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Yellowbird Foodshed

Benji Ballmer built a local food system with a network of small farmers
Photo courtesy of Yellowbird Foodshed

Benji Ballmer wants you to ask yourself every day, “Who grew my food”?  The Mount Vernon, Ohio man created the Yellowbird Foodshed, a venture that networks with small farmers and helps them get their goods to local consumers. He contracts with 35-to-45 growers - and can tell his customers exactly who is growing their food.

"The thing that we do that’s a little bit unique is that we buy it. When I drive up to a farm, I pay money on the spot, write a check to the farmer, and drive away, and they’ve got cash in hand," says Benji. "It’s not a consignment thing, it’s not where ‘we hope we can sell it’ or ‘we’ll do our best to sell it’. We now own the product. The ownness is on us to go out and make a sale on it and make money on it."

Benji sells these fresh products to colleges, restaurants, and grocery stores. He also sells directly to individuals through a CSA – or Community Supported Agriculture program. Customers pre-pay and receive a box of food every week in the spring, summer, and fall.

He is also working with small companies that sell value-added products.

"We kind of combine veggies, with meat, with small companies like Shagbark who are trying to get their chips into places. So we’ve really become a small food distribution company with the intention of basically allowing these small Ohio businesses that are doing honorable work, the right way, to hopefully get a foot into the marketplace," says Benji.

While it’s nearly impossible to grow locally every type of food needed for a complete diet, Benji is working to provide as wide a variety of food in his area as possible.

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