by Jennifer Brizzi – Shop local farmstands from the convenience of your keyboard via FarmieMarket
FarmieMarket is state-of-the-art access to natural food, improving the interface between consumers and farmers, via the Internet. Sarah Gordon, who grew up on a farm with grass-fed cattle, launched it two years ago in the Capital Region, and just last week branches began in Ulster and Dutchess Counties. Witness its evolution:
Once upon a time there was a little farmstand – an unobtrusive, ramshackle structure by the side of the road. If you didn’t know it was there, you might pass it at 50 miles per hour on your way somewhere more important. If you did stop, you’d see that it was manned only by a small tin box to put your money in. You might notice that the selection was limited, and some items were overgrown. You probably didn’t know how it was grown, but it may well have been with the help of chemicals to feed or de-pest it. But the price was right, and you knew it was very, very local – from the backyard or across the road – and definitely in season.
Arriving more recently was the organic section of the supermarket: a little pricey, and who knows how far the food had traveled? Sometimes it looked a little weary; but at least you knew that your bananas or your broccoli were free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and probably not irradiated or genetically modified.
Then farmers’ markets started to pop up like mushrooms in cities and villages. Now you could meet the farmer who grew or raised your food face-to-face, and you knew that, while not quite from across the street, the food hadn’t traveled very far. Although not always certified organically grown, it was in most cases cultivated with care and a minimum of chemical intervention.
The same was true of Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, an exciting way to buy food that began a few years back. If you signed up for a CSA share, on a given day and time every week or two, you went to the farm that grew or raised your food and you picked up your share, in a box or bags: a specified amount of whatever was abundant and in season. I was a member of a CSA for a few years, and what I loved about it was sharing in the upkeep (via the annual fee) and sharing in the bounty of a small farm, visiting the farm itself and chatting with the farmers. Not least was the excitement of figuring out what to do with something that I might not have bought otherwise – say, Japanese turnips or four bunches of kale. What ultimately led to my stopping my membership was that the day and time of pickup – a window of a few hours on Tuesday afternoon – was during a timeframe when I was unable to make the 15-mile drive to the farm.
Here comes FarmieMarket, the latest way to get good food to cook. You have your fresh (most produce is picked day-of or day-before); you have your local (nearby independent farmers); you have your sustainably produced meats, produce, dairy products, honeys and syrups and more. “Right now people seem to be the most excited about the pastured eggs from Old Ford Farm!” says Magen Markham, FarmieMarket’s independent coordinator for Ulster County. All products available are 100 percent free of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics, and of course, Genetically Modified Organism-free.
But for some, what may be best of all is that you don’t have to figure out when to fit the shopping trip into your busy schedule. You just look at pretty photos online on an easy-to-navigate website, add the most appealing items to your basket, pay with a click of the mouse and it’s delivered to home or work.
You don’t have to commit to a whole season, but just order when you feel like it, deciding week-to-week rather than committing to a season ahead of time. Orders are completely custom; choose your family’s favorites, whether sugar snaps, spicy salad mix, lacinato kale or ribeye steaks.
For the owners of small and medium-sized farms, it’s a beautiful thing. Many farmers are better at producing good food than at marketing; and in a tight economy, when many farms are failing, marketing is excruciatingly crucial. Farming is really, really hard and time-consuming work, and to travel to a farmers’ market and man a booth takes hours and hours of time that could be better spent caring for crops and animals.
“So far I’ve had a really great response from people who are excited to shop from FarmieMarket,” says Mikhaila Simeon, the independent contractor for the new Dutchess County arm of the company. Like Markham over in Ulster, Simeon does the food pickups and deliveries and enrolls the participating local farms.
So far people have tended to order mixed assortments of eggs, meat and produce, Simeon says, with beef and pork (from Rhinebeck’s Sepascot Home Farm and Albany’s Gordon Farms) the biggest draws. She continues to work sourcing additional foods to offer, and hopes to add maple syrup, honey, cheese, bread and handmade items. Syrup and goat cheese are already available in Ulster, where Markham hopes to add breads, honey, jams, pickles, locally roasted coffee and more.
“The online farmers’ market model has been growing in popularity around the country,” Markham tells me. She mentioned Plovgh in New York City (with “pickup points” rather than delivery service), as well as the well-known grocery delivery service Fresh Direct, which includes but isn’t limited to local items. “FarmieMarket is about as local as it gets!” she adds.
I confess a hint of sticker shock at first when I perused FarmieMarket’s site: $9.68 for a pound of ground beef that is, while admittedly of fine quality, a few bucks more than the supermarket’s, and $3.38 for a bunch of greens that would be $2 at one local farmstand. But then I realized that it could be worth it – not just for the variety and diversity of the offerings, but for the timesaving ease of it. Time is money.
I like the idea of supporting small local businesses and in turn stimulating the local economy, which in turn supports me. Most grocery-store food is raised or grown on huge farms and travels hundreds and hundreds of miles from farm to fork. Our food is prodded and bombarded with preservatives, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and all manner of chemicals, then picked underripe or fattened too fast.
I feel that local food is worth the extra buck, which is charged mainly because of the high cost of nutritious feeds and healthy fertilizers, as well as the farmers’ property taxes, labor and equipment costs. When you buy local, natural meat, you know that the farmers are treating the animals humanely and holistically, with your health and the health of the food in mind. And don’t forget the flavor: It just tastes better – lots better.
FarmieMarket isn’t just for the growing season, and will continue year-round. “I’m hoping to bring on board a few farms, later in the season, who have access to season-extension techniques,” says Markham, “such as growing vegetables in hoop houses and high tunnels. I also plan on continuing to offer staples such as maple syrup, meats, cheeses and eggs all winter.”
If you’re interested, take a look at the website at www.farmiemarket.com and type in your zip code for automatic redirection to your local site. Delivery days are Monday in Dutchess and Thursday in Ulster, and can be to your home or work, day or evening. You can eye a Twitter feed to help predict when the delivery vehicle will be in your neighborhood, or your order can be left in a cooler for convenience. There is a minimum order of $30 before taxes and delivery.
“People are really excited about this,” says Markham. “The Hudson Valley has an amazing food culture, and people are thrilled to have an alternative way to support their small local farms.”
For information, log on to www.farmiemarket.com. You can also contact Magen Markham at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mikhaila Simeon at email@example.com with specific questions