Every day, we work closely with incredible small-scale farmers to understand what they grow, how they grow it and who they are able to reach with their harvests. While every farm business model is different, some small farms sell to wholesalers and distributors, some sell to local restaurants, at local farmers markets, have on-site farm stands or community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Farmers markets are accessible to farmers only if they are within driving distance, usually within 20 miles of their location although some farmers drive much further. On-site farm stands require a location that customers can easily access; usually in or near urban areas; not where all farms are located. The same is true for CSA models. Many farms have a combination of more than one of these sales channels.
When farms sell to distributors, their produce leaves the farm and goes to a packing house where it is aggregated with produce from other farms, graded, inspected and often treated. This produce is then moved to a marketer, who in turn sells it to a retailer. Depending on the size of the retailer, the produce is usually transported to a centralized distribution center before being shipped to individual stores where it is finally sold to the consumer.
On average, when all this is said and done, the farmer sees around 12 cents for every dollar spent on their produce.
In direct to consumer sales channels, farmers receive the full amount of every sale. But traditional direct to consumer sales channels like farmers markets, CSAs and on-site farm stands, while being excellent ways to serve local communities for farmers who live and farm in areas that have access to these sales channels, are often not enough to grow and sustain farm businesses. They also have high operational costs. Sales opportunities are generally capped at farmers markets and not all farmers markets have significant sales potential to begin with. Sales are unknown, and farmers often do not sell all the product that they bring, resulting in waste and the trickiness of unknown income. On-site farm stands are infrastructure heavy and require commercially appropriate locations as well as significant resources to establish. Most farmers do not have the resources or location to justify opening what is essentially a store. CSAs provide known income, typically at the start of the season which is extremely helpful, but tend to be successful in locations that are close to consumers because they either require pickup at the farm or delivery on behalf of the farmer.
We founded FruitStand with the goal of creating a sales channel that gave farmers and consumers alike better options. Fresher, more interesting produce options for consumers, and a better return for farmers. Transparent pricing ensures that both our farmers and our customers understand the full impact of each purchase.
When we look at the future of food, we see more opportunities for farmers because we know that is what is needed to ensure that we continue to have a population of small-scale farmers. We see a world with strong local and national food systems because these farmers have diversified and resilient business models that allow them to thrive. We see a world where small-scale agriculture is viewed as a viable business endeavor because there are diverse and accessible sales channels for farmers, resulting in a population of rising farmers. A world where consumer access to small farms and sales for farmers is not defined by a 20-mile boundary. Where the food we eat arrives within days of being harvested, not weeks or months, having traveled through the fewest number of hands and touched by the fewest number of people. Where an online purchase direct from the farm provides consumers with amazing food and farmers with the best return possible.
Most importantly, we see a relationship with food where we understand that getting food directly from a farm not only means we are getting fresher, riper and more nutritious produce. It means that more money goes to the farmer so that the important work of small scale agriculture can continue to be a backbone of our food system.
This is why we believe in the concept of transparent pricing. To help everyone build a deeper connection and understanding with the food we eat and the farmers who grow it. By knowing where your dollar is spent, you can understand the impact you are making beyond simply buying fruit online.