Producer Spotlight: Little Farm Store
I sat down with Ryan Goolsby, the proprietor of Little Farm Store, for the inaugural publication of the newsletter. Telling the origin story felt like a good place to launch. We had a great conversation about how food is a core need in human existence and how good food and a strong local food system can create healthy, sustainable communities.
Eight years ago, the Goolsby family bought a farm in Mansfield, Missouri with the goal of having a productive family operation and to participate in the local food movement. After seasons of sweating in the sun at their roadside stand and at farmer’s markets, and having little in sales to show for it, they decided there had to be a better way to reach customers. So, they bought the old Whispering Oaks winery off Highway 60 between Seymour and Mansfield and opened The Little Farm Store Restaurant. This fixed location allowed them to market farm products and draw customers in with the lure of fantastic meals. And, oh man, the food really was wonderful! Saturday morning crepes became a ritual for many locals. The restaurant connected several local producers and gained a small, but loyal following during those 3 years of business. Unfortunately, the location of the building made foot traffic difficult, and the goal of getting local food distributed effectively was not being served by the restaurant. Ryan had spent a long time thinking through the logistics of getting food from farmers, to people who want to buy it. So, after making the hard choice to close the restaurant, he carried the same ideals over to open Little Farm Store, LLC, an online market and delivery service for local food.
Little Farm Store (LFS) is a product of many years’ vision and efforts. Ryan’s motivations for launching the Little Farm Store come from understanding the negative side effects of the modern, global food system and understanding the challenges faced by small producers. While the mechanism of the global market is an amazing feat of logistics, it does have several short-comings. It may take the machine to feed the world, but communities and people benefit most from local food and local economy. The goal of the Little Farm Store marketplace is to make superior food more available to consumers and, at the same time, promote economic viability for small, local producers.
It takes the farmer’s market model to a new level by combining it with technology. “For a long time, the accepted model of doing business has been at farmers’ markets, and that might work well in urban areas where there is a larger, collected consumer base to support it. But in rural areas everyone is too spread out. Producers take valuable time away from the farm and often don’t make enough at the end of the day to justify the cost of that time,” explained Ryan. He and his family know first hand the struggles of small producers trying to scale business and the conundrums of reaching customers. It has been his passion to solve this puzzle.
Farmers in the Little Farm Store network benefit from significantly increased market exposure, while not having to leave the farm. The logistics of marketing and transportation are all handled by Little Farm Store, so farmers get to do more of what they love: grow delicious food. It is a lovely example of a local economy at work. The money from the sales stays local to support these producers, and the buyers benefit from fresher, more nutritious products that positively impact their health.
Little Farm Store provides consumers with a central location to access a network of local farms. Farmers register their products with the marketplace, and then consumers are able to shop the locally sourced items and have their purchases delivered, creating a direct farm to table conduit. Shoppers can choose to pick up their custom food purchases at a convenient location in their communities, or even have it delivered right to the doorstep of their homes or offices (some limitations apply).
There is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the food in my fridge came from “just up the road” and not only is it fresh, but that my purchase also helped a local farm achieve their goal. It didn’t go to the pocket of big box stores , it stayed in Missouri and helped my community thrive. Little Farm Store is a beautiful endeavor, and it is up and running! So, sign up, purchase locally grown food, and join the community!