Does local food mean online groceries?


We are living in revolutionary times, at least when it comes to eating. The big trifecta of local, seasonal and organic—and the environmental aspects of same—really are changing the way many of us acquire our calories. I find it exciting to witness a nation beginning to wake up to some of its least tasty sins, and to do the sometimes chaotic work of finding better alternatives.

One little facet of the movement here in our town: Retail Relay, the local business that takes grocery orders on its website and then delivers the food to centralized pickup spots, is growing like crazy. This year they’ve gone from four employees to 10, and from 10 vendors to 24. Those vendors include stores (Reid’s, Rebecca’s) plus small local farms (Davis Creek) and restaurants (HotCakes, Revolutionary Soup).

Tomorrow (Friday), the Relayers are also kicking off a big new part of their operation, in which they’ll bring their service to residents at UVA Hospital. I wish them luck; they’re smart and passionate people, and it seems they’ve hit a nerve with their business. If "revolution" means that several fewer cars are circling the Harris Teeter parking lot, or that Wade’s Mill gets some customers they otherwise wouldn’t have, I’m all for it—the farmer’s market and CSA models don’t work for everybody.

Another good thing: Retail Relay lets farmers set their own prices and gives them a much bigger cut (70 to 80 percent) than they’d get with most other middlemen. They identify themselves as part of a national trend, and if that means farmers are finding more ways to sell their stuff and be solvent, it’s definitely good.

Keep your eye on those folks; they seem to have national ambitions, which will be interesting to watch. Anybody use their service? How’s it been?