Local Farmers and Food Buyers Try Speed Dating
Farmer Mitchell Wrenn and Wanda McCargo, director of Wanda’s Little Hands Educational Center at AHA’s 10+10 Growers Meeting Buyers event on Jan. 28.
So how about speed dating for local farmers and food purchasers? Well, maybe not actual dating, but a quick opportunity to make a connection that could translate into a business relationship. That was the goal of AHA’s recent 10+10: Growers Meeting Buyers event, held in late January at the Irregardless Café in Raleigh.
Working together with several partners, AHA invited 10 Wake County (or very nearby) farmers and 10 food buyers, including child care centers, restaurants, a private school, a grocery store, and distributors. As part of AHA’s mission to increase access to healthy and affordable foods, we have been exploring ways to connect local growers to local buyers. In November 2011, AHA hosted a workshop, Connecting the Dots: Creating a Local Food System in Wake County. The recent 10+10 event followed up on this initial work.
After a delicious dinner featuring local ingredients from some of the participating farmers and generously donated by Irregardless Café, each of the farmers met with each of the buyers for several minutes. Buyers rotated every four minutes to meet a new farmer, until each had an opportunity to meet each other one-on-one.
AHA provided a profile sheet of the growers and buyers to all participants as an introduction to where they are located, what the farmers grow, and what type of buying needs the food purchasers have.
Farmer Fred Miller of Hilltop Farms meets with Lara Spagnola, assistant to Chef Ashley Christensen.
We’re happy to report that the farmers and buyers felt the evening was a successful introduction! “Great event. I enjoyed meeting the buyers, chefs, and other growers. This is a thoughtful concept,” was one of the comments afterwards, and “This event was very successful and needed continuously,” another participant shared with us.
In addition, Wanda McCargo, director of Wanda’s Little Hands Educational Center, a child care facility serving children in Raleigh, has followed up with Genesis Farm in Holly Springs to talk about collaborating on a produce day in the community. Mitchell Wrenn of Wrenn Farm will be meeting with Lowe’s Foods to discuss opportunities, and he made several other good connections as well. Fred Miller of Hilltop Farm has heard from four of the buyers.
AHA thanks our partners who helped make this event a success: Wake County Cooperative Extension, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and Irregardless Café.
We look forward to sharing future updates on these connections!