There is plenty of talk, especially online, about all the problems associated with our conventional, industrialized food system, me included. And while there are significant challenges ahead in migrating toward more sustainable approaches to feeding people real food, I want to highlight a number of innovative retail solutions that are blazing trails for the rest to follow.
Here are 10 retail concepts I find intriguing (presented in alphabetical order). In addition to a brief description, I am highlighting key strengths in supporting a more sustainable approach to food.
- Farm Fresh To You (Capay Valley, CA) – customer friendly, flexible and convenient certified organic CSA program serving 800 members from over 240 acres; home or office delivery options; no formal commitment required (cancel or suspend deliveries at any time); some customization of weekly delivery (eliminate items or add additional servings); mid-size farm CSA program with member numbers significantly greater than typical CSA farms
- FamilyFarmed.org (Oak Park, IL) - Mission is to expand production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food and goods, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities; offers directory of CSA farms with delivery information; manages FamilyFarmed EXPO (three-day fall harvest festival and celebration of local foods and goods); developing product label program; large scale implementation of local, sustainable food
- FarmsReach (Bay Area, CA) – “the web hub for local grub” is building a web-based platform that offers a simple way for buyers to order food from local producers through delivery or local markets; pushing into new, easier to implement farmer-to-wholesale pathways
- Intervale Center (Burlington, VT) - manage 350 acres of farmland, nursery, compost production, trails, and wildlife corridors; developed Food Hub (connecting farmers to profitable market opportunities) and Food Basket (multi-farm CSA serving 125 members via 7 workplace drop off points); since 1980s, the Intervale has played a critical role in developing the Burlington community’s interest and support of local foods
- Know Your Farms (Davidson, NC) – multi-farm, year-round CSA program with limited customization of weekly box; introducing new “meal-in-a-box” pilot program that provides entire 4-person meal with local ingredients and cooking instructions; experimenting with new ways to deliver food that will be more valuable than random boxes
- Pete’s Greens (Craftsbury, VT) – year-round CSA program integrating farm and local products; utilizes wholesale delivery routes to drop off shares to 250 members; sales have been steadily migrating toward retail; reaching well beyond his farms location, Pete Johnson is pushing toward regional CSA programs (beyond local)
- Recipease (London, UK) – what list would be complete without a celebrity project, in this case “The Naked Chef” – Jamie Oliver; his first food and kitchen shop is designed to help anyone learn to cook and make great food; customers will be able to “assemble a brilliant meal in around 10 minutes”; bottom line: Mr. Oliver is helping get more people into their kitchens
- Sunflower Farmers Market (Boulder, CO) – “Serious Food…Silly Prices” is behind this growing chain of full-service grocery stores with emphasis on high quality natural and organic produce; founded and led by Wild Oats founder Mike Gilliland; also see Sprouts Farmers Market (AZ); both of these mini Whole Foods are part of trend toward smaller stores (10-20,000 square feet)
- The Organic Dish (Boulder, CO) – offering healthy, simple to make, and delicious ready-to-cook (frozen) organic meals and dinner kits utilizing local products; online or in-store order/deliver options; offers on-site do-it-yourself meal preparation parties for small groups (see Recipease)
- Three Stone Hearth (Berkeley, CA) – TSH is a worker-owned cooperative, offering nutrient dense foods to homes and families around the San Francisco Bay Area through what it calls a community supported kitchen (CSK); foods offered include soups, stews, cultured vegetables and coolers, sauces, prepared whole grain dishes; seems like a great model that could be customized to adapt to other regions
There are clearly a lot of really smart, energetic, and (in some cases) well-funded people attacking the challenges in our food system from multiple angles. Over time, it is these efforts and those to follow that will make a real difference in getting more people to eat real food.
And if I missed companies or organizations that you feel should have made “the list”, please add them in the comments section so that we can raise our collective awareness even further.
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