While the pandemic has created many negatives, there’s one big positive that’s grown out of it in Tiny Township.
Farm2Door, which began last spring as a predominantly e-commerce company, is celebrating its first anniversary and has steadily increased the number of farmers supplying produce and other goods under its umbrella.
"It's really going well, yeah, it actually continues to surprise ourselves,” said Farm2Door general manager Bart Nagel.
“When we had our launch, we had no idea about the extent of the demand for local food.”
Nagel said his farm Bulbs of Fire has been around for about a decade and sometimes struggled to meet yearly revenue targets.
“But this has been a revelation, to be honest with you," he said.
The company sprouted out of a collaboration between local farms BelleRoots Farm, Bulbs of Fire and tech partner Darkhorse Custom.
Since those early beginnings, Farm2Door has seen an incredible uptake in orders and deliveries of their local food service, offering close to 500 items from nearly 100 local farmers and food producers.
And besides the steady online presence, Farm2Door also opened a retail outlet just outside of Perkinsfield on Balm Beach Road last summer.
Nagel said participating producers also benefit because they can get their product to market in a timely fashion.
“They don’t need to stand around at the farmer’s market where you have to set up, tear down and take all your unsold produce back home,” Nagel said, noting they’ve also expanded their workforce from an initial five to 11 people.
Nagel said farmers traditionally have a relatively short season to try to make as much money as possible by attending myriad farmers’ markets, special events like Midland’s Buttertart Festival and other offerings.
“The farmers’ market season is short, you only have six months to make your money. So you know, you’ve got to hit it hard. With the farmers’ market model, it basically forces buyers to come to one location in a four- or five-hour time window during the week.”
And when COVID-19 hit last March, that initially affected the upcoming farmers’ market season.
“They (eventually) said ‘farmers’ markets are essential.’ But by that time, we had already started Farm2Door so the train left the station.
“We were trying to repair what we felt was a lost and broken connection between local food producers and local food buyers.”
And unlike a farmers’ market, Nagel points out that Farm2Door is basically open every hour of the day with delivery twice a week and a local food store that’s open seven days a week until Thanksgiving.
“When we increase the accessibility of local food it really starts to expose what demand really is,” Nagel said, noting Farm2Door currently deals with about 90 area producers.
“And this is literally growing every week. We have people reaching out to us, non-stop.
“We’re trying to onboard as many as we can, obviously, without jeopardizing the businesses of the people that are already tied in with us. We really don't need a third producer of butter tarts. At some point, you’ve got to start curating your offerings.”