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Northeast Georgia Locally Grown offers healthy options during winter season
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Northeast Georgia Locally Grown

Where: Customer pick-up site at Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St., Gainesville

When: Pick up orders between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays

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Eating farm-fresh foods is easy during warmer months, but it’s not impossible when temperatures drop thanks to one local agency.

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown offers fresh produce all year long.

“We use it year-round, even in the winter when you don’t think of it as a good time for produce,” said Kelly Lee, who’s been a customer since the market opened in 2014. “There’s always something that you can order and have.”

While available foods vary by season, they’re always from local farmers, according to the nonprofit market that promotes local food in the region.

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown allows farmers to sell their products to customers quickly and conveniently by connecting the two via the internet. Locally Grown market co-manager Andrew Linker said more than 1,200 different products were sold in 2016. They ranged from fresh fruits and vegetables to pecans, jelly, honey, flowers, harvested seasonal decorations and pork chops.

 Linker said 40 farmers and producers listed items through the market this year.

Farmers and producers must meet two requirements to sell their products with locally grown. They must commit to only sell products produced without synthetic chemicals and have to be located within 80 miles of the pick-up location.

Once the products are online, customers log into the website between 9 p.m. Fridays and 9 p.m. Mondays and place their order. On Mondays or Tuesdays, farmers harvest that order — harvesting only what the customers want — and drop off the food at Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St., in Gainesville. Customers then come between 5 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays to pick up their orders, skipping a busy shopping center.

This way allows consumer to order multiple items from multiple farmers but pick up the produce in a central location and pay in one transaction.

And the process pleases consumers and farmers.

“It’s really fresh goods, vegetables, fruits, meats and honey,” Lee said. “Tomatoes are way better from there than they are at the grocery store.”

She said purchasing from Locally Grown has helped introduce her children to more foods, too.

“We try to pick something different each time,” she said. “We have more foods we wouldn’t go to the grocery store and just grab.”

Lee said her mother-in-law used a similar market in Cumming and told Lee about it when the Gainesville market was opening.

“It’s very convenient,” she said. “You go online Friday night and then go pick up what you ordered on Wednesday.”

Andrea Aliucci enjoys eating the fresh food, especially since she knows exactly what she’s purchasing and where it comes from. She said the food is fresher because it isn’t spending weeks on a truck losing nutrients. Her favorites are local greens, onions, potatoes, pepper, dairy products and eggs.

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown’s food is only days old, compared to 30-day-old blueberries, for example, found in supermarkets.

“It just couldn’t get any easier for a busy family or someone who has a lot going on in their week,” Linker said.

The market is all about peak freshness, he said, food that’s been grown and harvested that week.

“It’s the easiest and most convenient way to continue to buy local even through the winter,” he said. “You understand what you’re going to get and what the prices are.”

Aliucci, who’s been purchasing food for her family almost every week since summer 2015, revels in the knowledge that her purchases support the community, too. Previously, she purchased foods through a CSA — community supported agriculture, a farm that sells shares of its crops for the year. Customers pay ahead of time and pick up the produce after it grows. Then she heard about Locally Grown while visiting a farmers market.

“I love supporting small business anyway and supporting the local small farm to me is very important because there’s not enough of that,” she said.

Almost 90 percent of every dollar is going straight to the farmer, Linker said.

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