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by intern Grace Mitchell

A few years ago in Davidson, North Carolina, Christy Shi wanted to transform her diet into one comprised of local foods. She started driving to area farms and meeting farmers, but had guilty pangs because her efforts benefited only herself. Indeed, she was able to learn where her food came from, but she wanted to share that knowledge with others, too. Christy organized a club serving about twenty people, and, after some initial hurdles, farmers saw the advantages in Christy’s efforts, namely, they did not have to transport or market their food. Before long, her endeavors grew into a business called Know Your Farms, which brings food to communities surrounding Davidson, including chefs in nearby Charlotte and students at Davidson College.

Businesses similar to Know Your Farms are appearing all over the country. Here in New York City, the organization Basis Farm-to-Chef works to connect small and mid-size farmers with city-dwelling consumers. To date, it has been primarily concerned with linking chefs working in the city to farmers outside the city. This past weekend, however, Basis jump-started a new and essential effort: a pop-up farmer’s market. This market marks an important step in making the food they sell available to everyone–not only restaurant patrons. I had the opportunity to work at the farmers’ market on that blustery and energy-filled Saturday, October 10th, to see firsthand the efforts of Basis Farm-to-Chef. In the morning, New York City chefs attended the market and met the farmers. The market opened to the public in the afternoon, surprising and engaging pedestrians who may have otherwise not visited a farmers’ market were it not along the path of their afternoon stroll. The efforts of this pop-up farmers’ market will see a permanent fruition with the opening of a Basis store in the coming months, which will be located in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.

While providing food to restaurants comprises an important and exciting chunk of business for Know Your Farms and Basis Farm-to-Chef, their more community-oriented efforts, such as farmers’ markets, have greater potential to truly reshape community food systems. Forging a connection between farmers and consumers is essential, but one that not all farmers can do themselves. Businesses such as Know Your Farms and Basis Farm-to-Chef enable farmers to focus their time and energy on growing food, and have led to increased availability of that food. If you don’t have a farmers’ market where you live, or even if you do, follow the examples set by these businesses and locate a farmer nearby. See what you can do to support her work–it will probably be quite delicious.

Do you know of similar organizations in your area? Let us know who they are by posting a comment to this blog. We’d love to hear about them.