Matching Farmers And Wholesalers: There’s An App For That
Patricia Wind picks up produce from Chris Regan of Sky Farm in Millerton, NY. Photos: Farms2Tables.
By Stephanie Wyant
Rhinebeck resident Patricia Wind didn’t know it then, but a dinner conversation with her partner, Clifford Platt, in March 2014 lead to what is now a local food revolution. That night they created Farms2Tables, a solution for the “last mile,” a detrimental roadblock for many Hudson Valley farmers looking to outsource their products to restaurants, grocery stores, clubs and other markets.
Farm2Tables turned out to be so significant, in fact, that it recently won “Best New Product” at the 2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. Bringing the farmer-to-business transaction into the 21st century, Farms2Tables created a mobile app that allows farmers to connect with buyers and directly sell their products through their phones and tablets. Farmers display and describe what they have for sale, and set the price and availability. Buyers browse the app and purchase what they need, and it all happens in real time. Once an order is placed, Wind and Platt ensure everything gets from the farm to the buyer in less than 24 hours by delivering it in their fleet of temperature-controlled trucks. They also handle the invoicing and payment processing.
As a farmer myself, I’d been struggling with the challenge of delivering my meats to Manhattan while keeping everything fresh, negotiating traffic, and hoping that my GPS didn’t send me 20 miles off course like it usually does. When I found Farms2Tables, everything clicked, and wholesaling my products didn’t feel so daunting. Even better, the app exposes my products and those of more than 85 other farmers to 300-plus buyers who might not normally be accessible. Terrapin in Rhinebeck, Talbott & Arding in Hudson and Simons Catering in Columbia County are a few examples of the kinds of purveyors who are using the app.
Clifford Platt and Patricia Wind accepting their award.
It’s a brilliant connector, but mention that to Wind and she humbly smiles, giving credit to the hardworking farmers, themselves who make the business so successful. “The best part of my job is making a difference for the people who work so hard at what they do,” she says.
The owners’ meeting of the minds during that fateful dinner isn’t surprising considering their backgrounds. Wind studied computer science and hospitality management, and attended the Culinary Institute of America. Platt has a dairy farming background as well as degrees in engineering and law. With the app a proven success, they realized they wanted to bring these same great products to local consumers. Enter the F2T Box.
Similar to the Berkshire Organics produce baskets model across the river, the F2T Box is subscription based and all the details and transactions are accessible through its website. The boxes are available in three different sizes, packed with dairy, eggs, cheese, fruits, vegetables, proteins and sometimes even extras like butter and herbs (recipes included). Winn and Platt hand pick the farmers and products for their boxes, all of which are Farms2Tables network farms within 100 miles. There are six pickup locations in the Rural Intelligence region and a couple of workplace delivery stops. While some products can be eliminated and substituted to fit dietary needs, the F2T Box stays true to the idea of “local is ‘in season.’”
A packed truck on its way out for delivery.
Winn is also endeavoring to get her boxes to people who are low income with low food access. “We’re trying to get organizations to subsidize part of our boxes to make them more affordable and readily available,” she says. Since everything is harvested to order and never stored in a warehouse, farmers often send a little extra which, when not used in one of the boxes, gets donated to the Grace Smith House in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., part of Patricia and Clifford’s personal mission to help those in need.
With so much going on, I ask the couple how they manage their days and keep track of the two different businesses. “Four a.m.,” she states. The truck drivers are first on the list, so she starts her morning with phone calls, ensuring that everyone is ready to play their part in delivering fresh product. The rest of the day is a flurry of invoicing, processing payments, meeting farmers, sorting boxes, and about a million other details that would make any other person’s head spin. And yet, they plan to expand, looking to offer F2T boxes to the Boston market within a year or two.
“Our growth is a little scary,” Wind admits, “but I always wanted to have my own business and make changes for the better, so I’m excited for the future.” And if anyone can do it, I’d bet the coveted last sip of farm fresh milk on these two and the F2T Box.
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