Industrial farming came about at the turn of the twentieth century during the Industrial Revolution. As we began developing machinery to do most of the heavy lifting for us, small and medium farming and agricultural operations have steadily declined. Large industrial operations have since taken their place and created the conundrum we call our food supply today – enter agribusiness.
Today large-scale industrial operations make up only 12 percent of the U.S. farms and yet are responsible for 88 percent of the farm production in this country. In the meat industry alone, the top 4 industrial giants – Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef – slaughter more than 80 percent of the cattle we consume today.
But the savvy and sustainable consumer has started educating themselves on how industrial agriculture affects our communities, environments, economies, and our own personal health. They're leaning towards local. And let’s face it – local, fresh food simply tastes better.
Farm to door: Home delivery startups
So head to your local farmer’s market, dine at restaurants that you know are buying local, and if your busy lifestyle means you need more home delivery services, here are a few farm-to-door startups that are changing the way we buy food.
At From the Farmer the idea’s simple, really. Food tastes better when it’s fresh. Nick Phelps and Jason Lundberg started the company out of their mutual passions for good food. While neither were cut from an agricultural cloth, they quickly learned that leading with high quality food, treating your farmers as your friends, and building an experience for customers with food they want to consume can lead to a sustainable local food system that has plenty of room for growth.
“We like good food and we like farmers markets yet sometimes the market is too far away or doesn’t cooperate with a DC schedule when life and work gets in the way. So we wanted to create a more convenient way for people to have regular access to the season’s bounty and we simply enabled that.”
From the Farmer works with approximately five “partner farms,” and 10 – 20 “preferred suppliers.” Partner farms include 78 Acres, Spring Valley Farm and Orchard, Garner's Produce, Zahradka Farms, and Linda's Mercantile. The company delivers to all of DC, Northern Virginia (from Leesburg to Alexandria and everywhere in between), Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Baltimore. They send you a list of items you’ll be receiving the next week and consumers can log in and select more of/less of these items – including adding eggs, bread, etc.
Another similar concept is Nextdoorganics who operates out of Brooklyn, NY. Josh Cook and Kris Schumacher founded the company because they shared an interest in revolutionizing urban and suburban food production and distribution. They have grown by making access to small scale farmers, foragers, and food makers easier and more flexible. To date, the company has packed over 20k orders of sustainable produce in the last year, and offer cargo bike home delivery within Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. They also offer overnight delivery to folks as far as DC, Pittsburgh, and Boston.
Nextdoorganics sources from 50+ farmers, fishermen, and other food producers throughout the year to curate their subscription orders of sustainable produce, meats, and pantry items. Some of these farms and producers are as close as 4 blocks away (like Bushwick Campus Farm), and others as far as 200 miles.
It’s simple – when you shop local, you support your own community. This next online food-ordering platform is a marketplace for both local farms, artisanal producers, and every day groceries. Relay Foods is changing the way people get their groceries all across the Mid-Atlantic by combining cutting-edge online shopping technology with high-quality farm fresh food and groceries and the convenience of free neighborhood pickups and home delivery. Relay partners directly with hundreds of local farmers, growers, and food artisans, selecting the highest quality sustainable products to offer, while also giving customers access to all the grocery items typically found in a brick-and-mortar supermarket. The company also has over 40 pick up locations throughout DC/MD, and delivers in the DC Metro area, Baltimore, the Research Triangle, and multiple Virginia markets, including Richmond and Charlottesville.
Founder, Zach Buckner, is a systems engineer, so Relay Foods was founded on a solid base on engineering. “Think of the combination of Whole Foods, Amazon, and FedEx and you have us.”