Weigand brings organic food to local tables
Madras resident Susan Stovall stood in line with her wicker basket eagerly awaiting her turn in line.
Stovall was one of a half dozen customers that purchased fresh organic foods from Agricultural Connections last week.
"It's just so fresh and beautiful," Stovall said of the produce she purchased. "The food is just spot on fresh and tastes delicious."
Agricultural Connections is an internet based business owned and operated by 1998 Madras High School graduate Elizabeth Weigand.
"I think there absolutely is a demand for organic foods, especially local products," Weigand said. "There is a sense of community right now in that people are wanting to connect with their nearby landscapes and farms in our region."
Weigand, who is in her early 30s and grew up on her family farm, purchased Agricultural Connections in September of 2010.
"It's challenging being a business owner and a sole proprietor," Weigand said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm in the same place I was two years ago, but there has been a lot of changes over the past two years and I'm happy with the way things are going with my business."
Inspiration to purchase Agricultural Connections came from her thesis she wrote about local food systems just prior to completing her master's degree in landscape architecture at the University of Oregon in 2010.
"I've always been really passionate about food, especially good food," Weigand said. "I was raised on a really wholesome diet and it's part of my lifestyle, so this business is a good fit for me."
Weigand chooses products to sell on her website from nearly 20 producers within 100 miles or so from Bend.
"All the products have to be organic, not necessarily organic certified, but grown using organic practices," Weigand said of the goods she sells. "The main products we have are two different produces boxes, and we have tons of al al a cart products as well."
Customers visit agriculturalconnections.com to submit orders. All orders must be submitted by 5 p.m. every Sunday, and then Weigand and her team gathers and delivers the products to distribution points or homes in Bend, Redmond, Sun River and recently Madras every Tuesday afternoon.
In order to submit orders, customers must signup for free on the website. At that point, customers can shop just like they would for any other product on the Internet. There is no minimum purchase order and no time commitment for membership either.
"You can try us out from week to week," Weigand said. "Most of these types of businesses traditionally ask you to sign up for a whole season, but what's cool about my business is the flexibility for customers."
Weigand uses a savvy website that she said is the key to her business.
"We're still developing and constantly working on the website," Weigand said. "The website is just so critical of everything I do with this business."
The website offers customers not only hundreds of products to choose from, but information regarding local farms that Weigand works with.
"The website is very user friendly and it's fun to see pictures and information about the farms," Stovall said. "It's easy to run to the store for produce, but this is such a treat to eat such amazing food from local producers."
Megan Mattix will represent Agricultural Connections in Madras at the distribution location at Mountain View Hospital.
"I'm really excited because this is a way to get to know people and enjoy really good food, too," Mattix said.
"To see a local girl put so much work into something she loves is exciting, Stovall said. "I'm just so supportive of Elizabeth and eating healthy, and buying from her does just that."