Shortening the Supply Chain: Online Community Supported Agriculture by Wendy Fachon
While COVID-19 has highlighted weaknesses and inequities in America’s supermarket supply system, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have stepped in to handle some of the slack. CSAs in Southern New England empower consumers to buy freshly harvested produce directly from local farmers, and several programs offer online ordering and home delivery. As these programs grow, consumers will have more opportunities than ever to support a local system, access better quality food, improve environmental sustainability and keep farmland in production.
Long distance trucking compromises freshness, nutrition and flavor, adds cost and is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. CSA programs eliminate these transportation costs and middlemen, and fewer people are handling the products. The current pandemic is spurring the growth of programs that offer the added conveniences of online ordering, doorstep delivery and more consumer choice than a traditional CSA.
FreshConn, a food accelerator social enterprise currently serving MA, RI and CT, is distinguished in personality, values and safety. While describing itself as “the instacart of farm fresh food,” FreshConn adheres to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) standards, along with COVID-19 sanitation. The company’s app solves a national last mile logistics issue for farmers and artisans, contracting its drivers like an uber for local food. The drivers, trained in FSMA standards, deliver food straight from the farm to the consumer.
FreshConn is also passionate about providing food where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited, delivering COVID-19 relief to residents of inner city food desserts and those lacking transportation to purchase local food. From its online children’s book and its family meal show to job creation and community giving, FreshConn supports people everywhere. Learn more at www.FreshConn.com
WhatsGood‘s technology brings community together to enable an efficient, convenient, and waste-free system where the freshest local fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood and artisanal products are at a finger’s touch. Customers can place an order any day of the week from as many vendors as they like. WhatsGood then aggregates the order at its Fenway hub and provides home delivery to zip codes in the Boston area and south of the city.
The company also offers the option to purchase CSA Farm Shares. For produce, it works the same way as a typical full-seasonal farm share, except it is billed weekly. Farm shares for meat and seafood are highly customizable, as customers can order a chicken farm share, pork farm share, etc. These run for 12 weeks at a time.
WhatsGood is rapidly hiring, expanding operations and updating safety and sanitation procedures to serve as many folks as possible. Customers can shop with no minimums, commitments or membership necessary. They purchase directly from local farms, up until 1 pm the day before delivery, and then the farms deliver orders to WhatsGood every. Where the shoppers’ orders are packed and delivered the same day – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for Rhode Island residents; Tuesdays and Thursdays for Boston area residents. People can sign up for a free account by visiting www.sourcewhatsgood.com .
Farm Fresh RI is inviting residential customers to join wholesale buyers in using its Market Mobile service to get fresh food from local farms. In this unprecedented time, as restaurants and colleges have had to close down, Farm Fresh RI’s Market Mobile program has gone from about 300 wholesale accounts to “thousands” of residential home deliveries. The efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 is a test to the resilience of RI’s local food system and agricultural community. Market Mobile’s goal at this time is to connect as many people as possible to locally grown food and mitigate the monetary losses that farmers and producers are experiencing with the suspension of wholesale buying businesses.
Home delivery is available for Providence, Pawtucket and the East Bay. People from other areas are welcome to place an order for curbside pickup at Farm Fresh’s packhouse, located in The Hope Artiste Village building, 1005 Main Street, in Pawtucket.
There is a minimum order size of $60 for pickup or delivery. Since this online platform is traditionally used for wholesale purchasing, the quantities offered may be larger than what one is used to buying. Many people pool orders with family or neighbors to help make the larger quantities work for everybody. Farm Fresh’s weekly order/delivery cycles are subject to change as it continues to scale operations to meet the current demand. The online order form is intentionally inactive outside the established ordering windows, allowing farmers and producers time to update what they have listed for sale based on their most current inventory. Find the most current and complete details and register at https://www.farmfreshri.org/homedelivery
Farmers to You is an online market that makes it easy to shop from over 90 farms and food producers all located in New England. Most of the partnering farms are located in Vermont. Customers place their orders each week by Sunday night, and they can pickup up their order at one of the 25 local Boston area pickup sites or enjoy home delivery. Selection changes constantly for seasonal items like fruits and vegetables, but there is also milk, cheese, pasture raised meats, fresh fish, bakery fresh breads, eggs, fresh pastas, and loads of pantry items.
This marketplace is truly committed to rebuilding a trustworthy and sustainable regional food system. Affiliated farmers and producers are some of the best in the region. Most are organically certified, and those who are not use sustainable farming practices. If asked about any of their crops or animals, their soil practices, or their land, these are farms that will deliver a lengthy and passionate discourse. Farmers To You believes their customers deserve to know the people who produce their food and how the food is produced, and they are fully committed to the well-being and health of their consumers. Learn more at https://farmerstoyou.com.
The Local Catch in Narragansett is one example of Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) also offering online ordering and home delivery for residents that meet the minimum ordering requirement for their area. Learn more at www.thelocalcatch.com. Residents can search online for other CSFs providing delivery.
Operating all 12 twelve months of the year, these marketplaces offer the abundant selection of a great farmers market, the direct relationship of a CSA and the flexibility and convenience of online shopping and delivery. By eliminating all the middle people, the food arrives fresher, it is handled by fewer people, and the farmers and producers receive up to three times more of every dollar you spend, helping them maintain their lands and their fleets and continue their sustainable practices.
Wendy Fachon is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine and Sustainable Living News and host of the Story Walking Radio Hour on the Dreamvisions 7 Radio Network. Visit dreamvisions7radio.com and search out her podcasts on sustainable living.