As a New Yorker, I rarely attend events in parts of New York that are not-Manhattan, but when Farmigo invited us to come see their new offices, attend the #FoodHackers meetup that they were hosting – then provided transportation to and from Manhattan – ok, that last part did tip the balance.
Farmigo is a farm-to-table food delivery service based on group purchasing:
Farmigo users are grouped together by neighborhood, with everyone ordering online and picking up their freshly-harvested orders at a designated community pick-up point each week – which is a win for both local food producers as well as customers.
Speaking of Manhattan, sorry, guys, but we’re not Farmigo’s target customer base. It’s not that we’re excluded. It’s just that green markets, farmers markets and organic produce markets are more ubiquitous in Manhattan than they are elsewhere.
“We’re community makers,” said Benzi Ronen, the company’s founder and CEO. “As an entrepreneur, you always want to have a huge impact. We want to bring local food to the mass market, and build communities We’re first and foremost a company that brings together communities.”
And nothing brings communities together like food. Especially when it’s cheaper, all locally grown and all fresh, he added.
Every great idea starts with a personal story, and Ronen’s is no different. Farmigo started life as a cloud-based software for CSAs, replacing the usual paperwork and ledgers farmers had to deal with. That part of the business never changed, but when Ronen moved to Park Slope, where he knew no one and least of all, his neighbors, he opened a new arm of the business – the farm-to-table delivery service – and it was a game-changer for him and his family, personally, and neighbors in the New York and San Francisco area who also subscribe to Farmigo.
“We started a Farmigo community – now we know everyone.”
Not only did he connect farmers to neighbors: he connected neighbors to each other and everyone to a better way to eat. When neighbors would gather to pick up their orders from the designated coordinator, it became a social occasion: Farmigoans began share recipes, exchange dishes – and got to know each other. Community became – communities..
“When Point Lookout was hit by (Hurricane) Sandy one woman started a farmigo community. Paula Lightfood in Westchester told me that her husband does poker on Wednesdays. She does Farmigo.‘”
While local New York crops may be seasonal, Farmigo is not.
“We get produce from year-round hot houses, flash freezing. We also work with fishermen, bakers…it’s not all fruits and vegetables,” Ronen pointed out. “One of our farmers sends his people to Florida, where he has a farm there. As long as we can source directly from the farms. We have to expand off-season. The more local, the better.”
It’s a model that’s better suited to the suburbs and areas where you don’t have ready or easy access to fresh food, Ronen suggested.
“It’s a new kind of economy,” Ronan continued. “A sharing economy, based on collaborative consumption. Live aggregated buying power has economic impact. And it’s the next phase of group assembly.“
From the perspective of someone who was very much on terra incognita in Gowanis, Brooklyn does qualify as a suburb of Manhattan.
The new office opened in May, a five thousand foot space two miles from the company’s warehouse in Red Hook, where the farmers bring their produce each week. And as Jay Lee, Farmigo’s Head of Community noted, now that he lives and works in Brooklyn, he rarely gets into the city anymore.
Ronen himself was born and ‘raised’ in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village – and Tel Aviv, Michigan, Seattle, San Francisco and Palo Alto. It’s no wonder that, now that he has a family of his own, he literally wants to put down roots.
Farmigo is not Ronen’s first startup. That was Octago, which he co-founded in 2000 and which was a recruitment management system. Of course, that was around the time when the first tech bubble burst and not a lot of companies were hiring.
What entrepreneur doesn’t face adversity, which was the theme of #FoodHackers (Through the Fire), which Farmigo hosted, inviting four local food entrepreneurs to share their stories and experiences about working in the New York City food world and discuss how their personal trials by fire, and what they learned from it.