LOUISVILLE Ky. (WDRB) -- Grasshoppers Distribution, a business that sells fresh food from local farmers to customers in the Louisville area, will shut down Friday due to a "lack of financial sustainability."

Grasshoppers announced the decision in an email to customers Wednesday.

Caroline Heine, chairwoman of Grasshoppers' board, said the business never turned a profit, to her knowledge.

Heine said Grasshoppers was able to attract only about 500 recurring weekly customers and was never able to build much of a wholesale business to restaurants and other large customers.

"You have to build up your customer base one family at a time," she said.

Grasshoppers packaged boxes of fresh produce for weekly pickup by customers at various locations, such as the Rainbow Blossom in St. Matthews. Customers could add on meat, milk and eggs for additional cost.

Patience Sherow was working for Grasshoppers Distribution Wednesday at Rainbow Blossom, making sure customers received their orders. Sherow is one of 12 employees left without a job because of the closure.

"Luckily, I'm not full time doing this, but it was a little shocking," Sherow said. "I just looked at my phone and I had an email. I learned the same time that all of the customers did.

"It's been fun, up until now," Sherow added. "Having a company that distributes (local food) to people is amazing because there's not really anybody else that does around here."

A news release from Grasshoppers Distribution states the company is forwarding its customer list and suppliers to Green BEAN Delivery, a regional company that delivers food from to cities in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Grasshoppers' food generally came family farms within a 150-mile radius of Louisville, Heine said.

Two full-time and 10 part-time employees will lose their jobs, and Grasshoppers will vacate the warehouse it leases in Portland, she said.

Customers picking up their orders at Rainbow Blossom like Lynn Delaney were saddened to learn of the closure. She began using the food service as a way to improve her lifestyle after learning her niece had breast cancer.

"It has kinda pushed me to eat healthier and be better," Delaney said.

Grasshoppers was founded in 2007. According to a Courier-Journal story from the time, the business' partners are Louisville vegetable farmer Ivor Chodkowski (a partner in the Nulu restaurant Harvest); Georgetown cattle farmer John Sharpe; Bowling Green poultry farmer and processor Tim Mracek; and Pleasureville poultry and cattle farmer Susan Schlosnagle.

In 2008, Grasshoppers received $182,980 in taxpayer funds from State and County Agricultural Development Fund, according to a press release from Gov. Steve Beshear's office. The money was to support "capital expenditures that will aid in the distribution of agricultural products."

Here is the Wednesday email to customers:

It is with a heavy heart that we share with our members, community partners, and network of farmers and artisans that Grasshoppers Distribution will be discontinuing our service as of Friday, December 6th

Deciding to discontinue Grasshoppers Distribution has not been an easy decision for our board. Our decision to discontinue our service is a result of our lack of financial sustainability.  The economics of the local food distribution business requires scale that we have not been able to achieve, despite the best efforts of many people over these years.  We ultimately have decided to do what we feel is best for our Grasshopper clients and our network of farmers and artisans. 

We want to thank our members for supporting our organization and mission.  Our board members and founders share our collective accomplishments with our members, community partners, farmers, and artisans.   Since 2007, Grasshoppers has paid over $2.25 million directly to Kentucky and Southern Indiana family farms and artisans, with a network that has grown to over 70 partners.  We have provided healthy, fresh, locally and sustainably grown food to over 1,000 families in our region.

Grasshoppers Distribution reached out to Green BEAN Delivery to acquire its customer and supplier list in order to ensure that the availability of fresh, local food was not interrupted for our members, and that our suppliers would have the best opportunity to continue to provide their products to the Greater Louisville community.  The friendly deal placed consideration for current Grasshoppers clients, farmers and food artisans at the top of the list. 

Green BEAN Delivery shares many of the same values as Grasshoppers, including strong commitment to supporting local family farmers and providing great service to customers. Our conversations with this company further instilled our belief that Grasshoppers' customers, farmers and artisan partners would be well served by Green BEAN, and we have worked together to try to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible for everyone.

Green BEAN Delivery has developed a promotional deal to welcome in Grasshoppers' customers. To find out more information regarding Green BEAN Delivery and their promotional offering please visit http://www.greenbeandelivery.com/promotions/grasshoppers/

Thank you for supporting Grasshoppers.  We are truly proud of our achievements and have been honored to serve you. We hope that you continue to support your local farmers and artisans through the many avenues our community provides.