Direct marketing arrangements such as the popular community supported agriculture (CSA) systems across the country eliminate intermediaries. A greater portion of every food dollar remains on the farm – and families in urban areas are able to know and support their local farmer.
Now online innovators are stepping up to expand on the idea by helping farmers market their produce directly to consumers on the web.
The San Francisco startup Farmigo allows consumers to find and buy produce and meat from local farms online. The food is then delivered directly from farms to pick-up locations in the neighborhood.
Farmers like Annie Salafsky of Helsing Junction Farm near Olympia, WA report that they have effectively used Farmigo’s streamlined online customer registration, and have also built their own web store to sell additional products. They pay the 2% of farm sales to Farmig.
Farmigo is currently building a database of farms and their growing practices, making it possible, for instance, to find a place to buy a tomato grown without synthetic pesticides. So far, the site has such information for several hundred farms.
Another San Francisco startup, Good Eggs Inc., aims to develop an online tool to "make local food even more convenient than typical grocery shopping" by providing information about where local foods are available and helping local producers sell their products via mobile apps and email newsletters. They even provide recipes.
These are just some of the direct marketing schemes crucial to family farmers. Direct marketing, and local and regional food markets, increase farm income and create jobs – both essential for the well-being of agricultural communities across the country.
A 2011 study from the US Department of Agriculture reported, for example, that marketing of local foods, via both direct-to-consumer and intermediated channels, grossed $4.8 billion in 2008.