Apr 8, 2016
Good is the New Cool: Farmigo Connects Farmers with Communities
Ever wondered how you could support ethical, sustainable businesses? Welcome to a new regular series highlighting products, services, and organizations that are ‘doing well by doing good’.
We start with Farmigo (a name that comes from combining ‘Farm’ and ‘Amigo’), an online farmer’s market that works directly with local farmers and foodmakers to curate a weekly marketplace where customers can order fresh, hand-crafted groceries and retrieve them at a neighborhood pickup spot.
Farmigo, a BCorp that sells everything from fruits and vegetables to meats, cheese, fish, and baked goods and they focus on partnering with small, sustainable producers.
We spoke to Benzi Ronen, CEO and Co-Founder, who lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two children.
Please give us an overview of your organization.
Our mission is to create a food system that’s better for everyone, from farmers to eaters. We believe that a more responsible and better tasting food system is built on direct connections between the people creating food and the people eating those items. We aim to collapse supply chains by creating local food hubs that give eaters the ability to trace every food item back to the source. Though the combined power of technology and sustainable agriculture, it’s our goal to build a world where both eaters and producers thrive for generations to come.
How did you get started with this idea?
In 2009 Farmigo was founded as an online platform helping farmers create sustainable business operations. We gave local growers the technology they needed to manage their direct-to-consumer revenue stream through Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). This is still an aspect of our business and we work with hundreds of farms across North America.
What is the purpose of this organization?
Today, we’re focused on bringing high-quality, fresh foods to communities in New York, New Jersey, Northern California, and Seattle-Tacoma
We help our farmers and foodmakers ensure a consistent, year-round revenue stream and do the heavy lifting with operations and delivery so they can focus on doing what they love most–making incredible food.
What are you proudest of?
We are most proud of partnering with amazing farmers and foodmakers to bring incredible food to people who care. With these relationships, we’re creating a food system that lives up to our values, where it’s easy to make healthy, delicious, sustainable choices. Where families can savor great food and trust the hands that made it. And perhaps most importantly, where farmers and communities are celebrated, and pollution and waste are a thing of the past.
How do you think you are different to your competitors?
We’ve curated amazing fresh and freshly-made foods from our region, cut out the middlemen that plague traditional grocery store food systems, and helped foster local food communities run by passionate volunteers who host our pickup sites. There are no subscription fees or minimum order requirements so people are free to choose the assortment and quantity of foods they want week to week.
We are unique for a few reasons. One is our relationship with producers–we work directly with our farmers and foodmakers. Because we’ve cut out the middlemen and made what was a convoluted and wasteful distribution system (where every step along the way shaved a few cents off the farmer’s paycheck) clear cut and transparent, we’re able to give our producers an average of 60 cents for every dollar spent, which is about 3x the price they get with traditional grocery systems.
We also follow a “just in time” sourcing model, whereby, once we receive all our member’s grocery orders for the week, we send those quantities to our farmers and producers so only the amount that we need is harvested or made. Because we don’t hold fresh inventory, we’re able to dramatically reduce the amount of food waste and spoilage that occurs with most grocery options.
Lastly, we have a unique delivery model. We foster relationships with community organizers who run and host our pickup sites out of their homes, businesses, or even at their children’s school, where 10% of the community’s order revenue goes back to support fundraising initiatives. By tapping into the economies of communities, we remove the need for costly and inefficient door-to-door delivery, enabling us to spread easily into suburban, as well as urban, areas. We’re also helping foster connections between people who care about and love great food. There’s a human element that’s missing from other food delivery companies, and we’re proud to put people at the front and center of our operations.
What do your customers/community say about your organization that makes you happy?
Our farmers and food maker partners talk about us helping them reach a wider audience, increasing their revenue streams and helping them grow thoughtfully while staying true to their missions.
Patrick Ryder from Greenane Farms says “Part of our Mission at Greenane Farms is to share great tasting, healthy, nutritious, and sustainable food with as many people as possible. In 2015 FARMIGO has helped us do that in a very big way by getting Greenane Farms Pastured Meats from our farm in the pristine Catskill Mountains all the way to great folks in NYC. Something that we as a small family farm are unable to do on our own. As a result of this support by FARMIGO our farm has further increased the size of our pastured chicken flock, our herd of Heritage breed pastured pigs, and our covey of Catskill Quai. This support has also provided us the opportunity embark on a new project in 2016 to build a larger on-farm meat processing and packing facility, provide employment to some upstate folks that really need it, and to help support our growing family of 4 children and 1 on the way in February. Thank you FARMIGO!”
Our customers appreciate supporting their local farmers and foodmakers and getting easy access to super delicious, healthy food. It’s changed the way they shop and eat and they couldn’t be happier. Here’s a quotation from a recent customer experience survey.
What is your favorite story about your organization?
One of our first employees in New York, Kallie, was sent on a mission to meet a new producer whose meats Farmigo wanted to start selling. That first meeting lead to a first date, and 4 years later, Kallie and Michael are married and running the incredible zero-waste Sawkill Farm in the Hudson Valley. We still miss her. (you can read more about them here)
What difference does being based in Brooklyn make?
Farmigo established its headquarters in Brooklyn in 2013 as the borough was becoming a hub for local and artisanal food. It has continued to blossom into this vibrant space for both media and food-focused tech startups, so we feel very at home! At the moment we have partnered with nearly 15 Brooklyn-based producers to sell their products directly to New Yorkers and residents in the surrounding boroughs including: Sfoglini Pasta, Gotham Greens, Granola Lab, Bien Cuit, Brooklyn Cured, Gullah Girl Tea, Margaret Palca Bakes, The Splendid Spoon, Provenance Meals, Krumville Bake Shop, Pie Corps, Fancy Wang, and Rakka Chocolate. Not only are we able to help support the local economy, but we’re also providing our members with the best quality food from our region – these guys have perfected their craft.
Where can people go to support your organization?
For Farmigo to maintain our commitment of giving 60% of every sale back to our growers and foodmakers–in comparison to the 20% they see from wholesalers and supermarket chains – we deliver bulk orders to community pick-up centers. These are on a dynamic spectrum of schools, cafes, apartments, offices, gyms/yoga studios, and wellness centers. We work with the most amazing volunteers across the boroughs, in Long Island, Westchester county, and parts of New Jersey who want to organize Farmigo deliveries for their friends and neighbors.
In Brooklyn, we have some of our most unique sites, partnerships, and Farmigo Organizers (our badass band of volunteers), two worth highlighting: Annette Slonim and Sabrina Harris. Annette and Sabrina both work with Edible Schoolyard NYC, a fantastic organization working with students in historically disadvantaged communities to grow, prepare, and choose healthy food. Through a farm-to-table experiential education model, they help students learn how choosing to grow and cook sustainable, organic food can transform their health and the health of our planet.
Both Annette and Sabrina work with us on Monday evenings to bring food from the local growers and foodmakers to their neighborhoods. Annette is a Farmigo Organizer at Blue Marble in Prospect Heights and Sabrina is a Farmigo Organizer at Daily Press Coffee right off the Franklin Ave train (cusp of Clinton Hill and Bed Stuy). They both see being a Farmigo Organizer as an extension of their work, passion, and identity as food system educators and game-changers. To order through Farmigo and support the communities around sustainable food Annette and Sabrina are fostering, go to either farmigo.com/bluemarble or farmigo.com/dailypresscoffee and place your first order. If neither location works for you, you can always go to farmigo.com and put in your zipcode to locate the nearest community pick-up in your neighborhood and meet one of our other wonderful Organizers.
What are your plans for the future?
We really mean it when we say we’re trying to change the food system. We envision a world where the perils of industrial farming are no longer affecting our country’s health and well being and where being a small and sustainable food producer can be a honorable way to earn a living. This is a big, messy problem that will not course correct over night, but we’re proud to be out there trying. We want to continue to grow and partner with more farmers and foodmakers to help more people access their delicious foods. Why can’t Farmigo be in every state? In every country? Our future is one where all groceries can be purchased responsibly and where eaters and farmers can thrive for generations to come.
Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of the forthcoming book ‘Good is the New Cool: How Capitalism Can Save the World.’ If you have a suggestion for a business or organization you think should be highlighted, please email him at email@example.com
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