Local Highlight: Hilltown Mobile Market

In the Hilltowns we are blessed to have access to local orchards, farms, and producers of various goods for health, hearth, and home. And yet! So often we still find ourselves grabbing conventional produce out of convenience. Even produce that is in season, and being grown by our neighbors, can be difficult to get onto our tables every week. 

There are many reasons why we find it hard to shop from our neighbors’ farm stands. For better or worse, folks don’t (always) have time to drive down to the farmer’s markets every weekend for a handful of veggies. Nor can every farmer justify spending their weekend manning a booth or table away from their fields, uncertain of the number of actual sales this may generate. Here in the hills we have had many examples of farmer’s markets that can’t sustain themselves without moving down towards larger population densities.

Fortunately for us all, The Hilltown Mobile Market has been working under the Hilltown Community Development Corporation (Hilltown CDC) and with over fifteen local producers to provide convenient solutions to this very conundrum. Their solution even comes in an easy-to-grab paper bag.

The Hilltown Mobile Market is only in its fourth year, and every season brings refinement and implementation of new systems. Their mission is two fold: To get nutritious foods into the hands of local folks, and to build a food system to support local farms. I reached out to Seva Water, Marketing & Community Outreach Coordinator at the CDC, who has been involved with this project since it’s inception.

They started as a farmer’s market on wheels, but this year they have rolled out their new online pre-order system. The shift is a huge leap forward for the program. It helps farmers manage their product and provides customers with an up-to-date list of available goods.

Anyone can make an account and browse the digital shelves, make a one-time purchase or order every week. They do all the distribution and hand pick each order, you just need to make it to your preferred pick-up location. That’s it!

This new structure does raise some concerns for those involved. They used to see their customers as they drove around, providing a nice sense of community, which is lost somewhat with pickup locations, and they realize the internet isn’t for everyone. So, there may be some folks who have a harder time engaging in the new process.

But the results are difficult to argue with. They have made some truly incredible steps this year. They used to service four towns, they now have 16 different pickup locations (including the Old Creamery Co-op) in 10 different Hilltowns. Hilltown Mobile Market has seen a huge reduction in its own costs and labor, deliveries that took entire days worth of driving are now being accomplished before noon. This has allowed their customer base to nearly quadruple. They are also extending their service this fall with an additional month’s worth of deliveries.

Hunt Chase, Director of Community Programs at the CDC, is excited about prospects for the future of the program, and the economic benefits it brings to local farmers. In one case, he recently cut a check to a local producer that was equivalent to that farm’s profit for last year’s entire season though the Hilltown Mobile Market. And that’s after only four weeks of deliveries this year. That represents a reliable income for a struggling farm, a place to build from. It allows for questions about a year round service, and what the future holds. The end goal is to build something viable enough to hand off to the farmers themselves.

I could go on, about the high quality soil in the Hilltowns and how nutrition is derived from our foods, about how important it is to keep money cycling within the local economy. But, I will end with how important, and easy, it can be to get highly nutritious food onto the table for low income families.

One of the benefits of an online ordering system is that Hilltown Mobile Market can now link up with SNAP benefits, even more specifically with a program called HIP, or the Healthy Incentive Program. This program tacks on money for fresh local fruits and veggies to anyone receiving SNAP benefits. HIP adds from $40-$80 a month depending on family size, which can only be used for fruits and veggies.

But even if you only receive $5 worth of SNAP benefits you will qualify. The Hilltown Mobile Market is one of the few authorized vendors in WMA, and the only authorized aggregate distributor. This means they can set up complex interactive systems where folks can simply purchase fruits and veggies with credits, so you have no need to pay anything! There is no other system in place, like this, for hungry Hilltown families. And that is something worth engaging with.

Want to learn more?

Find their website: Here

Pickups at the Old Creamery Co-op are on Fridays from:

2pm – 6:30pm

Just ask the cashier!