We send out cool articles and farmer highlights using a different email program. You can see the archives of those emails here and through our facebook page! We use this “weblog” every Friday evening to let you know the market page is accepting orders (look for the little add to cart buttons next to products). Northeast Georgia Locally Grown was officially OPENED on Monday, April 26th, 2010 and we are so thankful that you are helping support fresh local foods each week.
Locally Grown - Availability for January 30th, 2013
Hey Local Food Lovers,
Well this being the last week of January in this new year, it’s a great time to give a quick history of the Locally Grown Market. I know lots of you have been with us from the start, but for those who haven’t, there’s probably a detail or two about how Locally Grown works that you might not have known about.
Back in early 2010 several farms in Rabun County started talking about creating their own version of the Athens Locally Grown market here in the mountains. Eric Wagoner, a grower and software engineer in Athens began developing the Athens Locally Grown site in 2004 and immediately focused on creating a computer interface that would not only easily allow farmers to sell to customers online, but the system would be universally available to anyone else who wanted to start their very own internet farmers market.
I was living in Athens in 2005 and began shopping at the Athens Locally Grown market very slowly, and then after a 2006 bicycle ride to 50 farms across the country, I was hooked on local and began going every week. Meanwhile shortly after that Chuck Mashburn with Mill Gap Farm and Sylvan Mills Farm began listing their products through Athens Locally Grown and driving their products down all the way from Rabun County to Athens. They liked how the market worked and were learning its structure from the farmers perspective.
When I moved from Athens back to Clarkesville in 2009 I started looking for local food everywhere. Like I said, I’d developed a habit I just couldn’t live without. Aside from the Simply Homegrown market, and the So called Farmers Market in Satuee, local food was somewhat hard to come across, especially during the slow season, and as I met growers and customers I would frequently mention how the Athens Locally Grown market worked and why I thought it had some benefits.
Chuck was talking it up too, and he knew that his farm and many others had products they weren’t able to sell at weekend markets alone, and recognized that a midweek market would be popular with growers and customers. But it needed to be able to expand across a broader region than just Rabun County. For one there weren’t that many farms or customers in Rabun County alone.
Clarkesville at the time had no farmers market, but we did have a handful of farms in the area, and several more in neighboring White County. Chuck came up with the idea of kicking off a Locally Grown with two pickup locations (a feature that he knew was built into the Locally Grown software). That’s when he coaxed me to be the market manager for a Clarkesville site, and he would manage the Clayton site (this was before it was moved down the road to his farm in Tiger).
With the two of us on board, all we needed now was a bunch of growers willing to learn about how it worked and sign up. We had a meeting at Chuck’s house on March 15, 2010. At the meeting was David and Katrina Lent (and Daniel and Ariana) from Coleman River Farms, Brooks Franklin (who wasn’t even a farmer yet), Mike and Linda from Sylvan Falls Mill, Joe Gatins from La Gracia Farms, Chuck and Amy from Mill Gap Farm, Steve Whiteman from Trillium Farms, and Skip Komisar from Artisan Additions. Shortly afterward we started to create the site and had farmers sign up. I can remember spending an hour or so with a few of the first farms showing them how to go through all the steps of uploading photos, describing items, pricing, and then once the orders are in how to print out labels and where to bring the food. I had to go through it all too in order to explain it.
In the beginning Chuck and I were doing this on such an experimental basis that we just opened up a new checking account in his name to manage it. In pretty short order we realized the best way to manage the market was similar to how many if not most other farmers markets in the country are organized, as a non-profit. Since the organization I work for, the Soque River Watershed Association has as one of its primary missions to promote sustainable land based businesses, our board of directors agreed that the market was a good project towards that goal (and fit well with our community garden that was also started in 2010).
On April 24, 2010 we were up and running and if I recall correctly we sold over $300 that very first week. The first Clarkesville Location was at Polly Parker’s the Market Cafe (which is now Sweetbreads). Each week I’d drag all the coolers off the porch at the SRWA which was right around the corner and set them up on the side porch and eagerly await as the farmers brought in their orders.
I remember that very first week Belflower Gardens had signed up and made sales and I’d never even met Buddy and Suzanne before. They’ve now become close friends and collaborators. Ronnie from Mountain Earth Farms also was there from the beginning. I have an interesting aside about Ronnie. He called me right after reading about our organic community garden in the paper and offered to help us till the garden with his tractor and subsoiler. That’s a pretty good representation of how excited a lot of us were to be meeting for the first time. Many growers across Northeast Georgia had not met one another until now. Linda Lovell with Moonshadow Farms also made sales of starter tomato plants that very first week.
Well, from there things just started rolling. By the 3rd week we had 68 people signed up. Teri Parker made her first purchase on May 19th. She offered to volunteer and has been with us ever since as our most dedicated volunteer who we couldn’t live without at the Clarkesville Market location.
It’s a lot of fun to reminisce on our humble beginnings. Hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Next week I’ll get a little more into the details on how we manage the market, and how the financial part works.
Until then, of course you should………
Justin in Habersham
Chuck in Rabun