If you listen to the folks organizing Bring It! Food Hub, this multi-farm distributorship offers much more than just another way to purchase local produce.
It's a barometric reading of the Mid-South food movement, a cultural revolution, a tool to fight health problems.
General manager Christian Man heads an impressive who's who of local agriculture overseeing the project, including principal adviser Chris Ramezanpour (president of BioDimensions Renewable Oils), and board member Jill Forrester (co-owner/manager of Whitton Farms and Trolley Stop Market).
Bring It! is modeled after Intervale in Burlington, Vermont, one of the first food hubs supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"I would love to be able to expand on the amount of produce that I'm growing, but I don't have the time to farm out in the field and also truck it around town," Forrester says. "There's been a need for a local distributorship in Memphis for a while. The food hub model has been popular on the East Coast and the West Coast. What we're trying to do is bring it to Memphis. Hence the name, 'Bring It!'"
A subsidiary of the Memphis Center for Food and Faith, Bring It! will be run as a non-profit, delivering local produce to congregations, hospitals, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and households.
"We say we have a triple bottom line," Man says. "We're trying to make enough money to sustain our operations, but we sort of define success by how much we help farmers grow and also how much food we're able to sell into limited-income communities."
Bring It! has signed up about about 20 farms so far, and Man is currently gauging interest and courting CSA (community supported agriculture) subscribers so farmers involved can plan their crops. Bring It! members will receive a selection of fresh produce on a weekly basis beginning in May. Bring It! will operate out of Whitton Farms Cannery at 694 Madison.
"With the boom in farmers markets that we've seen across the city over the past three years, the number of farmers is increasing at the farmers markets, trying to get in and establish themselves and grow their own agribusiness," Forrester says. "The time is now. I don't think there's been a better time in Memphis. This is Memphis' best shot of having a food hub."
For more information on Bring It!, call Man at 494-1826.
The name Farm 2 Cart is straightforward enough. Now picture locally produced bratwurst, Italian, and Andouille sausage, and you've got the concept.
If you stumbled upon Glen Ring's LinkedIn page, though, you might be curious how it applies to the life of an out-of-work graphic designer.
Laid off last summer, Ring found himself volunteering at Renaissance Farms, a linchpin of the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market (CYC). Ring was a customer of the farm, which sells local meat and is run by Cris and Sandy Watson.
The Watsons occasionally need an extra hand on their farm. With time to kill, Ring made one visit, which turned into three, which turned into 10. Cris approached Ring in August with an idea: Would you like to sell some of our sausage out of a food cart?
Fast forward to January, and Farm 2 Cart is a regular vendor on Saturdays at the CYC market. Ring has also been taking the cart to various areas around town during the week at lunchtime.
The sausage is produced through Yoder Bros. Meat Processing in Paris, Tennessee. Supplying bread (poppy seed and pretzel buns infused with caraway seeds for rye-like flavor) is Little Bites Bakery, a fellow CYC vendor.
For $6, Ring will pull a sausage from the steamer in the cart, char it on the grill, and top it with pan-cooked peppers and onions, sauerkraut, hot sauce, or ketchup and mustard. Farm 2 Cart also serves chips and drinks.
"I think some people who make sausage try and put a lot of spices to overwhelm it, but I think the taste of [Renaissance's] meat is so good that it doesn't need a lot of spice," Ring says. "The pork speaks for itself."