Farmers market goes online

FDA Organic label

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BOB MOON: You've probably been thinking about the produce you buy at the grocery store a little more than usual this week. That's, of course, in the wake of E-coli scare over bagged spinach. Stores have yanked it off their shelves, and a lot of people are now turning to their local farmer's markets as an alternative. But closely-regulated produce is not the only thing farmer's markets are touting. They also help conserve energy. Farmer's markets are doing everything they can to advertise their advantages. Amy Quinton reports from New Hampshire, where one such effort has gone high tech.


AMY QUINTON: Judy Misner anxiously waits for a bag filled with her order of fresh organic fruits, vegetables, and breads at the farmer's market in Plymouth, New Hampshire. She placed her order three days ago on a website called Local Foods Plymouth, and now she's picking up her order at their booth at the farmer's market.

The products come from 12 different farms around the state, but now it's all packed and ready for her to take home.

JUDY MISNER: It's just very, very convenient. I mean, everything is right here when you pick it up and you're ready to go and you don't have to run around to 15 different farm stands and try to find what you're looking for, so it's been great.

Local Foods Plymouth is the brain child of Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative and D Acres, a non-profit organic farm. The pilot project got off the ground this summer with the help of a small grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Considering the rising expense of shipping produce, co-founder Sandra Jones says the partnership makes sense.

SANDRA JONES: Our organization is very concerned about ways in which we shouldn't be using oil, and one of those ways is we shouldn't be buying lettuce from California when we can buy it here, five miles from our home.

The website works like an online grocer. Once a week, participating farmers lift their fresh products, and consumers can place orders and pay for them on the Internet.

Farmers say the website also helps prevent food waste since they don't have to end up taking home what they can't sell at the market.

Abby Holm is with D Acres Organic Farm.

ABBY HOLM: When you spend three, four, five months caring for a plant and then you go to a market, you bring it home - it's wilted and dead and nobody wants it and then it's just food waste.

It's a little different for vendors to get used to showing off their product on the Web site instead of in person.

But Carol Friedrich of Courier Brook Farms says she's not worried.

CAROL FRIEDRICH: I don't think too many other people have the organically raised eggs and nobody makes bread like I do, so nobody has my world-famous scones.

Now half of Friedrich's sales come through the Web site. Organizers of Local Foods Plymouth say the goal is conserving energy by buying locally is working.

In the last decade, the number of farmers markets has nearly doubled. In 2004, more than 3,700 farmers markets were operating in the U.S. Organizers believe that the website will be easy to replicate in other communities. They've already received phone calls from farmers as far away as Colorado wanting to initiate a similar website.

In Concord, New Hampshire, I'm Amy Quinton for Marketplace.

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