Getting your beets and books at the library

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Donna Williams, founder of Field Goods


Getting your beets and books at the library.

Heermance Memorial Library

Who would have predicted that up and down the Hudson Valley, hundreds of people would be picking up local produce every week all year-round at their local library? I didn’t. But sure enough, over the past few years Field Goods has delivered about 10,000 bags of produce to over 1,300 customers at 62 libraries.

I founded Field Goods about 6 years ago because I saw an opportunity to marry two issues: the need to support both healthier diets and small farms. To pull this off, I had some reinventing to do so I created a subscription service that delivered bags of pre-selected produce to people at community locations like workplaces and libraries.

To be honest, when I started the company, the idea of people picking up our produce at local libraries hadn’t occurred to me, but somehow Field Goods and libraries found each other. I, like so many others, was unaware of how remarkably libraries have reinvented their mandate.

Field Goods service is built around products and systems that change the way food is distributed, purchased and consumed. We rely on group delivery not just to keep prices low but also to stay true to our sustainability mission. By delivering many bags to a few places instead of a few bags to many places, we estimate that on average our produce travels just 4 miles.

Many libraries have stepped up to play a role in helping address health and sustainability challenges in their communities by hosting farmers markets or local produce services like Field Goods, providing education and a sense of community around local sustainable produce.

I believe that local communities and individuals are not helpless in the face of health and climate change challenges and that national and international policy are not the ultimate arbiters. This idea of making a difference at a local level person by person is at the heart of American libraries. In 2014, the NYLA Council passed their Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries – recognizing the need to promote the important role libraries can play in larger community conversations about resiliency, climate change and a sustainable future for the communities that they serve.  The NYLA enthusiastically encouraged activities by its membership — and itself — to be proactive in their application of sustainable thinking in the areas of their facilities, operations, policy, technology, programming and partnerships. Today, this resolution is even more important as many consider, with trepidation, how decisions at a national level may or may not play out in the war against climate change.

This week is National Library week and the 2017 theme is “Libraries Transform”. They certainly do.

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