Internet-based grocery shopping has long been a norm for many city dwellers. From FreshDirect to AmazonFresh, busy people have found ways to incorporate an otherwise time-consuming routine (drive to the store, park the car, grab your items, wait in line, drive home), into their daily lives. More savvy city slickers will avoid the plastic-wrapped heads of broccoli for the fresher mounds of produce driven by growers themselves to farmers markets. But what if we told you that farmers don’t enjoy that weekly routine?
“[Farmers] don’t like waking up at 3 in the morning and leaving the farm and bringing the food out,” Michael Winik, co-founder of OurHarvest says. “They’re not sure what they’re going to sell, if they’re going to sell it. It’s a stressful experience for a lot of farmers.”
To anyone browsing the website, OurHarvest is just another online grocery platform. What sets them apart are the harvested-only-hours-ago strawberries. OurHarvest’s promise is to bring literally farm-fresh food to your door in a win-win situation for consumers and farmers. Connecting consumers to their food isn’t the only good Winik’s doing. For every order made at OurHarvest, a meal is donated to a local food bank.
“We’ve created a system where the farmer gets paid more, customers get a better deal and better food and the community wins,” Winik says. “The way we work with most of our farms is that you place you order, our farmers will harvest, we grab that food, bring it back to our central facility where your bag gets packed and delivered. So some of those items will have been harvested as recently as the day you placed the order.”
Winik, a former investment banker, walked out of Whole Foods one day with a receipt for $150 worth of groceries that only amounted to four meals for two people. It was then he realized the system needed reworking. After he left his job, Winik spent a year studying the intricacies of the traditional grocery store system, which he says are convoluted and leave farmers with not much profit.
“The farm sells produce to someone, who sells it to someone, who sometimes sells it to someone, who then sells it to the grocery store. In this system, farmers are paid pennies on the dollar for the retail price. All the people in between including the grocery store take everything else.”
With OurHarvest, farmers make 50-60% off the retail price.
Based out of Long Island, New York, OurHarvest works with more than 120 small family farms and delivers to the greater New York area. When the company started three years ago, only five farms decided to join the system.
“Everyone’s heard the story of some banker coming in and taking the farm, which is obviously not what I did,” Winik laughs.
Once the first five were on board, word got out and spread like wildfire, to the point where the company is bombarded with emails from farmers writing to join. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill average farmers either. Winik boasts that the farms he works with were picked for their quality or rarity of produce grown. Think flowering chives, sprouted chickpeas and some of the best damn strawberries you’ve ever tasted (a gift he brought along to Food Republic headquarters).
“We curate the experience for the costumers that whatever you get is going to be the best in breed across all farms in the area,” Winik says.”
Winik also says that a subscription box is currently in the works, as is expansion to New Jersey, Philadelphia and Boston.