Small Farm Fresh
733 1/2 N Dillon St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release
April 3, 2013
LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, Small Farm Fresh, a hybrid of tech startup and food company that is revolutionizing local produce sourcing, announces its availability in Los Angeles for restaurants, institutions, green-grocers and buying clubs to source produce from local farms using its proprietary technology and delivery service.
Small Farm Fresh bolsters local food systems by connecting restaurants with local, small-scale farms. Unlike traditional purveyors, Small Farm Fresh does not own warehouses where food sits and loses nutrients, taste, and quality over time. Instead, Small Farm Fresh sources produce directly from farmers on the day of restaurant delivery. Proprietary algorithms distribute orders among local farms – even using automated text messaging to reach farmers in the field – to ensure order fulfillment by growers who have the product in their real-time crop inventory. Orders are dropped off at farmers’ markets where farmers are already congregating, and couriers deliver the produce originating from multiple farms to the customer.
Michael Falso, Sous Chef at M.A.K.E., a Matthew Kenney Cuisine restaurant in Santa Monica, has been using the Small Farm Fresh system during its beta period. Says Falso, "Small Farm Fresh is an amazing service that brings to us the freshest produce possible at the peak of season in a timely, reliable manner. Essentially, it takes the guess work and frustration out of sourcing the freshest possible ingredients consistently—literally bringing the farmers' market to restaurants."
A typical Small Farm Fresh order may source produce from five to ten farms to fulfill a single restaurant’s order. It works well because the system is completely automated. By contrast, the overhead for a restaurant to coordinate with five to ten farmers to put together a single day’s order is prohibitive, leaving restaurants to source most of their produce through traditional purveyors. Due to this overhead, restaurants that use farmers’ market produce typically only source specialty items that will be noticed by their customers as having come from the market. Commodity products and large-volume orders are most often still fulfilled by traditional purveyors whose product is stored in warehouses until it is ordered by the restaurant. Small Farm Fresh’s technology eliminates the headache and overhead of coordinating with multiple farmers, making it possible for restaurants to rely on their local farms to fulfill all of their daily produce sourcing needs, even commodity items and large-volume orders.
The lean operation also allows Small Farm Fresh’s prices to be competitive with traditional food purveyors. Says Dan Chak, Small Farm Fresh's founder and CEO,“A traditional middle-man has more costs than we do, so we can beat prices even though our product is so fresh it literally just came out of the ground. We don’t use or pay for warehouses, and we don’t maintain a truck fleet. When food is truly local, the price for high quality food can be very affordable.”
Says Chak, “Our order processing system allows us to work with farmers who are too small to be interesting to bigger food companies. These farms’ small size allows them to follow traditional farming practices that are more sustainable than what is now termed ‘conventional farming.’” Not all of the thirty farms working with Small Farm Fresh are certified organic, but most use only natural fertilizers created on the farm, and are light- or no-spray. Continues Chak, “Our ordering system allows restaurants to set preferences for farmers whose produce they like, or to filter out farms that use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. It’s incredibly flexible.”
Darby Aldaco, General Manager of Brite Spot Family Restaurant in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, says, “We added a seasonal Farmers' Market Salad to our specials menu using items from Small Farm Fresh's local farms. We ordered some really nice yellow carrots, asparagus, and beautiful heirloom tomatoes. The salad beat out our Cobb Salad, which has always been the #1 salad. Now we're looking to get more of our everyday items from Small Farm Fresh because the quality is so high and the price is similar to what we've been paying.”
Says Chak, “Our mission is critical because since the 50s, the number of farms in the U.S. has been cut in half while the average size of farms has doubled. Families that support themselves through farming and sell their produce at farmers’ markets have a tough time competing. Purveyors that buy in volume to sell to restaurants and institutions often source their produce from other countries where labor is cheap. There is a high hidden cost in transporting food around the world. The average vegetable consumed in the United States travels 1,200 miles before it lands on your plate, which is bad for the environment, and ultimately bad for the food itself.”
Small Farm Fresh currently operates in Los Angeles, but has expansion plans for the entire country. Small Farm Fresh’s current member farms drive to farmers markets from San Diego to Santa Barbara, making those the next likely delivery areas. The number of participating farms increases weekly, expanding diversity of product and improving pricing on all products. The current farms that restaurants can access through Small Farm Fresh’s ordering interface include:
Restaurants sign up at http://www.smallfarmfresh.com. They enter basic information about their delivery address. Small Farm Fresh gets in touch with the restaurant to set up payment terms and complete the establishment of the account. Once the restaurant is verified, orders are set up online through Small Farm Fresh’s desktop- and mobile-friendly web interface. Customers can establish standing orders for each day of the week for items they know they need regularly. Orders can be adjusted before delivery, but the restaurant can rest easy knowing deliveries are scheduled weekly with no need for intervention on their part. Restaurants can also create one-time orders for special events. This type of ordering is especially useful for caterers who want to use Small Farm Fresh. A virtual tour of the local farms' ordering service is available on the website.
Farms can sign up online at http://www.smallfarmfresh.com. Small Farm Fresh is currently picking up at Los Angeles markets, but farms outside of the Los Angeles area are welcome to register now to be first in line to sell through the Small Farm Fresh platform the minute coverage extends to their area.
Small Farm Fresh, LLC incorporated in January 2013. Its mission is to support local food systems and help small-scale, family-owned farms find a robust market for their products.
Small Farm Fresh’s founder and CEO, Dan Chak, has a vision to reshape how food is distributed using technology to coordinate complex logistics. Chak, an MIT computer science graduate, was a software engineer at Amazon.com, Director of Software Engineering at CourseAdvisor Inc (acquired by the Washington Post), and Vice President of Software Engineering at Fluent Mobile (now Fiksu) and Oblong Industries. Chak, an amateur chef who has also written a book on software development and lectured on database optimization, saw a number of inefficiencies in how food is sourced, leading to the Small Farm Fresh concept.
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 Image from Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill by Imhoff, D., 2012. Source: USDA Economic Research Service: Structure and Finances of US Farms, 2010 Family Farm Report. Used with permission of the author.