Buy Local Benefits Organic Growers

Beyond the pure healthy eating aspects, many organic consumers seek to be part of a larger community or experience. Buying local is a trend that spreads beyond organic production, but it dovetails nicely with the organic movement. Fresh markets are popping up all over the country. Florida is no exception with the number of farmer’s markets doubling in the past decade.

“The increasing popularity of farmer’s markets is due to a couple of factors,” says Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson. “First of all, people have become more health-conscious, so there’s more demand for fresh, high-quality produce — and that means local produce. Plus, our small farmers have become very aware of the benefits of direct marketing.”

Whole Foods Market Loan Offer

Whole Foods Market is tapping into the buy local trend by offering low-interest loans to organic growers near their chains. The Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program will provide $10 million annually in loans to promote local agriculture in areas where it has stores.

“We have carried Buzzn Bee (a loan program participant) products since 1997 when we opened the first Whole Foods Market stores in Florida,” says Juan Núñez, Florida regional president of Whole Foods Market. “The loan program is a terrific example of how we work with producers to create win-win-win situations, providing benefits not only for the company, but for our suppliers and shoppers, as well.”

Whole Foods Loan Eligibility
• Must meet Whole Foods Market’s Quality Standards
• Use funds for expansion and capital expenditures, not operating expenses (e.g., buy more animals, invest in new equipment/infrastructure, or expand crops)
• Have adequate cash flow to service debt and a viable business plan
• An existing relationship with Whole Foods Market is a plus
 

Interested producers can learn more about the Local Producer Loan Program at the Whole Foods Market Website, http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/lplp/index.html.

It’s An Experience

For many, another motivating factor in the popularity of farmer’s markets is the experience. The markets are often abuzz with activity, creating a sense of community lost in the hum of modern-day life. And there is something special about touching and feeling the fresh, ripe produce artfully displaced at the vendor stands in local markets. In many cases, markets host more than produce vendors. The Tallahassee Downtown Marketplace has evolved into a weekly festival with live music, art and crafts, educational exhibits, and community outreach.

“There tends to be a social aspect to the markets,” Bronson says. “The old ties between the farmer and consumer are restored.”

Green Benefits

Locally produced, organic produce offers consumers more environmental benefits than just products produced chemically-free. According to the Florida Organics Association, buying locally at farmer’s markets cuts down on the miles food travels and the amount of food packaging that ultimately ends up in landfills. The lower expenditure on transportation and packaging translates into more money in the farmers’ pockets, plus it adds to the consumers’ experience by allowing them to support their local farmers.

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