Growing Digitally

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County has growers and consumers, yet lacks a way for the two to communicate. However a group of local farmers hopes to change that soon.

Recently, farmers and growers gathered at Webb’s Captain’s Table in Mayville to discuss how to keep locally grown food local, as well as encourage local residents to eat local.

The results was an idea for a website that would help residents and guests of the county better understand what food is available to them.

“We’re trying to figure out how to use something as powerful as the Internet to bring the community together,” said Jason Dilworth, web designer and SUNY Fredonia professor. “We want to make a platform where growers and vender can come together to promote everything the region has to offer. This county is extremely dedicated to agriculture, yet there’s a disconnect between buyers and growers in the area. We’d really like to resolve that issue.”

While the website is still in development, Dilworth said one of the goals for the website is to create an identity for agriculture in Chautauqua County.

“We want to accurately represent who grows what in Chautauqua County,” said Dilworth. “We’ll be building a list of farmers and venders, and finding a way to get those two to communicate. We’ll make a list of where farms are located, if that farm wants buyers to visit and how venders and consumers can contact those farmers.”

According to Jennifer Johnson of Johnson Estate Wineries and Jessica Runge of Roots and Wings Farm, those involved with creating the website would like to establish a name for the group, so the group could register for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. A nominal fee would likely be required for members seeking to list on the website, and a 501(c)(3) status would allow that fee to be tax-deductible.

“We truly are a grassroots movement,” said Johnson. “But that means we need to get our 501(c)(3), and we probably need a set of bilaws. We probably need to talk about how we’re going to fund ourselves in the long run, as well. Down the road, we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for annual fees, and maybe that is accomplished through memberships.”

THE WEBSITE

Dilworth spoke after the event was over about the website and his participation in greater detail.

“I moved to this area hoping to become a farmer, but I’m still doing web design,” said Dilworth. “The goal for this website isn’t something that I’m used to teaching, but it’s something that needs to be done. What I find most interesting about the webwork is this ability to bring people together. It comes from the idea that, in the past, people were limited by technology. As we’ve seen that change over time, we’ve gone away from the idea of the local and into the idea of the regional. Once you start getting lettuce from California, perhaps it’s a sign that we’ve gone too regional. The idea of this website is to bring things back to a local level.”

Dilworth said that the website is intended to help local residents shop and eat locally, but also to help guests to Chautauqua County better understand what it has to offer.

“It’s a way of subverting systems that are in place that prevented local exchange,” said Dilworth. “The idea is to also promote the region from a tourism standpoint. So many people come here to live for the summer, and this is another way for those summer residents and tourists to enjoy Chautauqua even more.”

According to Dilworth, the website should be functional by the end of July.