by Geoffrey Sagrans
Localecopia, Inc. & Localecopia Marketplace, L3C
Most people by now around the state have become familiar with the Localecopia name. However, a number of these people don’t quite understand the mission of this organization. Here is a little refresher about who we are.
In 2007 we started Localecopia, Inc. This 501c3 non-profit organization was launched on the principles of eliminating the disconnect between local producers and consumers that had developed over a long period of time. It was also launched with the idea of bringing together like-minded individuals to advance efforts of environmental sustainability initiatives. From the start, the focus has been on playing “match maker” between groups through online eNewsletter promotions, our bi-annual Localecopia Meet & Greets, as well as fostering direct connections. Along the way we developed great partnerships with other non-profit organizations, food banks, University of Florida-IFAS, University of Florida-Farm-To-School, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), schools and many other like-minded organizations.
As time went on our team grew its efforts of supporting the overall mission by way of supporting the efforts of our Localecopia members (much like that of a Chamber of Commerce), as well as through community outreach. Through the advent of the Localecopia Lecture Series, we were able to participate in public speaking events, panel discussions, radio segments, cooking demonstrations, and educational sessions. Most recently, we collaborated with members of The Breakers Palm Beach to develop a program titled Healthy Me. This educational outreach program focuses on understanding healthy foods, physical activity and environmental sustainability efforts. The program continues to be taught by an all-volunteer staff, and the majority of the sessions have been for elementary schools. Over the past two years we have turned fourth and fifth grade students into our community mission “ambassadors.”
Going into 2010 we realized that, while we were doing a great job of spreading the word about local and healthy food, we were just talking about it like everyone else. We wanted to develop a way to physically connect the dots. After scraping up some funds to acquire a 26-foot refrigerated truck, Localecopia Marketplace L3C was born. As a subsidiary of the non-profit organization, Localecopia Marketplace was established as a FLORIDA-ONLY local produce distributor focused on getting Florida-produced goods into the hands of Florida consumers. The idea was to buck the trend of products coming from thousands of miles away, being handled by multiple middlemen, and giving consumers the ability to access greater varieties of products (not just having access to items that traveled well). Being a Florida-only supplier meant that we only operated when Florida products were available. Our Director of Logistics, Michael Guenther, as well as our initial drivers, were all baseball umpires. During the growing season, the focus was on Localecopia Marketplace. In the summer months, they traveled north to umpire baseball tournaments.
In the state of Florida there are a handful of local foods aggregators. Unlike the other aggregators who strictly focus on high-end operations that can usually justify the higher price points of local foods, Localecopia Marketplace has always had a strong focus on providing fresh produce for schools. Localecopia Marketplace was established as an extension of the 501c3 non-profit organization as an additional avenue to provide a positive impact in the community. Over the years we have assisted schools in providing thousands of school-aged children with healthy, locally-grown produce. Ours is a balancing act of providing Florida farms with a fair value for the products they grow, helping schools provide healthy foods to their districts on a shoestring budget, and to somehow manage a way to cover our basic expenses for making this happen. Localecopia Marketplace also services hotels and restaurants who appreciate the freshness of local foods. Schools just happen to be a significant portion of our operation.
The 2016-2017 season for the Marketplace ended in June. Our trucks were still picking up directly from farms. We continued to offer the transparency not typically seen in the food supply chain. We continued to let customers know where their food comes from (and the families that provide that food). As we move into the 2017-2018 season there are a few big announcements planned that are going to take Localecopia Marketplace to another level. Eventually Localecopia Marketplace will be able to connect Florida consumers with any producer in the state regardless of the producer’s size or location. It’s about connecting the dots.
For volunteers like myself, this has always been a personal labor of love. The mission of this organization has been my own personal mission. Believe me, it has been a bumpy road along the way. When you are part of an organization that can sometimes change the way we think or disrupt the “norm,” you are not always greeted with open arms. For years we have bypassed the phrases like “can’t be done,” “but, this is how we’ve always done it,” and “NO” in an effort to make positive changes in our community. It is the hope of all of the Localecopia volunteers, our partnering organizations and myself that our efforts will continue to make this world a better place.
Thank you helping us along the way. Hopefully everyone is enjoying the summer months. We look forward to seeing everyone once more in the 2017-2018 season.