DAYTON, Ohio — Dorothy Lane Market has partnered with a new Community Supported Agriculture initiative to give its customers easy access to the group's freshly picked, local produce.
Dubbed Farm 2 Fork Fresh, the CSA group was founded by food industry veteran and consultant Howard Solganik, president of the Culinary Resources Group and founder of TransPlant Project here. Solganik manages distribution of Farm 2 Fork Fresh produce, which is grown on small, nearby farms practicing sustainable agriculture.
Dorothy Lane customers, who had paid for a membership or share of the CSA, picked up their first delivery of vegetables — most picked that same morning — at the Dorothy Lane unit of their choice on Thursday, June 18.
“This [CSA initiative] is a good fit for Dorothy Lane and for the community,” said Tom Winter, DLM's vice president, marketing.
Winter told SN that Dorothy Lane, a family-owned, second- and third-generation business with deep roots in the area, has always been community oriented and dedicated to offering outstanding customer service.
This is the company's first venture with a CSA group, and Winter said DLM customers are excited about it. Customers visit the retailer's produce departments for their CSA deliveries, which will be held in the produce department's coolers prior to pickup.
“It provides a great service to our customers, and it's good for the farmers and certainly for us,” Winter said.
“Our customers are getting $30 to $32 worth of produce for $25, and we have no shrink [it's all prepaid]. This also could bring in new customers.”
Whatever else it does, DLM's arrangement with Farm 2 Fork Fresh brings the group's members into the store at least once per week on Thursdays, all summer long.
Similar to other CSA programs, Farm 2 Fork Fresh members pledge support to local farms, paying up front for six, 12 or 18 weekly produce deliveries at $25 per week, in addition to a $35 annual fee.
The boxes of fresh produce are delivered to Dorothy Lane's stores by 10 a.m. and can be picked up until 8 p.m. Any boxes remaining after 8 p.m. on delivery day are donated to the local food bank.
Each box includes a Farm 2 Fork Fresh newsletter that offers more information about the group's farmers, news regarding the growing season, advice on proper handling procedures and some serving suggestions.
Winter named some of the produce items DLM customers could expect in their first Farm 2 Fork Fresh box: radishes, green onions, lettuce, cabbage, spinach and peas.
“Then as the summer goes on, there'll be different products harvested.”
Heirloom tomatoes will be among them, said Glenn Stevens-Shourds, co-owner of Mulberry Creek Farm, and principal Farm 2 Fork Fresh grower.
“We grow 14 different varieties of tomatoes, most of them heirlooms. We'll be giving [CSA group members] varieties they couldn't get from commercial outlets because they're too delicate to be transported very far.”
Having Dorothy Lane Market as the drop-off point benefits all concerned in the project. As customers pick up their produce boxes, they're apt to purchase other items. It's one-stop shopping, which is obviously good for Dorothy Lane.
For Mulberry Creek Farm and the other local farms involved in this partnership, there are important benefits as well.
“The biggest thing for me is the built-in distribution,” said Stevens-Shourds, whose farm lies 25 to 30 miles away from Dorothy Lane stores.
“I'm reaching people through Dorothy Lane that I wouldn't otherwise be able reach.”
In addition to supplying produce to Farm 2 Fork Fresh, Stevens-Shourds has his own farm stand and participates in another CSA group with pickup points at a nearby church and a seminary as well as at his farm.
He farms nine acres, six dedicated to vegetables.
“You'd be surprised at the volume you can grow on an acre of land in one growing season, and without using chemicals,” Farm 2 Fork Fresh's Solganik said.
Dorothy Lane, when it decided in May to greenlight the new partnership, set about informing its customers in several ways.
“We put up posters in the stores that said something like, ‘Eat Well, Save Money, Support the Local Economy, Join the CSA,' and then we distributed brochures that described it all in more detail,” Winter said. “We've also been on local television.”
The CSA partnership — a first for Dorothy Lane — is in its early stages, but Winter is enthusiastic about its future.
“When this Farm 2 Fork Fresh project takes off, I can see that it could also involve dairy and the meat department,” he said. “The group could eventually add natural chickens and organic eggs maybe.
“That's not to say Dorothy Lane isn't already offering all-natural meat, chickens and other natural and organic products, and many locally grown and raised products. In fact, that's the norm at Dorothy Lane.”
Supporting local agriculture and buying local products have been hallmarks of Dorothy Lane Market for decades, Winter added.
“I remember seeing pickup trucks bringing in cucumbers from local farms back in the '60s.”