Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Virtual Marketplace Connects Small Farms, Local Restaurants

On Farmplicity.com, farmers can list the products they're selling and restaurants can purchase local ingredients directly from the growers.

farmplicity-website

Photo: Farmplicity

Farmers list their products and chefs peruse this one-stop-shop of local food.

Growing A Business

While working part-time at an on-campus dining service, Jolijt Tamanaha became aware of the challenges and volume restraints restaurants face when trying to procure local food.

She took her concerns for family farmers to an entrepreneurship course at Washington University in St. Louis where she was inspired to make a difference. The business that resulted is now among several start-ups that are changing the landscape of regional food systems.

How It Works

Tamanaha teamed up with her classmates Drew Koch and Andrew Lin to create Farmplicity, an online marketplace that connects restaurants with local farmers.

The way it works is farmers create profiles on the site that include information on their farming philosophies, location and what they’re selling. Chefs and restaurateurs can then peruse this one-stop-shop of local food producers, sorting items by category, quantity, price and date available. They can also click through photos of everything from grass-fed beef and farm-fresh eggs to organic kale.

As the site suggests, getting local is “easy as 1-2-3.”

Tamanaha says they’re still figuring out how to streamline the process of buying and selling local food. She acknowledges the competition from industrial agriculture and the prevalence big food service providers.

“Agriculture is pretty unpredictable,” she says, “Farmplicity is striving to create a system that offers more consistency to counter the unpredictable aspects of growing.”

Creating Community

Chefs like Bernard Pilon of Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis are pleased with the convenience that Farmplicity offers.

As a chef of a restaurant that strives to provide local and seasonal items, he says the website has exposed him to farmers that he didn’t have time to reach out to on his own. “We rely on relationships where everyone works together. You have to in this industry,” he said.

Many small scale farm-to-table restaurants typically rely on a few close relationships with farmers to source their ingredients, but Pilon credits Farmplicity with making it easier for him to purchase local products while still meeting the high volume demands of his kitchen.

Being able to see a listing of all the produce available near him has also allowed Pilon to be more specific in creating menus. In some instances, he’s even begun collaborating with local farmers to plan out his purchasing a year in advance.

Ultimately, he supports the concept of unity and family that Farmplicity is creating within the St. Louis food community. “We’re in this business together as a team,” he said.

What’s Next?

After launching last spring, the company has grown to include over 120 farmers and 100 restaurant subscribers.

While the group currently only caters to chefs and restaurants within 150-miles of St. Louis, they hope to eventually serve grocery stores, school cafeterias, hospitals and other establishments with limited access to local markets.

Tara Cobb

Tara Cobb is a student of public affairs at Indiana University. She volunteers at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and is an advocate for food justice and community food security.

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