SILT: Two "Fresh" Entrepreneurs

SILT: Two "Fresh" Entrepreneurs

My name is Lock Whitney, and I’m an aspiring entrepreneur. My project represents a combination of my two main interests: small business and food! I have some background in both fields, namely as the owner of Amherst College’s student-owned used textbook store, The Option, and I have worked and volunteered on four organic farms in America and in France.

My name is Dillon Buckley, and I’m trying to be my own boss! In my four years running at Amherst, I have come to see a lot of the valley, especially its farmland, and our project aims to showcase the food that the land here produces. I love food and I’m interested in making the world a better place through social enterprise.

Together, our idea is to open an independent food market that sources (almost) exclusively from local farmers and producers.

Living in Amherst last summer, we were both exposed to the College in a new light. Because the College was out of session, we experienced the town as residents for the first time. We spent more time in town center, we discovered many natural treasures in the surrounding area (mountains, places to swim) and we got to know some Amherst residents outside the College.

We quickly came to love Amherst’s strong community-mindedness, which supports and fosters the unique, creative energy of many independent stores in the town’s center. Yet, as residents of Amherst, we couldn’t help but notice one glaring absence amongst the center’s storefronts: where can we buy groceries in town? One night in particular, we were planning to cook breaded eggplant from Simple Gifts Farm. When we realized that we didn’t have eggs, we trudged to CVS to buy a dozen. When we learned that CVS was out of eggs, we realized that we were plain out of luck.

But how could it be that there’s nowhere to buy eggs in a town that is surrounded by local farms? In a town with a CISA sticker on nearly every car bumper? In a town that’s proud to buy local?

So we began to imagine the kind of place where we’d like to shop. “The produce display would be out of this world” “What if there were hanging sacks of bulk grain?” “How would we do meat? Would we have to keep it all frozen?” “We have to be sure to provide the basics: eggs, milk, etc.” The questions just kept coming, and we were enjoying the challenge of coming up with answers! It began to feel like we had a faint outline of a viable business.

Over the course of this year, our idea has continued to develop and the prospect of opening our own market has seemed more and more difficult to achieve. So in the past few months, we have begun collaborating with a group of Amherst farmers, professionals and community members who are striving to create a similar, locally-sourced food market. The project is called All Things Local or ATL for short!

The All Things Local Market is a producer and consumer cooperative designed to enhance local agricultural marketing and development, and also to provide new marketing opportunities for producers of value-added food products and non-food products. In short, it is a new marketing vehicle in support of small locally owned businesses and their connection with the public. All while returning 80-85 percent of each individual sale back to the local producers.

Being a young entrepreneur is difficult; initially, we had little knowledge and few contacts in the area. But we have worked hard to combat those shortfalls through taking initiative and never being afraid to ask questions! We haven’t yet achieved our goals but we’ve taken some big steps in the right direction. We can build and develop strong ties between local producers and local consumers with fresh, healthy, delicious food!