As you all know, I love local food, and I strive to support local farmers and communities whenever and however I can.
In the spotlight today is a fabulous business called FarmersWeb. I caught up with David Ross, a co-founder of the business, to learn more about FarmersWeb and chat all things local food.
LT: Tell me a bit about FarmersWeb (FW) and how it came about.
DR: My co-founders and I noticed a connection gap in how producers and chefs connect. Producers were interested in selling to restaurants and other wholesale buyers, and chefs were interested in sourcing from local farms. Each side however had no easy way to find the other, and even once they did so, they then had to manage multiple sourcing relationships by phone, fax and email. This kept a lot of producers and buyers from doing business together. Even those chefs that sourced locally quite a bit were mostly collecting from farmers' markets, which is also time consuming and inefficient.
We thought an online platform specially designed for these two groups would bring much-needed ease of access, transparency and efficiency to the process so that everyone could do more of it. Producers can easily post their real time inventory, manage orders, customers and payment, and keep track of sales all in one place. Buyers can find local producers to source from or work with ones they already know and do all their local sourcing on one platform.
LT: There is a wide range of opinions on the meaning of "local" when it comes to food. What is FW's definition?
DR: We define local as a 250 mile radius from the buyer.
LT: What has been your most memorable experience in the business so far?
DR: At FarmersWeb, we work with a wide range of producers and buyers. Some of the most rewarding moments however have been hearing from producers that have been able to use FW to streamline their business, reach new customers and boost sales as their first time selling to customer in any other way than being at a farmers' market. Likewise, hearing from chefs and other buyers who just started to source local (produce) because our platform made it easy. That's why we started the company, and it's fun and gratifying to see it happen.
LT: What do you think is fuelling the growing interest in local food and the farm-to-table trend?
DR: I think people are becoming more aware about what they eat, where it comes from, how it's been treated, and what's in it. Some of it is a concern for one's own health, and for some it's more about sustainability and supporting local farms and businesses. Or a bit of both. Chefs and stores that support and feature local farms, organisations dedicated to the cause such as Slow Food, as well as authors and journalists have played a big role in raising awareness of and interest in local food.
LT: In your view, what is the biggest challenge (or challenges) that the local food movement needs to overcome?
DR: I think the movement is still somewhat in its beginning stages. Awareness and accessibility continue to be key components to driving the movement forward.
At FW, we are trying to raise awareness that there are many local food producers to source from, and making it easy to source from them.
Chefs and other food purchasers can continue to make a big difference by directing their food dollars towards local providers every day. Journalists can help educate the public on the benefits of eating locally and ways in which they can do so, and our elected officials can help foster a more friendly environment for local producers to compete against big food companies through such legislation as the Farm Bill but also at the local level.
LT: How can the everyday consumer help support the local food movement?
DR: By eating and shopping at restaurants and stores that support and feature products from local producers, and encouraging their friends and family to do the same. Here in New York City, Slow Food NYC makes this easy through their Snail of Approval Program. On their website, consumers can view a directory of restaurants, bars, food and beverage artisans and stores and markets that, because of their contributions to the quality, authenticity and sustainability of the food supply of the City of New York, they have been awarded the SFNYC Snail of Approval.
For more information about FarmersWeb, check out their website here.