Category Archives: FarmsReach in the News

Grocery Delivery Service Instacart Partners with FarmsReach for Delivery from Local Farmers Markets


NOTE: The East Bay farmers market deliveries pilot has been suspended, and Instacart and FarmsReach are conducting a feasibility study of deliveries from farmers markets from the San Francisco urban center.

Below is the press release that went out today announcing our partnership with Instacart.  Exciting times!

San Francisco, Calif. – September 11, 2014Instacart, the only service that can deliver groceries from multiple local stores within an hour, announced today that it has partnered with FarmsReach, a platform for small and medium-scale farms to access the products, support and services they need to be successful.

Instacart will begin delivering groceries from Farmers Markets in San Francisco’s East Bay and plans to expand beyond that area soon.

Initially, Instacart will be delivering from Farmers Markets on:

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El Pais ~ From Field to Table in 24 Hours (in Spanish)

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Report from the Food IT: Soil to Fork Conference at Stanford University, June 20, 2014.

by Rosa Jiménez Cano

“¿Por qué no hacer mostaza con vino tinto, con mi cabernet?”, proclama Barb Stuckey, autora de Taste un libro que invita a explorar nuevos sabores y quiere servir de inspiración para que los agricultores procesen su materia y lo vendan directamente en el mercado.

En el auditorio de la Universidad de Stanford, un centenar de productores, estudiantes con inquietud por dar con cómo será la comida del futuro e inversores con aire desaliñado atienden.

Stuckey, experta en crear nuevos productos, alerta de las tendencias a las que tendrán que adaptarse para mantenerse en el mercado. Instacart , Google Shopping Express y Amazon Fresh son tres servicios dedicados a enviar comida. La de Google no tiene productos frescos, pero sí empaquetados, a domicilio en menos de 24 horas. Se pide por la noche y la mañana siguiente está en casa. Otros optan por recibirlo a última hora de la tarde, antes de volver a casa y ya consumirlo ahí. “Es un nuevo intermediario, con el que antes no contábamos”, advierte, “pero que a la vez es una gran oportunidad”.

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Press Release: FarmsReach & CCOF Offer Financial Assistance to Aspiring Organic Farmers

FR_CCOF_FGMay 12, 2014

Berkeley, CA – Today FarmsReach and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) launched a new program to attract more California farmers to get their organic certification.  Any member of FarmsReach and their Farmers Guild Network can request a CCOF application fee-waiver, which saves farmers $325.

While many believe the application fee is a small investment for the premium prices earned selling certified-organic products, for many farmers the $325 application fee is cost-prohibitive.

“We’re excited about our new partnership and serving community-minded farmers that need financial assistance,” says Elizabeth Whitlow, CCOF Inspection Operations Supervisor.  “Often, a farmer may want to apply for certification, but they simply can’t afford it, may be misinformed about the process, or are overwhelmed by the application paperwork. We like the idea of building a community of aspiring and currently certified organic farmers through FarmsReach and its Farmers Guild Network.”

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The Union ~ Putting Down Roots

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by Laura Brown

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.29.06 PMThe Farmers Guild, a networking and resource group for farmers, is cropping up in a number of Northern California communities.

Some are looking into ways to start a farm guild in Nevada County.

Started in 2011, the guild is a group of farmers, ranchers and members of the local food community that gathers each month to share resources, information, a farm-grown dinner and a few drinks after a day in the field.

It began almost two years ago when just a few young farmers out in Valley Ford, Calif., began gathering around a ranch-house table.

Over a casual dinner of farm-fresh food, they began to trade stories, compare planting patterns and share gossip from the feed store.

And very soon that group began to grow: from six to 10 to 20 to way too many to fit within our kitchen,” said Evan Wiig, community manager of The Farmers Guild.

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Capital Press ~ Farmers Collaborate Online & Offline Through Farmers Guilds

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by Evan Wiig

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.33.12 PMFarmers guilds help farmers get together to compare notes on many subjects revolving around agriculture.

Farming is more than ever an entrepreneurial endeavor, a high stakes game that is fraught with risks, not the least of which is extreme and unpredictable weather, such as the drought we’re currently facing here in the West.

It’s no wonder that many multi-generation farming and ranching families are disappearing from the landscape. Many of those who have stepped up to take their place are finding that their success depends on collaborating and connecting online and offline with other farmers and ranchers.

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Agri-Marketing News ~ FarmsReach Launches Online Platform for Non-GMO Seeds

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FarmsReach, the Berkeley-based social enterprise for farmers and ranchers, announced a pilot e-commerce platform for non-GMO, sustainable seeds at the Organic Seed Alliance Conference in Corvallis, Ore.

When it debuts later this year, FarmsReach’s Sustainable Seed Marketplace will be the first online source of its kind, an e-marketplace for non-GMO seeds from a mix of seed distributors, enhanced with anecdotal seed performance data from North American farmers. With the Marketplace, farmers can comparison-shop and make wish lists and annotations, viewable only by them, as they strategize for upcoming crops.

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Sustainable Food News ~ New Website Like Yelp for California Farmers

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The FarmsReach Source Directory, the first online business directory for California farmers, was launched today by the Berkeley-based social enterprise, FarmsReach. The website links FarmsReach member farmers with approved providers of everything from deer fences to irrigation systems, as well as farm-friendly service providers like lenders, contractors and nonprofit organizations.

“Think of it as a Yelp for farmers,” said FarmsReach founder Melanie Cheng, referring to the widely used “crowdsourcing” website for consumers. “Farmers get most of their referrals by word-of-mouth from fellow farmers. Our online directory makes it easier for everyone to learn who does good work or offers quality services, so they can make smarter, more informed choices.”

Inspiration for the Source Directory came from the successes of similar offerings by social enterprises and farmer co-ops in Asia and Europe, which provide farmers with vital connections to trusted suppliers. “Directories like this for the U.S. agriculture community are long overdue,” Cheng said.

Founded in 2007, FarmsReach has grown to more than 600 members – primarily farmers, but also farm-related nonprofits, Cooperative Extension advisors, and providers of materials and services to the agriculture community. “We launched in California, our home base, but many of the online and offline resources we provide can be equally useful in other regions. We hope to expand our directory services into other parts of the country soon,” said Cheng.

FarmsReach adds new members daily while also creating collaborative, working relationships with organizations that serve its farmer members. “We’re driven completely by our members and partner organizations. Together, we are building a true support system for the agriculture community,” Cheng said. Continue Reading →

Seedstock ~ To Create Sustainable Food System, FarmsReach Focuses on Tools to Help Farmers Streamline Business Operations

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by Matt Wilhalme

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 3.07.09 PMWhen FarmsReach launched in 2007 it sought to facilitate connections between farmers and buyers by focusing its efforts on resolving food distribution issues with an online portal to help local farmers get their produce into the hands of consumers and address the increasing demand for organic regionally grown food.

But after the product scaled to 26 states, at a time when founder Melanie Cheng expected these marketplaces to boom and locally grown produce to become available in more and more places, transactions and volumes decreased. The main problem, according to Cheng, wasn’t the venue or point of sale, it was the “pre-marketplace.”

“Ultimately, there are a lot of different obstacles to creating a truly sustainable food system and a lot of them initiate from farms’ lack of business skills, business resources and general viability,” said Cheng. “We need to rehabilitate farming as an occupation.”

Cheng’s new focus with FarmsReach is on developing pre-market tools to help farmers more efficiently tackle everything from pricing, pack and food safety to planning and purchasing. To do so, FarmsReach plans to provide farmers everywhere with logistical software tools and also to establish a group buying program, which will function in much the same way as group purchasing organizations (GPO) do for hospitals by aggregating the purchase of supplies needed on an ongoing basis, to reduce farm production costs.

The company is also working to aggregate online business resources and programs for farmers in one location where they can find information about everything from business and crop planning to water management and more.

“If we can just rehabilitate the first mile in the supply chain, then other stakeholders that are working downstream can more easily take it from there,” Cheng said. “There is no one tool that is going to save the day. It is going to require a lot of people and multiple tools working together.”

FarmsReach’s pivot in strategy grew out of a realization that farmers need more robust tools to address the logistical issues of getting their products from the farm to the buyer, Cheng said.

“I think that many farms across the country would agree they could benefit from improvements in their business skills and operations. Many farmers will tell you they could use help streamlining their ops and marketing,” Cheng said. Continue Reading →

Food+Tech Connect ~ Melanie Cheng on Hacking the Food System: Think Systemically

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by Melanie Cheng

My focus has mainly been on solutions that try to pull some larger “levers of change” in the food system. The industry is in such a bad state right now, and it’s so incredibly complex with many, disparate players. Different types of technology can definitely help, but I think the million dollar question is where and how….and who can and should fund it.

Lately I’ve been talking with some funders and investment advisors who are researching the most promising tech investments. Short answer: it’s hard to know for sure, and, in my opinion, the state of the industry requires a lot more systemic thinking about solutions than just tech tools on their own.

Nonetheless below would be my quick picks. I’m sure there are other areas that could benefit greatly from technology, but these stand out to me as potentially having the largest impact:

  •  Precision agriculture: hardware and software to help farms increase their efficiencies. There is a lot of opportunity here. Precision ag is not only for agribusiness and not only for chemicals. There is a lot of research and innovation emerging to allow smaller farms to monitor, irrigate, and manage their land more efficiently and cheaply.
  •  Water metering, sensing and allocation tools: both hardware and software, and for both municipalities and farmers directly.
  •  Anything that helps farm operations “do more with less”: helping them increase their efficiencies with their notoriously limited resources. Many economic and distribution issues downstream in the supply chain are initially caused by the unviable operations on the farm.
  • [The elusive] Business-to-business regional supply chain transaction management and demand-supply alignment tools. Almost 99% of food sales are b-to-b. We need solutions to bring a lot more regional foods into these mainstream channels. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. (Check out the “Building Regional Produce Supply Chains” white paper we released with FarmsReach this summer.)
  • Aquaponics in certain situations, especially where there is not enough soil, water or other resources to grow food on the land.
  • Food stamp processing and innovation. Disclaimer: this isn’t my area of expertise at all(!), but I do know there is a need for 1) more markets and farmers markets to be able to process food stamps, and 2) it seems there must be an opportunity for innovation here.
  • Anything that could help disseminate business planning and financial management skills to the millions of family farms in the U.S. as well as to many of the thousands of non-profit organizations trying to help them.
  • Anything to entice more people to cook and actually help them do it.
  • Pipe dream: An online Cliff Notes version of the Farm Bill legislation, including searchable index, map of where the money flows now, and links to pertinent legislators and contact people associated with each bill.

Software Advice ~ Regional Food Hubs Face a Growing Need for Technology

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by Derek Singleton

The locavores are swarming and the popularity of local food is increasing across the nation. The number of farmer’s markets has more than tripled since the USDA started tracking these numbers in 1994 – increasing from 1,755 to 6,132. In 2010, direct sales from farmers to consumers increased to over $1.2 billion. And consumers aren’t the only ones with a rising demand for local food. More and more, organizations such as supermarkets, restaurants, schools and others are sourcing food locally.

To meet this burgeoning demand, local food distributors must scale up their operations from direct sales of small quantities to wholesale transactions. The problem, according to Michelle Miller of UW Madison’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, is that “a lot of the mid-scale distributors, the logistics people who used to consolidate produce, have gone out of business.”

Local distribution networks, termed “food hubs,” are trying to fill that void. Food hubs are like farmers’ markets and distributors rolled into one. They surfaced to provide local farmers with the infrastructure to store, process, distribute, and market local food to consumers and institutions. The current demand for local food positions food hubs to expand their role in food distribution. However, they lack the necessary technology to manage operations on a larger scale.

Managing Through Low-Tech Means
Most food hubs are decidedly behind the curve technologically. Transactions are usually coordinated through a combination of phone, email, and fax. Everything from scheduling pickups and drop-offs to planning routes is handled in this manner. Managing transactions like this may be feasible for the moment, but it won’t work as food hubs expand. To effectively manage relationships with more customers and farmers, they’ll need more advanced technology. This will range from Internet databases for managing customers relationships to distribution software to manage logistics.

Luckily, technology solutions for food hubs are surfacing. Three promising ones are match-making services, Internet-based buying clubs, and distribution management systems. None of these technologies are exactly new – but their adaptation to food hubs is. Each product provides food hubs with a way to get their local produce out to the general market more efficiently.

Matchmaking Programs
Food hubs have helped farmers overcome the marketing obstacle by using online match-making programs that link producers to buyers. These match-making programs are interactive communities that function a lot like for local food. Local food lovers can log on and find their perfect peach in just a few clicks. There are two general types of match-making services: those that link buyers to local food, and those that add a distributor to the mix. Continue Reading →