This week, my good friend Rebekah Pike shares her first-hand experience with the internet-based company that connects local buyers with competitively priced foods produced on nearby farmlands:
Hello, my name is Rebekah – and I’m addicted to my farmers’ market.
But I’m not so in love with the traditional market concept that I can’t see its limitations. For one thing, depending on your neighborhood, it can be pricey. Really pricey. I’ve noticed again and again that most vendors are extremely savvy to the price point expectations of their customer base and that prices from stand to stand rarely vary by more than $0.25 or so. This doesn’t really bother me when I’m making everyday purchases, but when I’m looking to buy 10 or 20 pounds of an item for a preserving project, shopping my beloved farmers’ market becomes less practical.
The second problem I’ve discovered is the investment of time. I have to drive through several miles of notoriously congested suburbia to get to my favorite market. Then I have to circle the site, squeeze into a tiny parallel parking spot, coax my toddler (or bribe her with promises of a cookie) into her stroller and walk several more blocks. Once there, I have the crowd of fellow farmers’ market addicts to wade through, the price comparison shopping to do, lines to wait in … in spite of my addiction, I’m getting tired just thinking about it.
So, while I have absolutely no intention of breaking up with my farmers’ market, I was excited to discover a fresh, new model for direct-from-the-farm purchasing in Aurora Local Foods.
This is essentially a cooperative of local farmers who sell their products through a website run by business owner Matt Battilega of Big “B” Farms in Aurora. The beauty of this idea is that it is both convenient for the customers and an efficient business model for the farmers. Rather than having to drive from farm to farm, customers can shop online from several different farms at once and pick everything up at a designated time and location. Rather than delivering their products to the market, which then may or may not sell, the farmers only have to deliver what the customer has already selected and paid for.
Here’s how it works: On Tuesday evening each week, a list is posted on the website that shows the items available for purchase. The list changes from week to week based on the season and availability. And it’s not just for fruits and veggies – so far, I’ve seen everything from herbs to pastured chickens to local milk from grass-fed Jersey cows. There are even some local specialty foods for sale, like chocolate covered hazelnuts and handmade pasta. Customers add items to their cart and pay by credit or debit card. All purchase information is secure and encrypted. A receipt and purchase confirmation is then emailed to the customer, along with instructions for pick-up. Purchases must be made by Monday at noon for pick-up on Tuesday.
So far, I’ve placed two orders through Aurora Local Foods. My first order was driven by my need for seven pounds of asparagus for pickles. I was thrilled that Aurora Local Foods could get me that amount for the lowest price I’ve seen anywhere this season, including conventional grocery stores! In fact, I’ve found that all the produce I’ve purchased so far has been exceptionally well-priced, especially considering the quality. If you have questions about a specific product, you can call or email Matt. He was great about answering all of my questions.
Even if trekking out to Aurora isn’t practical for you on a weekly basis, I would definitely encourage you to take a look anyway. You might discover a valuable resource for bulk produce purchases or maybe you could make a plan with a friend or two and take turns driving out pick up your orders.
This is a great way to connect to your local farmers and support the work they are doing to make sustainable food more accessible.
Give it a try and happy shopping!
Rebekah Pike is most happy with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving her job in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement and reconnected with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. In 2005, her love of Oregon’s rugged outdoors led to a summer job as a camp counselor, where she met her husband, Darian. Most of their time is spent chasing after their two year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at restaurants, coffee shops and markets around Portland.