name on our list. Send an e-mail to Maggie Van Cantfort at gmfnfarmtour@gmail.com
or
gmfnfarmtour@gmail.com

Ok, that’ll do it for tonight.

Thanks for supporting local food and farms and EAT WELL,

Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Locallygrown availability list for April 2


Good Evening Locavores
The dreary sky today has brought needed moisture for local gardens. Maybe this will be the week that the new spring plantings finally will pop. Moisture and warmer sunny days predicted for next week are just what the farmers have been needing.
This evening,Chef Ryan Spruhan and his ‘girls’ met and greeted customers at Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant. His staff served complimentary wine and hor d’ouvres to start the evening. Amy said the shrimp was perfect and the following meal, prepared with locally grown ingredients, was excellent and enjoyed by a full house.
Thanks, Chef Ryan for carrying on a tradition at LRH for delicious food and great company.
Have a great week and enjoy local food.

Northeast Georgia Locallygrown availability list for March 26


Hi Locavores,
The market is now open for orders. A couple of spring like days will apparently be followed by several mornings at or below freezing early next week. This cold weather is continuing to prevent much seed germination outside. Several of your local farmers are growing in hoophouses to provide you with fresh produce this early in the spring. Thanks for supporting local farmers and their extra efforts to bring you fresh vegetables.

Locally Grown Availability for March 19th, 2014


Hey Local Food Lovers,

I’m gonna keep tonight’s message very short. Is everyone as excited as I am to see Leah Lake Farm’s back this week? It’s really nice to realize that you miss individual farms and their products when they are absent for awhile. Welcome Brooks back by ordering BIG and next week I’ll be sure and order earlier so I can get some yummy carrots!

We’re still a few more weeks before all the goodness of spring comes into full focus. This is my favorite time of year for the anticipation of what’s to come. Asparagus, fresh beets, cabbages, carrots, fennel, radishes, spinach, kohlrabi, and oh my strawberries.

Spring time is my personal favorite time to grow things as well. It’s because there are so many crops that just plain have to have the cold. They won’t do well once the hot days of summer come, this is their time and they shine. But they also have to be carefully tended meaning either they should be started indoors to spare them the super cold weather in the ‘20 ’s that we may still have some of, or they need to be covered with row cover to protect them from frost, often all the way into May. It’s this extra attention of spring crops that makes them special. Timing is important. It’s also just fun to watch your small crops germinating in a nice warm house somewhere (greenhouse or otherwise) while the biting weather lingers. It’s the hopes of future feasts vs. the final famine of the end of winter.

It’s also potato planting time (some would say we’ve already passed the prime time), or perhaps onions.

It’s important for eaters to learn these rhythms of the season too. You should be excited about asparagus and strawberries after all, and it should always be at just a certain time of year. Maybe you’ll even get to where you know the week and you’ll remark to your friends, “asparagus came early this year,” or “what’s the deal we’re still waiting on asparagus, I’m about to lose my mind.”

Well that’s some ruminations on Spring. It’s a great season. And it’s a great time to EAT WELL!

Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locallygrown Availability list fot Mar. 19


Good Evening Locavores,
You will find that Leah Lake Farm has returned this week with a wide selection of lettuce and other greens.
Leah Lake Farm is our northernmost farm and is also on the lower slopes of Pickens Nose Mountain. For Brooks, This higher altitude has multiplied the winter related issues we have all been dealing with this year. Thanks, Brooks, for battling thru subzero temperatures and excessive ice and snow to bring a bounty of greens to the market before spring.
Your orders with BG Farms (akaBPH)this week may not be delivered until March 26.
Have a great weekend everybody and enjoy fresh local food.

Locally Grown Availability for March 12th, 2014


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Burnt.

That’s kinda how this past week went, but everything is good, and better things are afoot.

I did have a great fish burrito at Cali n Tito’s in Athens. Next time you’re down there that’s some food you won’t forget. It may be the best burrito I’ve had.

And that’s a about all I have time for this week. so Shop Big this week! Spring is coming on strong and we’ll all be feasting on it soon.

Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locallygrown availability list for March 12


Good evening Locavores
The market is open for orders. The meats listed by BG Farms this week will be delivered for pick up on Wednesday.
This weekend promises to be a sneak preview for spring with warmth and at least partly sunny skies.
Here at Mill Gap Farm and I’m sure all of your local farmers as well; we will be busy planting and prepping more growing beds. The signs are right for Saturday snd Sunday to plant root crops so we will be setting some leeks, onions, and even more garlic.
Keep your fingers crossed for more springlike weather and an end to winter.
Have a great weekend and eat local.

Locally Grown Availability for March 5th, 2014 - correct photo version


Hey Local Food Lovers,

There’s so much I want to say about what’s going on in the Local Food world, and so little time. Apologies for being late or absent in the messages the last few weeks, but 2014 is shaping up to be an impressively busy year for local food and farms.

Where do I begin?

Well let me start with the most exciting news. Locally Grown will be expanding to Gainesville with a 3rd pickup site this year, probably by May! This is something we’ve been talking about for about a year and hall, and everything seems to be coming together to make it happen this year.

We are very excited to announce our new partnership with the Northeast Georgia History Center! They agreed on Friday to serve as the drop off / pick up site for the expansion market. About a month ago we had some Gainesville Friends drive us around town looking at different places we might locate a market. Hands down our favorite place was the History Center. Why? Because it’s just a block or two from the core of downtown, yet is in a very pedestrian friendly and lovely area, very close to Brenau College. Most important, the covered Portico at their front entrance just looked perfect for setting up the market. Highly visible, attractive, there’s even a skylight for nice daytime ambient light and electric lights for after the sun goes down. The Parking Lot is cute and just looks like the kind of place people might hang out chatting with one another. It’s perfect.

Perhaps most of all, we love the people behind the History Center. They instantly identified with our efforts, and had already been thinking of similar ideas as ways to enhance the communities use of the facility, which is a real community gem. There is a reconstructed log cabin in the back that I anticipate we’ll co-host some special events with the Center one day soon. The center also sports a Victory Garden built and managed by a very active Master Gardeners of Hall County Group. We’re looking forward to what we anticipate will be a long and fruitful relationship here.

Just in case you’re a tad nervous about what this means to our existing markets. Have faith! The reason Locally Grown exists today is because two communities of growers in Rabun County and Habersham County teamed up to collaborate. The result has been that more food is available to more customers. By adding a 3rd, much larger area to this collaborative we are 100% confident that new farms and new farm products will be drawn to participate. In the next year or so we expect that you’ll have more options than ever before. There may be a little more competition for exceedingly rare items, but we’re also going to try and start getting very detailed information on what products you want to see more of, and working with all the participating farms to encourage production of items in high demand.

That brings me to the next interesting topic. We’ve applied for a USDA grant that would help us make this expansion more professional. It was a complicated grant process (about 90 pages long), but it forced us to really think about how to grow and improve the market….like a real business plan. We won’t know if we get the grant for another couple of months, but just thinking through what we’d like to see the market do was incredibly helpful.

One of the things we did in preparation for these big changes was go visit the Athens Locally Grown market a week from last Thursday. The ALG gave birth to our market in that they invented the software and kind of laid out the process.

The day I went for a visit and to volunteer to see how their system works was a big day, about $8,000 in sales. That’s 8x bigger than our average day this time of year. The first thing that strikes you about the whole thing is how efficient the Locally Grown model is.

Just like us, farmers come and drop off their orders first. IN this case they layout all their items on temporary shelving that is constructed and broken down each week in the basement of Ben’s Bikes. Farmers neatly arrange their items on a shelf or several shelves with their farm name written on the shelf in erasable ink (which is really cool stuff). They also arrange their items by type. All carrots might go on one shelf, bok choy the shelf beneath. Items in coolers are the same way, farm names written on the tops of the coolers.

After the drop off, a small fleet of volunteers (about 7 altogether) prepare for the onslaught of customers (I think it was about 500 this day). The way they do this is meet customers as they arrive and ask their name. They then have an internet connected device (I-pod Touch, or other small tablet) that they pull up the customers order. After their order is found the volunteer says “I’ll be right back with your order”, grabs a plastic tub and heads to the shelves and starts grabbing orders. Since all the shelves are in alphabetical order by farm (and the order sheet is organized the same way), it’s very easy to start at the beginning and weave down the aisle of shelves grabbing everything with the customers 3 digits of their first name.

Here’s the key. After you grab a bag of arugula that has SPE (for Spencer) on the label, you then touch that item on the I-pod. If the item turns green then that item is now packed. If it turns yellow, then you know they actually ordered more than one bag of arugula. This is one of the most common mistakes when packing orders. Every item packed gets checked off on an electronic checklist. That way if something is missing, the bill is automatically adjusted before you go to the cashier to pay.

Average wait time for customers is less than 5 minutes and in Athens while they wait they can grab a cup of free locally roasted free trade coffee, yummy and hang out with other local food lovers.

ALG also accepts credit cards and EBT (or food stamps). All this is done through I-Pads at the checkout. The beauty is that all the accounting for market is done for you right there, no adjustments later.

So why is all this so interesting. Think of it this way. It probably takes you at least 20-30 minutes or longer to go to grocery store to get primarily nutritionally inferior foods. With this system it only takes you 10 minutes tops, it’s more social and interactive, you get better quality food, you support local farms, and it’s fun.

From the farmers perspective it’s a dream. We saw probably 50 or more farmers drop items off that day in a 30 minute window. The market itself ran from 4:30 to 8pm, but farmers were only there for 30 minutes. So what at a conventional farmers market would normally require the labor of 50 farmers over 3.5 hours was able to be replaced by 7 volunteers.

Ok, think I may be running on a little too long here now….trying to compensate for my tardiness. But it really is an exciting time and exciting new season here.

We are gonna need a lot of help and support from a lot of people this year to kick things into a higher gear. If you’d like to be involved somehow let us know. We will recruit some market volunteers and back-up volunteers at each of our market locations so if helping out with the customer pick-up aspect of Locally Grown appeals to you let us know.

Last but not least. If you haven’t had the Swiss Chard from Mountain Earth Farms, you’ve got to get some. I’ve eaten it the last two weeks in a row and I promise it’s the best swiss chard I’ve ever had. Don’t know what kind of fairy dust is making it so magic, maybe it ‘s just because it’s been so young and tender but It’s fantastic. Buy some!

EAT WELL,
Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun