By Ariel Schwartz
If you belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture), there's a good chance you've used Farmigo, an online platform that helps hundreds of farms across the U.S. to manage their member subscriptions.
But despite the popularity of CSAs in certain parts of the country, they're still limited to less than 1% of the population--it's nice getting a box of fresh produce delivered to a drop-off spot every week, but the mystery of not knowing what you're getting can be a struggle in the kitchen. In an attempt to make local food more relevant to a larger portion of the population, Farmigo announced this week that it has a new goal: becoming the largest online farmer's market in the country.
Here's how it works: A food community--i.e. a workplace, school, or community center--works with Farmigo to set up their own virtual farmer's market, connecting to local producers that they think their members would like. On average, a community connects to five different producers, selling everything from fish and meat to baked goods and produce. Every week, individual members of the community select what they want to order. All the orders are delivered on a designated day--the one aspect of all this that's like a CSA.
Farmigo founder Benzi Ronen says that it's a great deal for the farmers, who get paid 80 cents on the dollar for every purchase, compared to 20 cents on the dollar for wholesale. They get paid 24 hours after produce is distributed. "On the farm side, it's becoming a great channel for them. People order 48 hours before delivering, and the farm is only harvesting what's pre-ordered, unlike at the farmer's market," he says.
The platform already has some competition. In San Francisco, a startup called Good Eggs lets individuals get deliveries (either to their homes or a designated drop-off) from a variety of local food producers. But Farmigo has a wider geographical reach out of the gate.
Farmigo has been piloting the food communities program for two months with five communities each in New York City and Northern California, including Etsy in Brooklyn, Kiva in San Francisco, and Brooklyn-based new media marketing agency Carrot Creative, which pitches in $10 each week for employee orders.
On December 11, Farmigo opened up to the larger San Francisco and New York populations. In the near future, food communities will become available in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.