Bringing Back the Milkman
Zack Brown, of Lowell, Ark., decided to bring back the convenience of the milkman when thinking about how to serve the global food movement of people wanting traceable food. He decided he needed to look for an unadulterated product that wasn’t warehoused or transported to reduce cost and get a better product to the customer. He had to go to the farmer. “Farm Box Delivers is trying to get back to our roots and the way we used to buy food,” Zack said. “Consumers need to start taking responsibility for how they buy food and farmers need to take responsibility for how they sell food. There has to be a communal responsibility about how we source food, buy food and sell food.”
Farm Box Delivers works closely with local farmers, artisans and vendors giving customers the transparency they want. “We want our customers to know they are getting a good product. We want to cut out transporting, warehousing and buying from other locations,” Zack said. “Farm Box Delivers goes directly to the farmer, talks to the farmer and knows what we are getting. We are a sustainable business which supports communities, local farmers, artisans and vendors.”
“We worked for eight months trying to build relationships with farmers, artisans and vendors before we began making deliveries,” he said. Farm Box Delivers’ emphasis is on local, organic and all-natural foods. “We can’t grow everything here. Our preference is to bring in products locally, regionally and then nationally. Farm Box Delivers wants to support our local economy, regional economy and our nation.”
Farm Box Delivers is trying to develop a better local farm system. “We take orders online, call the farmer with our needs and they deliver only the products we need,” Zack said. “There is no waste. The farmer has an idea of what he needs to grow and picks only what he can sell. Our farmers have a better consistent flow of demand for their food.” Farmers get paid on delivery; have a direct and maintained link to customers and advertising through Farm Box Delivers.
“The large hurdle for us to compete with industrial farms is to get prices down so people can afford our food,” he said. Farm Box Delivers believes in fostering long-term partnerships with their suppliers by giving them a fair and sustainable price for their products. “My relationship with Farm Box Delivers is good. They wanted the freshest produce and I got a place to sell more products. We get name recognition and free advertising. I have more time to work in the field because they can even pick up my produce if I can’t get away,” said Dennis McGarrah of McGarrah Farms. “Farm Box Delivers treats farmers well. They have a real commitment to provide quality products to their customers,” Cherie Schenker of Schenker Farms said.
“We have to change customer’s minds so they know they can buy from local farmers through Farm Box Delivers and change the mind of farmers so we can set our prices to be affordable to help generate demand.” Farm Box Delivers has been serving customers for just under a year and is growing rapidly with over 1,000 customers. “Our customers want transparency, traceability, to know where their foods come from and want a better product without solutions and additives,” Zack said. “They want to support community, want to be a part of something good, and want to support our local economy and sustainability.” Farm Box Delivers customers tend to be more conscience about health, about food and want convenience. “We are hoping to work with farm-to-school initiatives and develop a mobile produce market to serve neighborhoods in need,” Zack said. Farm Box Delivers supports hunger relief and works to support health and wellness.
Celeste Hoskins runs two businesses and has small children. “We just love Farm Box Delivers. My grocery bill has gone down. I just use what I order, there isn’t as much waste and I don’t impulse buy like I would at a store,” she said. “We like supporting local businesses and are healthier,” she added.
Emily Wulf works from home keeping records for her medical clinic. “We see a lot of health problems because of food choices. With Farm Box Delivers, I know where my family’s food comes from, that it is local, organic and healthy. Using this service makes me plan more efficiently and we have the convenience of home delivery.”
“Our products are cooled and we deliver in the later part of the day starting around 2 in the afternoon until 8 in the evening when most people are home,” Zack said. Customers sign up online or by phone and can subscribe to specific items for delivery on a regular basis. “We listen to demand from potential customers for expansion,” Zack said. “We are starting to offer chef prepared meals, two and five day meal kits, vegetarian, gluten free and vegan meals.”