As part of my ever increasing hippy-ness, a few years ago I started looking into farmer's markets in our area. I found one that had an interesting concept. It was called "Locally Grown" and it was mainly online. I decided to try it out. You ordered online over the weekend, and then picked up the order on Tuesdays. The week I tried it, I loved it, and I've been a steady customer since.
In the past two years I've watched the little market move twice, change leadership, and expand to need three pickup locations in our area. I've also watched the list of farmers grow. What once used to be just some vegetables, fruits, eggs, and the occasional chicken, has now grown to also offering dairy, soaps, a huge selection of meats (even salmon!), coffee, and even milled grains. I've had the pleasure of becoming friends with the current market curator.
A few months back the curator approached me with an offer: to run one of the pickup sites. I would be paid in market credit, which essentially means free food. It works out perfectly for us, because that pickup location has a fenced in playground, so my kids could come too. Essentially, I show up once a week, help transport the orders to my pickup location, and spend an hour passing out the orders and taking the payments. I get the added benefits of making new friends, and knowing the good impact I am having. Not to mention the amazing free food I am earning. (This past week I was able to order two cantaloupe, two watermelons, a pound of coffee, a pound of potatoes, a dozen eggs, and honey. All organic, and all grown locally. Well, except the coffee, which is organic fair trade and roasted locally.)
I also love the benefit of what this is teaching my kids. They get excited over the food we get, they understand how good it is for them (the farmers don't harvest until the pickup day), they enjoy helping set up everyone's order, and sometimes even work accepting payment and interacting with the customers. They also get to know the farmers personally. There are some that are actual farms in the traditional sense, and they employ organic practices. There are others that are just backyard farmers, who include a few extra rows in their personal garden to sell with us.
Here is where I do a plug for our little organization. Most of you don't live where I do, but here is the thing, "Locally Grown" is actually a network of markets. It originally started in Athens, Georgia, and has grown into a national network. It's been fun to watch the map explode with little pins as new markets in the network open up. So I invite you to check out the main site, and see if there is one in your area. You can also click around on the site to watch videos and read more about how it all works. Locally Grown Map