written by Sophia McDonald | photos by Jon Christopher Meyer
Amy McCann’s relationship with locally grown food dates back to the earliest days of her childhood. Her family grew much of their food on their rural Pennsylvania acreage. Meat came from her grandparent’s farm or her dad’s hunting trips. Excess edibles were canned or put in the root cellar.
“I just assumed everyone grew up that way,” she says.
As an adult, she learned that wasn’t the case but never lost her commitment to supporting local growers. Today McCann is making sure other families can source food from local farms and ranches through her Local Food Marketplace, a software company that helps food hubs, co-ops and others operate online farmers’ markets.
The venture was a partnership between Doug Frazier, a software developer, and Mazzi Ernandes, owner of locavore establishments Mazzi’s Restaurant and Hideaway Bakery. Unsatisfied by the software options that were available at the time, Frazier decided to build his own program to meet the online market’s needs.
McCann stumbled across Eugene Local Foods in her ongoing quest to source the farm-fresh foods she remembered from her childhood. At the time, she was a chief operating officer at a local technology company. She loved the fact that she could get all the foods she wanted without having to go to several different shops and markets.
They liked the idea, and Local Food Marketplace was born. The business landed its first paying customer in July 2009. By the end of 2013, it had seventy customers throughout the United States and Canada.
Local Food Marketplace has emerged as one of the leading companies offering sales and distribution, e-commerce and content management systems for online farmers’ markets. Several things separate the marketplace from its competitors, McCann says. The first is the mobile app, which allows people to shop for goods such as strawberries and goat cheese from their phones. The second is its flexibility. Some software programs only allow food hubs to interact directly with individuals. Local Food Marketplace can be adapted so vendors can work with institutions such as restaurants and grocery stores as well.
McCann has also worked hard to recruit what she describes as a team of “food club veterans”—people who know what it takes to manage all aspects of a local food business. She and Frazier managed Eugene Local Foods while Local Food Marketplace was in its infancy. Another employee ran a food hub in Idaho. “People know right away that we know what we’re talking about,” she says. “It’s helped us recruit and retain customers.”
The company has the equivalent of five full-time employees including McCann, chief executive officer, and Frazier, chief technology officer. Going forward, McCann says they are focused on attracting larger food hubs (those with more than $10 million in annual sales) and providing them with a higher level of service. One example is a new module that Local Food Marketplace is building to improve supply-and-demand forecasting in food markets.
She’s also committed to Local Food Marketplace’s positive impact on people and the planet. “We have an opportunity to help level the playing field for a market that’s at a huge disadvantage,” she observes. “We’re creating a more sustainable food system, which can have huge impacts on the environment and the economy.”
There’s definitely an allure to being an entrepreneur, McCann says, but she doesn’t see herself jumping from startup to startup. “I really enjoy how passionate people in this field are,” she says. “They’re so talented and so dedicated to what they’re doing. That’s really inspiring for me.”
What it does
Allows customers to buy local foods and connects vendors with restaurants and grocery stores through a mobile app
Sales and distribution, e-commerce and content management
systems for online farmers’ markets
Idaho’s Bounty, Hoosier Harvest Market, Green Mountain Farm District, Central Oregon Locavore