Published on February 10th, 2012 | by Lynn Fang
Silicon Valley Startups Bridge the Gap Between Farmers and You
You’ve heard about the great potential of sustainable agriculture for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, healthier food, and healthier farmers. But maybe there isn’t an easy way for you to get fresh, organic produce nearby. It’s often because farmers are busy managing the farm, which they should, and don’t have the ability to do much marketing to urban customers. One of the biggest issues inhibiting the growth of a stronger, more resilient local food system is the urban-rural divide. There isn’t enough communication between the two worlds, so there’s a bit of a knowledge gap in how to facilitate effective and ethical business and marketing.
Fortunately, a solution called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was introduced a few years ago. It’s a direct marketing program that allows farmers to sell boxes of food directly to you, either by delivery drop-off or pick-up. Farmers receive steady income, and you receive fresh, organic produce each week. Thus far, all organic farms that want to participate in CSA’s need to set up their own membership and delivery program, or join a cooperative. CSA’s have helped small farms to thrive despite the difficult entryway to local markets.
Silicone Valley comes to the rescue
CSA’s sound like the perfect solution, but the system has its drawbacks. The burden of marketing and distribution is on the farmer, and the website can be a little challenging to navigate. Now, there are a few Silicon Valley start-ups utilizing the digital platform to make it even easier for you to get fresh, local, organic produce straight from your farmer.
The San Francisco startup Farmigo is essentially an online database of CSA subscription offers from local producers. The difference is Farmigo facilitates the business and marketing transactions between farmers and customers. Local producers work with Farmigo to sort out the details of their offer – the particular subscription and payment policy, delivery schedules, and drop-off locations. Farmigo then relays this information to the interested customer, and the deal is done. Producers can focus more of their time on effective and sustainable production, and customers have another platform for buying organic food directly from the farm. Farmigo is super intuitive, easy to use, and the interface looks great.
The Silicon Valley startup Real Time Farms LLC is building an online database of farms, their people, their story, and their growing practices, so you can quickly and easily find out how your produce was grown. So far, the site has information for a few hundred farms, and is actively growing its database.
Good Eggs, Inc. aims to create “a product and company to serve and grow local food systems.” They want to strengthen the connections between people who grow, prepare, serve, and eat delicious locally-produced food. They’re still in research phase, but you can sign up for early access to their products and services.
Local Food Resilience
These are just some of the latest innovations helping to strengthen community ties and create the foundation that will allow local, sustainable agriculture to truly flourish. Most organic producers are small operations, so they don’t produce the volume of food that’s found in most grocery stores. Bridging the gap between farmers and consumers is essential to growing a sustainable food economy. When consumers become more intimate with and knowledgeable about the source of their food, there’s more accountability on both sides.
Direct marketing programs help to increase farm income and expand regional food markets. They’re crucial to helping this movement grow. A 2011 study from the USDA reported that marketing of local foods, via both direct and intermediated channels, grossed $4.8 billion in 2008.
[Photo from Shutterstock]