State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Farmers Co-Op Aims to Deliver

by on March 06, 2015 6:30 AM

For the past several weeks on Tuesdays, a knock on my door brightens my evenings.

It's my neighbor, saving the evening with delivery.

Not pizza, burgers or sushi, but goodies from the farmers market. The Friends & Farmers Online Market.

It's hard to feed your kids healthy and appealing food every night, especially with piano, trumpet, homework, and a dog that keeps jumping on his humans, hoping one of them will walk or feed him. It's not my finest hour. I'm a morning person, and by 6 p.m. I desperately want a drink and a cup of coffee, neither of which is possible because a beer will put me to sleep and, hours later, the coffee will keep me awake.

But the Friends & Farmers Online Market makes dinner easy and delicious. On Tuesdays, there's ravioli from Fasta. A Ciabatta loaf from Gemelli that's bigger than my dog. Stuffed chicken pitas, soups, and giant, spelt chocolate chip cookies from Eden View Foods. And the Way Fruit Farm apples and applesauce that are a staple of my kids' diet.

Most exciting of all, there's fresh, local greens. My husband and I are hooked on spinach salads with Florida citrus (hey, I'm not a purist) and local watermelon radishes. (No dressing needed.) There's something for everyone, and we're all well-fed and happy.

A gracious neighbor who doesn't have small kids at home picks up my order every week and delivers it to my doorstep. But soon, more people will be able to get local food delivered to their door. Friends & Farmers (full disclosure, I'm a board member) is launching home delivery March 17.

Delivery is available for customers in zip codes 16801 and 16803 (State College), 16851 (Lemont), 16827 (Boalsburg) and 16868 (Pine Grove Mills). Or you can always opt to pick up your order Tuesdays between 4 and 7 p.m. at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

Friends & Farmers opened the online market in November, offering consumers an easy way to purchase items from some of the same local producers participating in Central Pennsylvania farmers markets. Launched as a stepping stone to opening a brick and mortar store, the online market offers tangible progress toward the Friends & Farmers mission: to support and grow the local food economy, while offering consumers convenient, nutritious and delicious locally grown and produced food.

Since launching in November, the online market has contributed nearly $14,000 to the local food economy. The market averages 35-50 orders a week, and 250 people have registered as customers.

Currently, the market partners with 13 vendors offering a range of products, including vegetables, apples, meat, salmon, eggs, milk, cheese, bread, prepared foods, and hot sauces. The market recently added two new producers: Fasta & Ravioli Co. and Good Seed Baking Co., a dedicated gluten-free bakery in downtown State College. And Tait Farm Foods, which has been selling on the market since it launched, recently added its jams, shrubs, sauces, chutney and vinaigrette. For a complete list of vendors, click here.

Just like the planned store, anyone can shop in the online market. But Friends & Farmers owner-members pay lower costs for their online market orders.

Membership in the cooperative isn't simply providing the needed capital to open a store. It's building and strengthening a local food system that keeps more money in our economy and supports our local farmers and producers — a group of people who, in my opinion, couldn't be more deserving of our support.

These farmers are supplying us with delicious, truly fresh, high-quality food. Friends & Farmers Co-op can provide a reliable market for their products and support their growth — into new technologies, diversified crops and value-added products like jams and tomato sauces

Your membership also supports increased local food access. The co-op is planting the seeds of this goal in the online market, hoping to start a program for SNAP beneficiaries (eligible, low-income individuals and families who receive nutrition assistance) that will help them stretch their online market purchases.

I know. It's hard to wrap your mind around a "membership," and investing in something that's new or unfamiliar.

But if you've been curious about Friends & Famers, the market is a great way experience a grocery store that doubles as a community. Already a shopper? Become a member and volunteer.

What other club can you join that will deliver a watermelon radish to your door?

 

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Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at [email protected]
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