From left, interns Zach Weller '23 and Maggie McDow ’23 work with Jack Riffle '12 at Local Foods Mohawk Valley.
Jack Riffle ’12 was teaching in New York City when the reality of the climate crisis hit. It was something he’d recognized for years, but it was no longer something he could ignore. Leaving his teaching position, he apprenticed at a local New York farm before moving to New Hampshire to work as a farm manager. There, he could make a tangible difference — not only by supporting sustainable practices, but also by helping to re-localize people’s food source. 

“The number of food miles that most of our grocery store food travels is insane,” Riffle said. “The carbon emissions compound when food is coming from all these different places.”

Riffle now works at a preschool in Clinton, but he still believes in the importance of relocalizing the food economy. This belief prompted him to found Local Foods Mohawk Valley, an online farmers market that connects local producers to the community and makes local food more accessible to residents. Zach Weller ’23 and Maggie McDow ’23 are interning for Riffle this summer.

“Working with Hamilton students, there’s an inherent care for the intern,” Riffle said. “As a part of the Hamilton family, they’re a part of me, too. And with that shared experience, there’s also this trust that is extended at the onset.”                                                                                  

Local foods mohawk valley
Some of the offerings available through Local Foods Mohawk Valley. Photo: Zack Stanek

As interns, McDow and Weller assist at food collections and distributions. Eleven vendors list more than 100 products on the website each week. These products include dairy, meat, produce, honey, flour, beans — a large range with the purpose of creating a one-stop-shop for local food. On Tuesday afternoons, the farmers bring purchased products to the market’s pick-up location, the Clinton United Methodist Church, allowing McDow and Weller to organize them in time for customer pickup in the evenings. 

“The Clinton Farmers Market runs in the morning and afternoon on Thursdays, which is during the workday,” Riffle said. “That leaves a large gap [for people] in the community who are unable to easily access local food. We’re trying to fill that gap.”

In addition to helping on Tuesday evenings, Weller and McDow are cultivating the organization’s Instagram @localfoodsmohawkvalley. Weller, a digital communications and writing intern for Hamilton’s Communications and Marketing Office, is currently working on a photography project to highlight the farmers who contribute to Local Foods Mohawk Valley. 

Maggie McDow ’23

Major: History
Hometown: Bexley, Ohio
High School: Bexley High School

“I feel like I’m bringing something to the table,” Weller said. “I can use the skills that I have learned and developed at Hamilton in this real-world setting.”

Looking to the future, McDow and Weller are excited to see how Local Foods Mohawk Valley continues to grow. Riffle hopes to expand the market’s season so residents can have access to local food year-round. He also wants to create additional pickup locations in nearby towns.

“The online farmers market is an investment in local food,” McDow said. “Hopefully setting up this project in a strong way now will mean that local food is more accessible for more people for years to come.”

Zach Weller ’23

Major: Psychology
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
High School: Ladue Horton Watkins High School

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