Over at HOMEGROWN.org, we've got a lively online group of folks who are passionate about local, sustainably-raised, family farm food. We talk about our own garden plans, we show off our latest batch of bread, and we share useful and fun information that connects us to the land. Nothing compares to the meaningful relationships we have offline, but you can't argue that the Internet has changed the way that we live in and interact with our communities.
Eric Wagoner is an Athens, GA, farmer who has created an online tool that connects farmers with paying customers and, in turn, connects eaters to their local farmers. LocallyGrown.net is an online farmers market where people order farm-fresh products in advance online and pick up in a central location on a set day of the week. Kind of like a CSA, but you order only the items that you want.
Eric explains the way the LocallyGrown.net network works:
There are now over 100 communities in the US and Canada who are using the system. Last week, Eric told me: "Just yesterday, we crossed the two million dollar mark, in total products sold by growers to their local customers since I opened the door. Just over $1 million of that came in 2009, and the system is growing each and every week."
There are many farmers using the online farmers market model to reach more customers, mostly with a home delivery or shipping component, including LocalHarvest, The Eat Well Guide, EcoTrust's Food Hub, FoodTrader (one for Maryland and one for New York) and LocalCrop (serving Ohio).
Farmers, what do you think? Does "harvest-to-order" sound like a good thing to you? Eaters, have you found it hard to get to the farmers market early on Saturday morning? Order ahead and pick-up your goodies after work! These are the kinds of valuable innovations that we like to share – online and off.
Do you have a virtual farmers market in your community? Let us know about it in the comments section.