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AgLink: Partnership of farmers, schools

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AgLink: Partnership  of farmers, schools

A promotional and informational sign at one of the booths during November’s AgVenture field trip for third graders hosted by the Manteca Unified School Farm introduces what AgLink is all about.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 5, 2013 1:09 a.m.

There’s a match-making site, it seems, for just about anybody and anything on the Internet these days. For romance seekers and the marriage-minded, there are web sites such as eharmony.com and match.com. For the online gaming milieu, the cyberspace is cluttered with terabytes of e-game choices in practically every phantom scenario that the human brain has so far created.

Closer to earth is www.aglink.com which describes itself as part of the farm-to-school movement taking advantage of the conveniences of the dotcom world. It’s an e-commerce web site whose objective is to match small and family-owned farms in these parts of the Golden State with school districts such as Manteca Unified. AgLink connects farmers to the schools, said Patty Page, director of Manteca Unified’s Nutrition Services.

The online company, she said, has been beneficial to the school district. It has been instrumental in the district’s ability to serve fresh fruits and vegetables for students’ meals at school cafeterias. They are farm-fresh because they have been picked just the day before they were delivered to the school sites, Page said during the annual AgVenture at the Manteca Unified School Farm where AgLink was one of the featured booths. In the booth were samples of fresh fruits of the season such as apples and oranges which were made available to all of the 4,000-plus participating third graders.

The farmers pick their products fresh from their farms so the fruits and vegetables arrive fresh to the school district instead of being days-old frozen or stored.

Partnering with AgLink has eliminated the guess work out of the selection process involved in finding the farm producers that will deliver the products and services that the district is looking for, noted Page. AgLink also does all the vetting process – that is, the background check and evaluation of farming entities – before they are officially made part of the AgLink farm family. AgLink then creates a profile of each farm which is then posted, along with pertinent photographs, on the web site.

Just how fresh are the ag products that are delivered from the participating farms to the schools was demonstrated during the November AgVenture field trip. Noel La Rosa of La Rosa & Sons Distributing brought with her boxes of apples and oranges from the family’s farming operation in Hughson, Calif., where they operate a year-round fruit stand on East Whitmore Avenue. Besides fresh fruits and vegetables, they carry a wide variety of nuts and dried fruits.

La Rosa & Sons is just one of an increasing number of growers that are now part of AgLink. Dennis Nairn, AgLink’s marketing representative, said AgLink currently has 65 “different growers” participating in the e-commerce program, and to date, is working with 70 school districts from Yuba City to Monterey along the coast and all the way down to Bakersfield.

AgLink is relatively a new business; it was started in August 2012, Nairn said.



How AgLink offers convenient shopping for school districts


AgLink makes shopping easy for school district food services, and selling on the part of the growers. Buyers simply log on to the e-commerce web site which provides 24/7 convenience, browse through the products featured online complete with photographs and details about each product provided by the local seller, and make the purchase orders directly online. Emails between the sellers and buyers provide added convenience in the transactions.

AgLink charges only minimum fees for both producers and buyers. The producer is charged a 4 percent transaction fee at point of sale, and ends up with a net of $ 9.60 for each $10 unit sale, for example. Schools, in turn, are charged an additional 2.5 percent transaction fee. Using the aforementioned example, the school pays $ 10.25 for each $10 transaction, and AgLink retains 65 cents per unit sale for such services as managing the online site, and promoting the products and relationships.

Still another convenience to school food services provided by AgLink is that sellers will make all the deliveries. There are actually different delivery categories that buyers can arrange with the sellers or growers.

For more information about AgLink and how growers can take part in the program, visit www.aglink.com

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