These days, the process of finding, ordering, and getting vegetables to New Roots’ 10 Louisville area-based Fresh Stop Markets is a relatively smooth process – with the occasional hiccup finding its way in just to keep things interesting.
But that was not always the case. The process has evolved since the organization was founded in 2009. For example, “this year, we haven’t had to go out to the farms and physically pick anything,” said Mary Montgomery, New Roots’ Uber Farmer Liaison.
“There have been times when we’ve gone out to the farms and picked vegetables and brought them back to the market so they would have what we forecasted,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes the shareholders don’t know the length and time that is involved in getting the food to the market for them.”
Despite the effort, she said it is worth it to make sure shareholders are not disappointed. “We love and enjoy seeing the community eat healthy and being happy,” she said.
Creating something from scratch has meant a learning curve for everyone, including the farmers who have partnered with New Roots. Montgomery said she and the farmers have had to learn to speak the same language.
“I have to work with the farmers because they like to sell a lot of their items by the pound, which makes financial sense for them, but we need to buy them by the ‘eaches,’” she said.
Each Fresh Stop Market share contains ten items, and when ordering things such as cucumbers, Montgomery said it has to be done per item, as sometimes an individual piece of produce can weigh a pound or more.
“If a particular market wants two cucumbers per share, I need to make sure I’m getting 72 cucumbers and not 72 pounds,” she said.
Montgomery gives a lot of credit to the farmers who have changed their ways to work with New Roots, which has proven beneficial for everyone.
But no matter how much New Roots works to continue to improve the Fresh Stop Markets, there is one thing that can’t be controlled – the weather.
“Trying to have all of the Markets eating on the same accord has been a task this season, because we don’t want any disparities in our markets,” she said. “And a lot is due to the weather as to when that crop is going to be available to us. They may have peppers one week for our markets and the next week (of the two-week cycle), they may not have enough to offer.”
Montgomery said they are always looking for ways to improve the process, but one of the most important things people can do is volunteer at the Markets.
“Be understanding, patient, and volunteer, because if they don’t help, then these markets go away,” she said. “We really do need the volunteers, not just buying the shares. Yes, we want you to enjoy the food, but these markets are alive and it takes volunteerism.”
It also goes the other way around. New Roots Executive Director Karyn Moskowitz reminds us that, “All volunteers really should be purchasing shares. We want everyone to gain access to this beautiful food, and leave the market and go home and experience delicious, nutrition-filled meals.”