'Locavores' Can Find Produce, Farmers' Markets More Easily

Story and image By Faith Schwartz, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension

Sept. 15, 2016



UA Cooperative Extension agriculture specialists are behind Local Fresh, an improved, mobile-friendly web app, which offers a friendlier experience for those who are trying to find produce and farmers' markets in their area.

Looking for wool from Navajo churro sheep? Or goat's milk cheese? How about something like green peppers?

Check out Local Fresh, a newly improved, mobile-friendly site that allows "locavores" — local eaters — to more easily find local foods, goods and farmers' market locations.

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension agriculture specialists, along with a team of developers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, developed the site to make it easier for growers and farmers' market managers to keep their information up to date.

"One of the things of value here is that a grower can pull up their area and see a harvest calendar of what's currently being grown and offered," said Russ Tronstad, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UA Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, or AREC.

The site also helps producers figure out what works for them. For example, growers using the site can scan for the type and amount of produce others are growing to decide if they would like to adjust their habits.

"It helps you define and strategize as a niche grower. You can be organic, a farmers' market, highlighted as tribal producer, or even an agritourism operation," said Trent Teegerstrom, a Cooperative Extension specialist in AREC who is associate director of UA Tribal Extension.

Tronstad and Teegerstrom, along with Ursula Schuch, a professor of horticulture and Cooperative Extension specialist, often work with Arizona farmers. The three also work together on a program called Beginning Farmers, which offers a series of low-cost classes and other support to average Arizonans who wish to start their own small farms. 

Local Fresh helps such individuals market and "plug in" what they are growing. Tronstad said the site removes the tedious work of driving around searching for markets.

The technology experts agree.

"It's a really a social network of local foods and goods that meets supply and demand — from consumers to producers," said Matt Rahr, director of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Communications and Cyber Technologies unit.

"It's dynamic. This site is driven by what growers here are planting and producing, based on what they're putting in," Rahr said. "It's building linkages that go beyond someone who wants to find a farmers' market."

Also, the growing information on Local Fresh is localized to Arizona — and the information is free.

"We're lucky to work in a college that has Cooperative Extension because it gives us the opportunity to develop applications that go beyond a basic informational website," Rahr said. "It's got some interactivity. It's got a business process. It is providing more purpose. We get real joy out of building these types of applications."

For those reasons, the site delivers on UA Cooperative Extension's mission, which has been to take the science of the University statewide.

Dave Brady, who owns a small farm just south of the city of Maricopa in Pinal County, recently created a profile for the site and is currently enrolled in the Beginning Farmers program.

Brady said he likes the concept of Local Fresh helping growers market their products.

"It's always a good idea, especially with snowbirds coming in," Brady said, adding that he has found the site's map especially helpful. "I think it's great."

Lina Austin is executive director of the Future Forward Foundation, a nonprofit in Florence, Arizona. Austin has partnered with Teegerstrom, Tronstad and Schuch on the Beginning Farmers program and also affirmed that Local Fresh is a great tool for small farmers across the state.

"We will use it as a grower to sell," said Austin, whose nonprofit has a small working farm. "I like the flexibility of the site."