Anyone who has ever worked in the food industry knows that getting fresh, local products to our customers isn’t always as easy as it seems. We wish that we could have a farmer walk in, show us their beautiful, fresh-picked carrots, or their stock of cattle, and we could simply buy them and sell them to our customers. But it isn’t always that simple. There’s paperwork, and vendor numbers, and all sorts of other information that we need in order to get you the products that you want. Not to mention the time that must be spent contacting each farmer, who is usually a pretty busy person themselves running a farm, and trying to figure out what we need versus what they have available to us. It sometimes seems that we spend more time playing phone tag than anything else! That’s where Local Dirt comes in.
Heather Hilleren helped start Local Dirt to help solve the exact same problems that we deal with every day, trying to get the local products that our customers want in the most efficient way possible. Their base office is located right here in Madison, and they have a development team in San Francisco. They have a grand total of seven employees, who are all dedicated and passionate about the local food movement and allowing people to find products close to them, without all the hassle that can quite often complicate getting those products. Local Dirt is an online community, where individuals can search for farms, CSAs, even restaurants and grocery stores from as close as 10 miles, or as far away as 300 miles. Farmers and food processors of all sorts can sell anything from carrots to zucchini bread, as well as promote their business, take orders, and even manage inventory. All they require is that all food is farm-identified. That means that farmers can only sell the food that they grow or make, and sellers, like Willy Street Co-op, must identify which farm the products come from.
In October, Time Magazine demonstrated how joining Local Dirt in the locavore movement can help us to get you the products you desire the most! When we decided to open our Willy West location, we had a new challenge that the Co-op had never encountered before—a big, beautiful rotisserie oven! We needed 100 chickens, and we wanted them local, but we needed them quickly! Thanks to Local Dirt, we were able to connect with Ney’s Big Sky, and they had exactly what we were looking for! Ney’s is a farm in Slinger, Wisconsin, a little less than 100 miles from Willy West.
They were established in the mid 1990s, and have a main objective of producing a quality, all natural product without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. Ney’s is a small, family-owned facility that believes in an ethical and humane approach to farming. Their main focus is on their free-range beef, but because of the wonders of Local Dirt, we discovered they also offer chickens raised with the same dedication and care as their cattle. We were able to develop a relationship that benefited not only us because of the ease of ordering through Local Dirt, but it also benefited our customers greatly, finding them a delicious, local option we may not have been able to find before. Since then we have continued to bring in chickens from Ney’s, and they have now become a staple in our Deli.
Here in Willy West’s Deli we use Ney’s chickens for our rotisserie chickens and chicken quarters on our hot bar. If you’ve stopped in our Deli, you’ve probably noticed them. Weighing in at a typical four-and-a-half pounds, they’re pretty hard to miss, particularly when they are spinning around in our rotisserie behind the sandwich counter. Mesmerizing to watch, and even better to eat, these big chickens are delicious as a main dish, shredded and put into soup, (try our house-made Roto Chicken Soup and decide that one for yourself!) or any other way you want to use them. And you can rest assured knowing you are not only consuming a quality product free of any hormones and antibiotics, but also the fact that your chicken didn’t have to cross too many roads to get to your table.