Local farmers will be bringing their products to the table during the Conway Locally Grown "Farm to Table" dinner 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 at Pia’s Restaurant.
The dinner will benefit the Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry.
Cody Hopkins, one of the managers of Conway Locally Grown, said the business, which operates as an online farmers’ market, provides products from 25 to 30 farmers within a 50- to 60 mile-radius of Conway.
The Web site, www.conway.locallygrown.net, was created after Hopkins learned of this marketing strategy in 2008.
"We wanted to be in the Conway market, but couldn’t make it to their Farmers’ Market," Hopkins said. "This market, as an online market, has shown itself to be a very natural solution to the problems that many communities like ours face, where the small and midsize farms are often too spread out and pressed for time to direct market their products as effectively as they’d like."
The site started in May 2008 with its first delivery.
Hopkins said each Sunday, he opens the market with products placed online by farmers.
"Farmers upload products, pictures and description. Once the products are listed, the farmers can change the quantities. It makes for efficient marketing for them," Hopkins said.
Members place orders between Sunday and Tuesday. On Friday, orders can be picked up at a location on Prince Street.
"We have had huge success by word of mouth," Hopkins said. During the first year, the business involved seven farmers and about 15 customers. That customer base has grown to more than 200.
"We grossed over $100,000 in a little over a year," Hopkins said.
The business grosses 85 to 100 orders per week. To place an order, people must pay a $25 membership fee. A portion of the membership fee and weekly sales are donated to Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry.
Hopkins said 10 to 12 percent of the sales from his farm, Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, come from the site.
One of the downsides to the using the Internet for sales, according to Hopkins, is the customer and farmer relationship does not form.
This is why the "Farm to Food" dinner was created.
During the dinner, farmers will sit at the table with customers. Last year, Hopkins said 50 people who were customers or interested in becoming customers attended.
Proceeds from the event go to the Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry. Those funds are then used to purchase food from the farmers.
Matt Fuller of Central Park Fusion in Hot Springs will prepare the four-course dinner.
"These are the sorts of local ingredients that any chef is lucky to get a hold of," Fuller said.
Tickets for the dinner are $50. For more information or to make reservations, contact Hopkins at 870-504-0399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.