Lunasa: Online local food market brings together producers and consumers

Dawn Thompson and Jane Pacheco have been steeped in the local food movement for many years. Between the Chelsea Community Kitchen, the Raisin River co-op, and the Yellow Door breakfast café they are two women familiar with the many practical facets of bringing local food to the table year-round in Michigan. Hence their latest venture, Lunasa, an online local market, bringing together local producers and consumers with the help of a great website and a warehouse at 6235 Jackson Road.

Borden - Lunasa Logo

As Pacheco told me recently, “our goal is to make it easier for everyone.” On the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 4-7 p.m., members (and those wanting to be members) will swarm to the warehouse on Jackson to collect the food they pre-ordered online. A membership costs $40 for the full year. At the moment there are 15 participating local vendors on their website, but when I spoke to Thompson and Pacheco, I was informed they are adding new vendors daily.

Lunasa is only offering membership to vendors who are producing what they sell and who are local to Michigan. Pacheco and Thompson are aware of the slippery slope of defining local - as Thompson says, “you cannot find vanilla beans in Michigan.” Their rule at the moment is that the majority of what is being produced has to come from Michigan.

Let us pretend we are one of their producers - say Tantre Farm. A week before the market, Deb Lentz or Richard Andres will walk through the fields and ascertain what is to be harvested on Sunday and Monday. Armed with this information, they will log into the Lunasa website, post what they are able to bring next week Tuesday, and wait for orders.

Let us pretend we are one of their consumer members - and not necessarily an individual, this could be a neighborhood co-op or office group. After the producers upload what they have, the customer’s three-day shopping window opens. The customer could go online 24 hours a day between Thursday-Saturday to order what is being offered by the producer to be picked up that next Tuesday. Customers pay for the products when they are ordered, minimizing the risks to the producer.

The producers themselves will set up on Tuesdays in the large warehouse space that Lunasa provides on Jackson Road, west of Zeeb Road. They will be available to answer questions about growing practices from the consumers. Pacheco says, "Customers will customize their order and get what they want when they want it, year-round. The vendor is able to bring to market an exact count, there's no waste, but you still have the relationship to where your food is coming from."

This online market model may seem complex at first, but there are many such ones already in existence all over the country. For example, the market is located in the Flint and Lapeer area. The is part of the collection of more than 1,000 online markets. Markets organized around the premise of knowing your farmer, trusting where your food is coming from, and supporting your local economy.

Pacheco and Thompson are excited the share the stories of the farmers and producers. As Thompson says, it is important to “see all of the time and energy that goes into producing our food.” The ladies of Lunasa see their online market extending beyond the food transactions as a place of education and community. With their experiences of community building at the Yellow Door and the Chelsea Community Kitchen, I am sure that Lunasa will become integrated quickly into our local food world.

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