Hopefully you’ve heard about Freshfully by now, but if you haven’t, that’s ok! It’s a local-food store that exists both as a market in the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham and as a website. Founders Jen Barnett and Sam Brasseale started the site in November 2011, and the store opened its doors just a year ago (they celebrated its 1-year-old birthday August 3 and 4). I love this place!
Image courtesy of Freshfully
Image courtesy of Freshfully
I recently got to ask Jen a few questions about who they are and what they do. And she gave some great answers. And in return, they’ve shared something with me—a special deal for my readers. So stay tuned to the bottom of this post to find out what it is!
c&k: Why start Freshfully? Why did Birmingham need this?
jen: Sam and I started Freshfully because we wanted to eat more local food, and we just couldn’t seem to find much. We had experience building large websites that listed businesses, included blogs, and sold products, and we thought we could apply that to local food to make it easier to shop and buy. I was inspired to start the business here after hearing Shaun Chavis, Wade Kwon, and Michael Nolan each speak about food at Ignite Birmingham. Out of 12 speakers at the event, three were speaking passionately about food and its importance to the community and our health. It made me want to turn our idea of Freshfully into a reality.
c&k: Can you explain how your website and brick-and-mortar location work together?
jen: Basically, the store and website are two separate entities with the same goal—making local food more available. On the site, you can order local food to be picked up around town or shipped to you. But not all food lends itself to being picked up in boxes or shipped in the mail. After we launched the site, we started meeting farmers who just didn’t have a way to physically get food to customers. Our little office park HQ became an impromptu pick-up point where we shuffled shrimp, beef, and heirloom seedlings from farmer to consumer. We built the market to address these needs and give people a simple way to buy local food every day.
c&k: What is your approach to selecting produce and goods to sell in your store?
jen: We use a seasonal calendar to plan for what produce is available or coming soon. We talk to our farmers and find out what they’ve got. We try things in the store and then restock based on customer demand. We use a list called, “We wish y’all carried…” to find out about new foods from customers. We use a “full-plate” approach, where we try to create as many full meals as we can, including multiple options for meats, starches, and veggies. We only sell meat that’s been raised humanely and without antibiotics or hormones.
There are times when we have to make decisions. For example, there’s no poultry in Alabama that’s both free-range and USDA inspected. For now, we’re selling Georgia chicken, and we’re looking for ways to make USDA processing more available and affordable for Alabama farmers.
c&k: Why is it important to eat and buy locally?
jen: We think there are five reasons most people seem to buy local food:
1. It’s patriotic. You’re giving your neighbor a hand and keeping your money in the community. You show local pride when you eat local food.
2. It’s more sustainable. The average bite of food travels 1,500 miles. Most of the food at Freshfully travels less than 60. You can learn first hand the growing methods farmers use, and make decisions about which methods you want to support.
3. It’s hip. I remember in the ’70s and ’80s when the fanciest restaurants in town were steakhouses and Italian eateries. Field peas and bacon and red, ripe tomatoes were everyday foods. Now, fine dining revolves around those simple, local ingredients.
4. It’s healthier. Most of the local foods we sell are fruits and veggies, lean meats and fish, and fresh dairy. Not to say we don’t enjoy the occasional Buffalo Rock ginger ale or Just Julia’s pound cake, which leads me to…
5. It just tastes better! Tomatoes that have ripened on the vine, not in a truck. Free-range farm eggs with bright orange yolks. Tender greens still covered in local soil. These are the foods of the gods, and we grow them all right here in our home state.
c&k: Why are you passionate about what you do?
jen: I’ve struggled with my weight since the first grade. Like lots of women, I’ve been on hundreds of diets and obsessed over food. I’ve wondered why it was so hard to lose weight and why obesity was so much more prevalent here in the South. When I was studying economics in business school, I had a theory that the law of supply and demand was at play—that people weighed more when food was cheaper. Human are natural economists—we want to get the most for our money. In studying this theory, I found that economics were indeed involved, but that there were so many more factors—from food subsidies to brand marketing—that encouraged us all to eat just a little bit more. Within 100 years, we’ve gone from a era of scarcity to a era of surplus, and it’s faster than our bodies can keep up. I began to believe that ditching processed food and embracing fresh, local food was the answer for me. Since creating Freshfully, I’ve lost 30 pounds, but more importantly, I’ve gained so much from knowing this community of farmers and eating the foods they raise nearby.
And now, here’s the special deal for all cactus & kudzu readers:
Freshfully is offering a 10 percent discount at the Avondale market during the entire month of August when you ask “Who’s Your Farmer?” or wear a “Who’s Your Farmer?” T-shirt in the store (Psst… buy yours here!).
I hope you head over to Freshfully soon! Thanks, Jen and Sam, for sharing your story!