About Local Dirt
Local Dirt is everyone's place to buy, sell, and find local food. It is the first national marketplace to offer local food.
Sellers, such as farmers, growers, ranchers, and food processors, can sell anything from fresh, organic asparagus to zucchini bread. They can promote their business, sell products online, and even manage inventory.
Individuals can search for farms, CSAs, even restaurants and grocery stores selling local food, within 300 miles-or as close as 10 miles. If seller has posted products, food can be ordered "For Pickup." Ordering online is easy, with no payment until pickup
Businesses have a one-click page to find local food available "For Delivery" to their location, or to view only their current sellers' products.
We have even created an online community that facilitates online marketing and networking for our members.
There is one rule: all food must be farm-identified. That means farms can sell only those products they grow or produce and any resellers (such as a farm cooperative) must identify the farm each product comes from. How do we know they aren't cheating? Neighbors like to talk and they especially like to talk to us.
Local Dirt does not take a percentage of any sales, only a yearly membership fee. However, for the rest of 2010, a one-year membership is free. Send all thanks for this amazing site to the National Science Foundation for graciously funding us.
Not Seeing Someone You Know?
When making your way through the site, you might notice that not all farms and products from your area are listed. To keep the information current and up-to-date, the sellers themselves enter all seller and product information. Unlike other local food listings, we don't do any "data dumps." Although our site might show less information than others, you can be confident that the information you do find is always current.
If you don't see listings from a farm in your area, help out by spreading the word, or just let us know. We would be glad to do outreach in your area.
The idea for Local Dirt happened one day at a local natural foods store ...
A local farmer ventured in to sell his freshly picked morel mushrooms. Morels are highly sought after, with only a one-month season.
The buyer was eager to purchase the mushrooms as the selling price was high and customers were asking for them nearly every hour. He asked, "Do you have a vendor number?" knowing it would take at least two weeks to get the farmer into the store's system.
The farmer looked down at the fragile mushrooms, shook his head "No," and left. The store purchased morel mushrooms through the online distribution center. After a week of having no morels to sell, a lot of smaller, grayer mushrooms finally arrived - from 3,000 miles away-only to spoil two days later.
Both the store and farmer lost valuable time and money. Customers lost an opportunity to buy high-quality local food from a family farm. It was then I decided there must be a better way ... and now there is.
How We Started
After several years working for a natural foods grocery store, I went back to school for an MBA. In my Social Entrepreneurship class, I worked with a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping local farmers. At our first meeting, the head of the organization began to scold me. "You people," she fumed, "don't care about your customers. You are dropping more local farmers every year. Why have you stopped buying from them?"
I knew she was right. In only eight years, our store had gone from buying from two dozen local farms to just two. We knew customers preferred local food-even over organic. Local food was fresher, higher quality, often more nutritious, and supported their community.
I explained that store buyers didn't have the time to contact every farmer, to fax in price sheets, to know what was in season and its price. For the buyers, going online and ordering from the distribution center, even though the product might arrive fully two weeks after it was harvested, was so much easier.
"You need to get farmers' products online," I said, "so buyers can order local foods online, just like they do through their distribution center." "We don't have the knowledge or resources to do that." She replied. "Nobody does."
The injustice of a broken food system began to grate on me. That year, at graduation, I passed on a high-paying job and, instead, decided to do something about this situation.
I envision a world where our food has transparent information. We will not have massive food recalls because no one can trace the foods back to the farm. We will not be wondering what sprays were applied to our foods because they don't show up on the ingredients lists. Instead, farmers will once again be an integral part of our community.
I believe that we will once again become connected to our food source, and understand how foods transform our quality of life. Without knowledge, without accountability, we will not be able to move forward.
- Heather Hilleren
Who Are We Now?
Our base office, located in downtown of beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, is where you will find our customer service team. Our development team's office is in sunny (sometimes foggy) San Francisco, California. Currently we have 7 employees, all from different backgrounds. We are all excited and passionate about what we do. Our entire team is always looking for new and inventive ways to improve the Local Food movement.