Special to Swellesley by Kim Maire
After taking the summer off, Wellesley Farmers’ Market relaunched operations on Thursday in the parking lot at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills on Washington Street. The relaunch brings with it a new partnership with Vermont-based Farmers To You (FTY), which has a stable of about sixty New England farms providing a variety of food products.
One of the organizers, Phyllis Theermann, said the Wellesley Farmers’ Market was held in the Whole Foods parking lot for the first two years, and then moved to the UU church. “I thought it worked ….I think all the vendors were reasonably happy in Wellesley but the three or four of us volunteers making it happen, we just knew we could do something better, try something different.”
That something different became the connection to Farmers to You. FTY has built an innovative model that may be more akin to the Amazon part of the new Whole Foods alliance, bringing new technology to buying farm fresh food.
According to the FTY website, the group offers online ordering of food direct from local farmers, coupled with a delivery/drop-off service. Food products include organic and specialty meats, Jasper Hill and Grafton Village cheeses and other dairy products, baked items as well as fruits and vegetables direct from their partner farms.
Emails are sent out to customers, or “partner families,” as FTY calls them, on Friday to let them know what products are available. Orders are then placed by partner families by Sunday, farms receive orders on Monday, food is packed on Tuesday to be delivered to the Boston area on Wednesday and Thursday. There are over 20 drop-off locations in the metropolitan area.
Twelve partner families signed up for groceries this week in Wellesley. But Greg Georgaklis, founder of FTY, said that Lexington Waldorf School is their largest group right now with roughly 80 partner families, and he is optimistic that Wellesley can grow significantly from the modest start.
POSSIBLE CHANGES AHEAD
Also looking to the future, John Spencer, one of the Wellesley Farmers’ Market organizers, and president of the Weston Road community gardens, said, “The plan is to see how this model works, and then bring in other vendors who could use this model and add in outside sales” and other things.
Theermann said the group has maintained good relationships with the farmers who participated in earlier years, and they could go back to them in a couple of months. The market is currently online, pre-order only, but that could change later.
Another big change is the fall startup. Theermann said, “Wellesley is pretty quiet in the summer, when a lot of these markets are running, so we thought, what if we could do it all year round – or at least, do it in the fall or winter when there’s still stuff available.”
She said, “And for those people who are working and can’t pick up their orders, there’s also this delivery service from this cool company that’s a female-owned company. They deliver everything by bicycle, no matter what weather. So they pay a small surcharge to have the food delivered to their homes.”
Spencer is working with Town zoning and planning department officials to continue the farmers’ market next year. Their current permit allows them to run until Dec. 31, and they expect to be at the UU church every Thursday up to the holidays from 12:30-2:30pm.
“So that’s our goal, to continue to bring local, fresh, mostly pesticide-free food to our community,” said Theermann.