Hey readers, I'm trying something a little different with my post this week. Instead of going over factual information about local food, the point of this post is to give readers an idea about what I am doing right now at Wholesale Greenmarket. I'm going to talk about what I'm learning, and why I'm so excited to be doing it. I apologize in advance for veering away from my usual type of post, but I hope you guys will find it interesting to see how an effective nonprofit organization like CENYC works from behind the scenes in terms of everyday work.
"Hi, my name is Kathryn and I'm calling from the Council on the Environment of New York City and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets." Each Friday, at the beginning of 30-50 conversations, I say this to different produce retailers in the Bronx. I'm getting pretty good at it - or at least I like to think so. While it seems a like a generic, scripted, and somewhat stiff introduction, I've found that it drastically decreases the amount of times people hang up on me. Anyone who has ever volunteered for a day at the phone bank for their favorite cause knows the truth in this. People hang up on you a lot, and the unfortunate fact of the matter is that you are a solicitor. However, saying you work for government agencies generally prevents people from outright hanging up. But staying on the line past my introduction doesn't mean people want to speak with me. When I ask to speak with the person who buys produce for the grocery store I often get "uhhh. . .they're not here right now, call back later." I definitely get the sense that this is only true about half of the time. If I make it through these hurdles, and get in touch with the produce buyer for that business, I get one or two questions tops.
My top two questions? One: have they heard of Wholesale Greenmarket. Since this a recent project for CENYC, they usually haven't. This gives me an opportunity to say a little but about what Wholesale Greenmarket does, and I try and emphasize the convenience and low prices of our market. While some people might think this is the wrong emphasis, if local food is ever going to catch on as a larger movement, these qualities are essential. If we believe everyone should have the ability to buy local food, we need to make it easy and beneficial for larger businesses like grocery stores and distributers to get our products. My second question: their fax. Faxing information is a great way to do several things. First and most obviously, they get information. It is also helpful that when we send this information it (hopefully) reminds them of our conversation, and again, makes it more convenient for them to consider our produce. It also allows us to show retailers our professionalism. All of these factors increase the chances that a retailer gives Wholesale Greenmarket a try.
Though it might sound like I am pessimistic about calling to assess and recruit retailers, this is not the case at all. Sure, a lot of people don't want to talk to you. So what? Calling also shows you that people can surprise you. I remember this past Friday I spoke with a man who I was sure was going to hang up on any second. He stayed on the line with me for 15 minutes and told me he'd give it a try! Furthermore, the market is much busier than it was even 3 months ago. This past Friday we had a great day, because 15 retailers returned who had previously visited in late October after CENYC took over management of Wholesale Greenmarlet. What we are doing is working! Ok, maybe it's only a few people out of every 50 I call who seem genuinely interested. We have a list of 1500! Even of only three out of every 50 start using Wholesale Greenmarket, we will have brought in 150 more businesses. That's a lot of packaging, refrigeration costs, gas, and CO2 replaced; replaced with fresh produce that's harvested just a short time before going directly from the farmer who grew the produce into the hands of a retailer. I hope you all can see why I am so passionate about this work; it affirms that a small group of committed people can make changes that benefit the community and the environment.