Long before “farm to table” and “farm to fork” became popular terms, The Breakers resort in Palm Beach was implementing these concepts — due in large part to the efforts of Materials Management Directors Geoffrey Sagrans and Rick Hawkins.
They co-founded Localecopia, a membership 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in 2008, to connect local food producers to local consumers. But their grand design was to bring together Florida businesses, producers, educators and government organizations. It’s like a statewide chamber of commerce, but with an eye on reducing the carbon footprint, promoting sustainability, and helping operations to better utilize waste.
Sagrans is the volunteer president of Localecopia and a passionate supporter. He hails from Jupiter, Fla., and he’s been in the food business for about 30 years — first as a chef, then in food and beverage management.
Later, after earning his master’s degree and wanting to have a life and spend some of it with his two daughters — Peyton and Myah — he chose materials management at The Breakers. He’s been there ever since.
Interview with Geoffrey Sagrans of Localecopia
Florida Food & Farm: Is Localecopia just for businesses?
Sagrans: No; the other part of Localecopia is to provide education. We speak to various organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Wellness Task Force of Palm Beach County. We also offer a free program with Palm Beach County Schools, called “Healthy Me,” staffed by Breakers volunteers, teaching fourth- and fifth-graders about healthy eating, sustainability and health awareness through classes and games. Most of these kids come from free or reduced-price lunch programs, so it’s often the first time they are exposed to fruits and vegetables. But they’ll take that information back home, teaching their parents product ideas.
FFF: So how do you help farmers and consumers connect?
Sagrans: We have quarterly Meet & Greet events at The Breakers (staffed by resort volunteers). The public is invited, so producers can show their product and meet potential buyers. Also, in 2010, we decided to take further action to connect local small producers with end users, so we purchased a refrigerated truck for a niche produce market and formed Localecopia Marketplace. Its customers run from hotels to restaurants, but it’s much more work, because local farms are generally smaller and there are many of them.
FFF: How do you help schools connect to local farmers?
Sagrans: Florida schools get only 25 to 30 cents per day for each student, and aggregators won’t work with that severely limited budget. So we connect the small farmer who will — by forming alliances with the schools’ primary distributor. We can’t go to all schools, due to our small resources, but we try to make the process easy so they can change the way they’ve been doing things.
FFF: What schools have you been working with?
Sagrans: We’ve worked in Palm Beach County since 2010, St. Lucie County since 2013 and Alachua County schools since 2015; with spot orders in Leon, Pinellas, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
FFF: Does Localecopia Marketplace have any employees?
Sagrans: The only employee of Localecopia Marketplace is Mike Gunther, a 30-year veteran of the Michigan school system. As director of logistics, he gets orders, coordinates with farmers and makes things go. He’ll travel anywhere in Florida, as long as it doesn’t create negative numbers. Since suppliers are local, Mike is only on the road during the Florida growing season, but in the summer, he’s umpiring baseball games in Michigan.
FFF: What other communications have you set up?
Sagrans: We have a weekly price sheet for distributors; Localecopia has monthly newsletter. It’s all designed to keep Florida dollars in Florida.
The Breakers hosts a green market, with products supplied by Localecopia and other local vendors, every Friday from 2 to 5:30 p.m. from November to mid-May.
The next Localecopia Meet & Greet will be Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m.