PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF FARMS2TABLES
One of the trickiest aspects of running a successful farm is mastering wholesale distribution; modern farms cannot subsist on farmers’ markets and farm stands alone. Most farmers would love to get their product into restaurants as well as institutions (like schools and hospitals), but the logistics of making it happen can be overwhelming when you’re trying to run a farm. That’s where Patricia Wind and Cliff Platt come in. They are the co-owners of Farms2Tables based in Rhinebeck, and they’ve set out to simplify food distribution with an app that connects farmers and wholesale clients.
The Farms2Tables app works like this: A buyer for a restaurant needs eggplant for the following evening. He opens the Farms2Tables app on his mobile device and browses the options for eggplant (farmers set their own price). The buyer selects the app’s eggplant supplier, and the farm gets an instant notification to assemble an order of eggplant for the restaurant. Armed with a wireless label printer provided by Farms2Tables, the farmer prints the tag and packs up the order to be picked up in the late afternoon by one of the four Farms2Tables refrigerated cargo vans. All orders are delivered within 24 hours.
The farmers don’t have to mess with invoicing—they’re paid directly through the service. Like Uber, Farms2Tables is the facilitator of the transaction and the delivery system for the goods. The company takes a small cut of all produce sold. The goal is a seamless and transparent business transaction for all.
Wind, who had a long career in the food and hospitality industry, saw the need for something like this after working in New York farmers’ markets and hearing the gripes from local farmers about their struggles with wholesale distribution. The app took more than a year to develop and launched in June of 2015. Today it helps about 50 farms in the Hudson Valley distribute their produce, meat and dairy.
Beyond restaurants, the company is working with local school districts, including Red Hook and Rhinebeck as well as the Storm King School, to provide produce from local farms for school lunches. Next up for Farms2Tables is a new CSA-type weekly subscription service called the F2T box, which includes a selection of produce, meat, dairy and value-added goods, like applesauce, jam and butter, and can be picked up at a variety of drop-off locations throughout the valley. It’s aimed at the general public and does not require an app; members sign up online. Wind says the service is “a mix between those more ‘luxury’ subscription boxes like Quinciple, Blue Apron and Plated, where the meal costs are more than $10 per meal, and a CSA box with more staples and actual groceries, where the meal costs are down to $5 per meal.” —Eric Steinman