When Wills Jolley moved his family back to Utah from Arizona, he couldn’t wait to expose his kids to farm-fresh food. Originally from Vernal, Jolley personally knew several farmers as well as people who simply had gardens, all of whom would either sell or share their food. Living in Utah County, however, proved to be a much different experience.
Undeterred, Jolley took to the internet. Previously working as a research analyst, Jolley felt confident in his ability to find information about local farms.
“I just thought there’d be some farmer somewhere with a website or something that would say, ‘Hey, I’m here. This is what I’m offering.’ Things like that,” Jolley said. After two or three hours of searching though, he had only found a handful of farmers selling food.
He felt his searching had been very inefficient, and began to wonder if there was a better way to connect farmers producing food to people who want local ingredients. Although there are a few websites which support farmers and serve as good resources, Jolley said what he really wanted was something that steady updates of what was currently available.
Wills Jolley and his wife Bailey began working together to come up with a solution. Originally they tried their hand at various websites, but found it to be too complicated and time consuming for farmers already working long hours to constantly update their offerings on the website. Finally, just last year, they started a blog called “My Farmer,” highlighting events and different farmers.
Then in June of this year, the Jolleys, with the help of a friend who happens to be an app developer, launched the My Farmer app.
“(The app) is just basically saying, ‘Hey farmers, you just tell us when and where you’re going to be and what you’re offering,’” Wills Jolley said. Ideally, customers can then let farmers know if they’re going to show up, so farmers know ahead of time how much they can prepare to sell.
The Jolleys aren’t making any money with their app idea so far, still focused on just getting it off the ground in Utah. They said that most of their success has come from just showing up at farmers markets and getting farmers to sign up on the spot.
“Once we have (farmers) there, they will actually start seeing the value of it right away,” Wills Jolley said. “People starting pinging them ... they have access to more people.”
Everyone they’ve talked to loves the idea, Wills Jolley said. Now the focus is just getting more and more farmers signed up, providing more variety for consumers. Other things coming down the pipeline for the app include a function that will allow customers to directly message farmers.
“Our motto is, ‘know your farmer, know your food.’ And when you get to know your farmer, build that relationship with them, you’ll get to understand better where the food comes from,” Wills Jolley said. “People that are conscious about what they eat, it gives them a strong opportunity of really saying, I know exactly where this is.”
The Jolleys also document their adventures on Instagram, under the handle “myfarmerfamily” — appropriate, since the Jolleys are parents to five kids ranging in age from 2 to 9 years old. The Jolleys said their kids have been involved from the very beginning, and love to go to farms and farmers markets with their parents.
“Our favorite thing has just been trying new things that we don’t always have at the grocery store,” Bailey Jolley said. “Some are a hit, some are a big miss. They’re still kids and they’re still picky eaters. But I think it helps them be more confident in branching out.”
For now, the app continues to be a labor of love for the Jolleys. Their dream is to grow and expand to other states, or even other countries, and to inspire people who aren’t traditional farmers to use it to sell their own garden-grown produce.
“The beauty of the app is that you don’t have to be a big farmer to use it,” Wills Jolley said. “Really anyone could do it.”
The My Farmer app is free to download for both iOS and Android in the respective app stores.