by Anne C. Lee
San Francisco-based FarmsReach pairs farmers up with buyers for sustainable local food systems, helping buyers source produce locally and support healthy farms. Founded in 2007, the online marketplace opened its public beta version in February 2009. It currently serves the San Francisco Bay Area and a few other regions, but aims to be nationwide by the end of this year.
Fast Company: What’s your definition of sustainable food?
Melanie Cheng: We all have the idealistic wonderful definition where everything is ecologically sustainable. It’s beyond organic: Everyone is paid a fair wage and people of all income levels are eating fresh, healthy local foods. That’s the big dream for all of us, but the reality is that everyone–from farmers to distributors to buyers–is in different stages of getting there. So it’s more a matter of journey and where you are along that path. There are so many variables for a sustainable food system. Everyone is good as long as you’re on the road somewhere. So for some farmers who have been using chemicals for 50 years, it might just be using less, and it’s okay, because at least they’re down that path. Whereas a farm that has been farming organically for 45 years may want to go further and think about water, habitation, etc. They’re all good as long as the intention is on the bigger dreamland goal.
FC: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing sustainable food right now?
MC: The regional food system is an essential component of sustainability, and I think the biggest problem today is just aligning supply and demand. The food system for the past 80 to 100 years has been a global food system, so lot of the infrastructure from when we used to feed ourselves from our own areas is gone, like the coordination as far as marketplace, tracking the growing number of smaller farmers and what each has available, and connecting them to buyers in their own area. Continue Reading →