If you look at the statistics it appears that the days of the American small farmer are numbered. In 1935, there were just short of seven million farms dotting our nation’s fertile landscape. Today, that number has dropped to a mere two million. That decrease doesn’t correspond with a decline in overall food production – on the contrary, we’re churning out more grains, meat, and produce than ever before to feed our growing population. The difference is that in the past small farmers were the kings of agriculture but now they struggle to compete with the massive enterprises (aka factory farms) that dominate the modern agribusiness scene.
When a small farmer is quashed, we lose a lot more than just a vital fixture in the local community. We lose access to fresh, locally grown, nourishing and flavorful food. That farmer’s disappearance is linked to not only loss of economic stimulus to a local community, but has devastating consequences for insects that cohabitate with crops, namely the important honey bee. And without honey bees, our nation’s entire agri system is deeply and irrevocably impacted.
Take the Local, a start-up in Long Valley, NJ has some ambitious plans to support the Garden State’s dwindling farmer population and the communities it serves. Created by Anthony and Jonelle Hemsey, the couple drew much of their inspiration from Jonelle’s multi-generational roots in Alberta, Canada cattle ranching. Jonelle witnessed firsthand just how desperate the struggle has become for small farmers to stay afloat and with Anthony organized Take the Local to support their shared passion for preserving local agri-culture. Take The Local strives to be more than just a company – they want to encourage a movement to “create innovative, healthy and sustainable business opportunities around local farm economies.”
In speaking with their founder and director Anthony Hemsey (who happens to be a former ad executive at Deutsch and more recently an EVP at a global software firm), I learned that the Take the Local team view themselves as “half technologists and half foodies.” Take The Local wants to use modern technologies to connect local farmers with restaurateurs and individual consumers in innovative ways. The company is exploring several different avenues in pursuit of this goal, one of which involves using digital and mobile technology.
An example of this techie approach to food solutions is their FARMventory which is basically a LinkedIn-like platform designed with farmers in mind. Farmers can use this platform to list and track their inventories in real time as well as highlight the farming practice(s) they employ on their farm. It’s all in an effort to make the process streamlined, transparent, and easier for distributors, restaurants, and general consumers to see what’s available at the point of purchase. Take the Local is also working on something called AisleEatRight, an interactive food shopping platform geared towards people with special dietary needs or restrictions. Both programs are slated to launch in Q2 2014.
Take the Local also hosts Supper Clubs which are traveling dinner parties featuring local chefs who create menus using locally sourced food. These Supper Clubs are all about bringing farmers, chefs, and the community closer together. Take the Local Winter Supper Club featuring Chef Jessica Geanoules will take place on January 18, 2014 from 8:00PM to 11:00PM in Washington Township, NJ ($100/ticket). Guests will enjoy an intimate, three course meal of local seasonal fare as well as wine pairing served in a rustic setting (former lumber yard). Proceeds from the Winter Supper Club will be donated to Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Take the Local is also gearing up to launch a limited line of first run frozen food developed specifically for kids. This line has a unique tech spin, featuring packaging iconography that is scannable by smartphones that includes information on the partner farms, interviews/videos, as well as detailed dietary information for concerned consumers.
Take The Local’s model may be just the ticket for the paradigm shift that needs to take place in order to ensure a healthy and sustainable future. Retail buyers can connect with the Take The Local team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.