Melanie Smith-Bell, Communications Outreach Coordinator
What would be the best way to increase opportunities to support small growers? This was the topic at hand at the last in-person meeting of the Frederick County Food Council’s Ag Economy Working Group. Members began discussing the idea of an online market that could list food inventory from multiple local farms in a similar fashion to an Etsy platform for farmers, but where the growers are the artisans.
As the pandemic swiftly shut things down and put the weaknesses of the supply chain on display, Community FARE decided to support an online effort immediately and get local food into the homes of local customers. The non-profit organization, with the generous help of volunteers and community partners, sprang into action to find farmers who would like to participate and began filling products, images, and information into the Frederick Fresh Online (FFO) market platform.
To date 18 different producers have listed items for sale on FFO, which is open for shopping every Thursday morning through Sunday at noon. The site launched with vegetables, flowers, meat, and eggs. In order to provide a more complete shopping experience more local food businesses have joined the market. Some will provide products year-round, at this point most fresh produce growers provide seasonally.
Customers are pleased to be able to support local businesses, moreover to get delicious, farm fresh food as well as honey, tea, soaps, cheeses, and baked goods that come straight from the oven each Wednesday just ahead of the once weekly pickup window. Two of the providers offer hand-crafted chocolates on occasion, especially around holidays.
Community FARE provides financial support for FFO, and Bar T Mountainside supplies refrigeration and freezer space, and substantial area for producer drop off, volunteer packing and customer pickup. This project would not have been possible without the collaboration and generosity of these two organizations. Bar T Mountainside was our first pickup site.
Our second pickup site was created at Point of Rocks when a group of customers reached out about creating a satellite pickup location because their community has no farmers market. They used social media to organize volunteers and found a willing partner in Solid Rock Assembly of God Church in Point of Rocks to host that pickup site. The Food Council volunteers replicated their model with the assistance of The Frederick Friends Meeting community, a third pickup site. McClintock Distillery has donated lots of hand sanitizer to help keep customers and volunteers healthy. It has been wonderful to see various community members come together to ensure that this effort to support local enterprises meets with success and continues to grow.