Recently I met with Firefly’s Kristie and the marketing manager of a new kind of food coop, Liz from LEAF – Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers. LEAF was founded by seven southern Illinois farmers in 2016 who wanted to provide people easy access to organic goods.
Why Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers?
Apparently the southern lower third of the state of Illinois has been known as “Little Egypt” since this early 1800’s because the land where the great Mississippi and Ohio rivers creates a valley similar to Egypt’s Nile delta. Today, the town of Cairo still stands where the Ohio River meets the mighty Mississippi.
Why was LEAF started?
A few years ago, the founding farmers of LEAF tried to join their local farmers’ market and because they were organic, they were met with quite a bit of resistance. In the face of this opposition, they decided to band together to create their own online marketplace. This is a group of like-minded growers who are either Certified Organic or they follow organic growing practices. Because obtaining the federal stamp of Certified Organic is exorbitantly time consuming and expensive, LEAF is peer to peer regulated.
They’re a close-knit group of farmers who help each other in times of need. If someone’s greenhouse is blown over or if someone has a family tragedy, they put out a call and everyone comes together to lend a hand.
Once a week, members can pick up their box of goods at one of the designated spots. Currently, they deliver to the Williamson, Jackson, Union, and Johnson counties in southern Illinois. For customers who buy in large quantities, like grocers and restaurants, they deliver direct. Many times, the farmers themselves will personally make the deliveries to the restaurants, creating real farm to table relationships.
What kind of items does LEAF offer?
The producers of the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers is all about high-quality naturally grown food created in a way that’s sustainable and healthy. Although what they offer varies week to week due to seasonal availability, they have quite an extensive variety.
- Pasture raised pork, poultry & eggs
- Seasonal fruit
- Exotic foods: baby ginger, turmeric
- Gourmet mushrooms
- Flowers and herbs
- Honey and bee products
- Goat products: milk, caramel, soaps
- Body products: lotions, luffas, lip balm
- Baked goods made from local yeast
- Baked goods: breads, muffins, granola
What makes this farmers’ coop so different?
Have you ever been a member of a food coop? Typically, members are asked to commit to a buy a box of produce once a week and spend a certain dollar amount. Getting a weekly box can either be a source of great excitement and anticipation or it could leave you scratching your head wondering, “what is all this stuff and what am I going to do with it?” In a way, these were the original Chopped baskets from the Food Network.
How is the LEAF coop different?
Everything it has to offer is Online and is updated weekly
You pick what goes in your box
There are no minimum orders
There are no weekly commitments
Interested? Want to know how you can become a LEAF member?
Well, you’re in luck if you live in southern Illinois. Go to www.leaffoodhub.com and click on the Place Your Order Here and then go to HOME at the top of the menu bar and it will walk you through the process. It will take about 30 seconds. 45 seconds if you don’t have a PayPal account. You can see what’s available for the week every Sunday. Place your order by Tuesday night and they’ll have it ready for you to pick up on Thursday.
When you sign up, you’ll get their weekly email that spotlights one of their producers, some of the week’s offering, at least 1 recipe that’s protein based and a recipe that either vegan or simply vegetarian.
I am beyond excited to be a coop member of the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers, and before you ask… no this is not a sponsored post. I just LOVE knowing that all my fruits and veggies were picked that morning or within a few days, the honey was harvested from local bees (I swear that’s helped my allergies!), and the goat milk caramel (cajeta) over the homemade granola is… SUPER YUM!!!
Since they have some really beautiful heirloom tomatoes available this week, I thought I’d share my Fried Green Tomato recipe with you. I also go into what tomatoes are best for frying and why! These are a big hit with my family and I hope it becomes a favorite of yours too! Click HERE for the recipe. 😊