Highlights from the Network: An Interview with Local Foods Plymouth
Local Foods Plymouth, in Plymouth, NH, utilizes a unique distribution method to increase consumers' access to local foods. In addition to running the Plymouth Outdoor Farmers' Market from May through October, LFP also coordinates an online farmers' market year round. Recently, Melissa Groves interviewed Brandon Miller, the manager of LFP, to find out how it all works.
Connecting Consumers with Local Food—All Year Long
Local Foods Plymouth has been providing customers with one-stop shopping for local food all year long for the last 10 years. Customers log on to their website to shop for local produce, meat, dairy, eggs, baked goods, sweets, locally roasted coffee, prepared foods, and gifts from more than 30 local producers. While the online shop is available for browsing any time, purchases can only be made from Saturday afternoons through Wednesday mornings. This allows enough time for LFP to contact the producers with the orders so that they know how much they need to deliver to the distribution site on Thursday afternoons. During the summer season, online orders are picked up at the Outdoor Market, and during the off-season, the orders are picked up at the UPS store in downtown Plymouth. Farmers deliver the goods to LFP, who puts together the orders from customer invoices to prepare them for pickup. Their delivery window has become so busy that they recently had to add an additional day and time slot for deliveries, which will allow them to continue to grow their customer base.
Finding Ways to Make Local Food More Accessible for All
Increasing access to local food for consumers without adding to their cost and energy consumption is an important part of LFP's mission. Previously, they had received grants from the NH Charitable Foundation and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to implement a "Farm to Desk" project, which allowed customers to receive deliveries from their online orders directly to their place of employment. However, as time went on, LFP found that this project wasn't as time- and energy-efficient as they had hoped it would have been, with some drop-offs being made for just a single customer at a place of employment. Once the grant money ran out, the project was placed on hold while its overall viability is being assessed.
LFP is committed to increasing access to local foods for low-income families, as well. SNAP/EBT is accepted at both the Outdoor Market and the Online Market, and Granite State Market Match is available for eligible fruits and vegetables at the Outdoor Market. Membership to Local Foods Plymouth (normally $40 per year) is offered to SNAP participants for free. LFP also offers a discounted student membership ($15/year).
Ten Years of Success
Local Foods Plymouth recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary. While Brandon joined LFP in 2015, he had previously been involved with local foods sourcing for restaurants for several years. He notes that a lot has changed in that time. "More people have been becoming more aware of the benefits of buying local foods." He notes that while increased awareness of local foods is important, it is still difficult "to get people to incorporate that extra step it takes to support local agriculture." The online weekly ordering service aims to overcome some of the boundaries to buying local food by making it more convenient for consumers. LFP tries to streamline the process for customers as much as possible, even sending members a weekly reminder email on Saturdays, when the site re-opens for shopping. Adding another delivery day with early evening hours has allowed them to better service customers who work during the day. This year, LFP received a grant from the NH Charitable Foundation, which will allow them to assess, plan, and grow their programs.