This Saturday, Illinois Stewardship Alliance has partnered with Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery to bring a new concept to the Springfield Old Capitol Farmers Market: meal kits. The kits, in the style of Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and other popular meal kit delivery services, will feature perfectly-portioned, fresh, seasonal ingredients with a simple recipe; however, unlike the competition, all of the ingredients will be sourced locally from Central Illinois farmers.
On Saturday, May 27th, shoppers can find two different meal kits available for sale at the Driftwood booth at the Old Capitol Farmers Market between 8am – 12:30pm. A vegetarian and chicken option will be available, and each kit will serve two people.
Fried Egg, Cornmeal Pancakes,
Sautéed Asparagus and Radish with Lemon and Chive
$16 (serves two)
Eggs from Parkes Family Produce (Pleasant Plains); Cornmeal, Radish, and Chive from Garden Gate Farm (Fairbury); Asparagus from Jefferies Orchard (Springfield).
Asparagus-Radish-Sorrel Salad with Rhubarb Vinaigrette
$20 (serves two)
Chicken from Windy Knoll Farm (McLean County); Asparagus from Jefferies Orchard (Springfield); Radish and Sorrel from Garden Gate Farm (Fairbury); Rhubarb from Suttil’s Gardens (Springfield).
The growing popularity of meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh is a topic of concern for many small farmers. This past January, at the farmer-led Routes to Farm Summit in Starved Rock, more than 100 farmers across the state gathered to discuss the barriers facing diversified fruit and vegetable farmers today. Many farmers reported a downtown in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) sales, and meal kit delivery services were cited as one suspected cause. The national non-profit organization, Small Farm Central, has reported similar concerns from their CSA farmers as well. CSA shares and farmers markets are farmers’ primary methods for direct-to-consumer sales, and often, a primary method of sales in general, so a downturn in sales in either area can spell disaster for many small farms.
Both CSAs and meal kit delivery services share a lot in common- both require an upfront payment for a scheduled package of seasonal ingredients, but while the farmer can only provide ingredients, meal kit delivery services are able to take those ingredients one step further by slicing, pre-portioning, and pre-packaging ingredients, as well as providing home delivery—all elements that most small farmers simply do not have the capacity to implement. What’s more, national companies like Blue Apron have scale on their side. They can purchase products from large-scale wholesale producers across the U.S. at prices that smaller, diversified farmers simply cannot compete with.
Hearing the concerns of producers, and recognizing the consumer demand for convenient, healthy meals, Illinois Stewardship Alliance teamed up with chef Ryan Lewis of Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery to pilot a meal kit of their own, made with local ingredients from farmers in Central Illinois, at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield.
“When the opportunity came up to give the meal kit idea a try, I jumped at it because anytime we can entice people to support our local farmers and farmers markets then it’s worth trying. Whenever we can help keep our money in the local economy and our farmers on the land, it’s a win for everyone involved,” says Chef Lewis of the new project.
“The problem facing many shoppers today is that they want to do the right thing; they want to support their community and make sure animals are raised responsibly and natural resources are protected, but they have busy lives and families to feed and it’s hard to balance everything,” says Molly Gleason, Communications Director at Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “We hope these farmers market meal kits will help make the right choice the easiest choice.”
Farmers Market Meal Kits are only available this Saturday, May 27th, at the Old Capitol Farmers Market. Pending the success of these kits, additional Farmers Market Meal Kits may be developed. Stay tuned for more details at www.ilstewards.org