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Athens company cooks up tasty holiday

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    Field Goods Founder and President Donna Williams and New York Business Development Corporation Vice President Greg Powell pose with a big batch of broccoli.

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    Field Goods Line Manager Donna Breault packs bags with produce at the organization’s center in Athens.
November 20, 2017 11:30 pm

ATHENS — The Athens-based produce delivery business Field Goods, LLC, has launched a food pantry donation program where fresh produce is collected and then delivered to the Food Pantries of the Capital District, which is comprised of over 60 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

The idea came from members of one of the companies Field Goods works with, Field Goods Founder and President Donna Williams said. With Thanksgiving on the way, Field Goods staff wanted to tie in the program with the holiday.

“People like to donate fresh produce to pantries,” Williams said. “They could order the fresh produce items from our website. We would then take all those orders and send them to the food pantry.”

Food Pantries distributes the produce given by Field Goods to various food pantries in its coverage area, Williams said. Field Goods’ customers have donated more than 3,000 pounds of produce for the project.

“People are very generous,” Williams said. “You can donate small contributions which collectively is a lot of produce.”

Every item of produce is sold at $1 a pound and Williams said that considering the amount of food sold most likely equals $6,000 in retail value. Money earned from the produce purchased by Field Goods funds the program.

“It’s not so much a revenue generator,” Williams said. “Our customers buy the product. We just put a small markup on it to cover our costs.”

Field Goods buys produce from such food producers as Barber Farms in Middleburgh for potatoes and Fix Brothers Farm in Hudson for apples, Williams said. Field Goods pays a regular rate for the produce.

“It’s a win for the farmer because they have products that they can get paid for,” Williams said. “They’re selling us good quality products.”

Field Goods received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant worth $25,000 to help create an online platform where locally produced meat can be sold, according to the USDA. This business would be separate from Field Goods’ base business of selling produce. Williams said many local farmers are selling more meat products.

“We’ve been able to prove to the USDA that we’re successful,” Williams said. “We’re a proactive or active participant in issues that affect our farmers and the challenges they have with labor.”

Field Goods staff look for win-wins for all involved in growing and selling produce. Williams said the program is a great fit between farmers, distributors and organizations giving out food.

“It’s chugging along like it needs to — we don’t need to look for additional funding,” Williams said.

Food Pantries of the Capital District Executive Director Natasha Pernicka met Williams through community partnerships the organization is involved in and said it became a customer of Field Goods. One of the organization’s goals is to deliver food directly to the pantries it serves.

“We thought it was a win-win partnership,” Pernicka said. “One of our strengths is our food distribution programs.”

The food given to pantries by the organization can provide 2.7 million meals in the Capital Region and the partnership with Field Goods makes sense because Field Goods customers are eager to help out, Pernicka said. Some of the staple produce items people ask for are potatoes and onions.

“It’s an easy way to contribute fresh food to local pantries,” Pernicka said. “We know people who are seeking food assistance appreciate fresh produce.”

Food Pantries’ coverage area includes city, suburban and rural neighborhoods. Pernicka said residents of all three are affected by hunger.

“Each community has unique challenges so it’s important to make sure that all of the areas have the help they need,” Pernicka said. “I know that Donna is building relationships with all of the areas she serves.”

Field Goods delivers food to the organization free and Food Pantries in turn donates and distributes it free, Pernicka said. Pernicka said it is important to help during Thanksgiving and the holidays, hunger is not a seasonal problem.

“Hunger is a year-round problem,” Pernicka said. “If someone wants to donate time and money, it’s a great time, but consider doing it year-round.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM