The idea of raising crops and animals naturally or with minimal intrusion is very popular now, but could a non-farming business dedicated to helping farmers better sell their products effectively operate on the same principle?
Matt Granados, founder and CEO of Local Vendors Coalition, based in Atlanta, Georgia, certainly believes so.
LVC is not another online farmers market where the food is collected from various farms by one source then sold to customers directly. Nor is it a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) where consumers pay a flat fee for a regular allotment of in-season produce. So, what is it then?
“It places farmers in direct contact with the vendors who want their products the most,” explains Granados. “It is a one-step process that before the two groups were having such a difficult time coming together.
“We are paying the community to do it,” says Granados. “We were not going to bring in salespeople. Then, it would not be organic. The farmers and the community create the market.
“When I first started, I thought that the problem was in pricing, then I thought that it was logistical … getting the product to those who wanted to buy it. Then I realized it was about communication. Both groups really wanted to work together, but there was an informational gap.”
Granados started LVC in 2013, but its new version, after beta testing it in the fall of 2016, was launched in January. Membership to the 2017 LVC online portal (Localvendorscoalition.org) for both farmers (producers) and buyers is completely free provided they update their profile page on the site weekly with their respective product availability and product needs. Otherwise, a fee of $4.99 is charged for that week. LVC sends regular text messages and emails reminding members to update. Once a sale takes place, LVC takes a small percentage of the transaction. Businesses with prepared-products can also join as producers. Previously, LVC focused solely on Georgia farmers. Now it is nationwide.
Granados, 30, is quick to point out that he has no background in farming. He is a Philadelphia native with a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management from Pennsylvania State University. He is also a man with a deep concern for farmers and the ability for people to have access to local food.
“I moved to Atlanta in 2009 and wanted to buy local food for me and my family but could not find it. Local food is of higher quality. Now, farmers can make money while they sleep. I like the logistics of this; figuring out the puzzle, and I am still figuring it out. ’’
It is almost summer. This is the best time of year for farmers to sell what they grow — at peak retail value — directly to customers either from their farms or at local farmers markets. As a farmers market vendor for more than 10 years, with both home-grown produce and a prepared product, I still find that the income can be unpredictable even after your presence is well established. Weather, competing events, and school starting again are just three factors that severely impact the foot traffic each week.
Granados believes he offers a valuable alternative. “Rather than doing 80 percent retail (local farmers markets) and 20 percent wholesale, we recommend farmers do the opposite,’’ says Granados. “Set up your wholesale market first… 25 or 50 percent, whatever they are comfortable with. Farming is so unpredictable. Anything that is predictable is of extreme value.”
Photo by Adobe Stock/Idprod