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MISSION AND VISION
Philly Foodworks is an online market and farm share program that is dedicated to creating a sustainable local food system for the Greater Philadelphia region.
Having started out as urban farmers ourselves, we understand the rewards and challenges of growing food, and we are committed to building a better distribution network between farmers/producers and consumers in our area.
what we do
Make High-Quality, Sustainably Produced Food Available to Consumers Year-Round.
Shop a la carte or select one of our unique subscriptions. In our online market, we offer the largest selection of local food in the Greater Philadelphia region (including fresh produce, meats, cheeses and other dairy products, baked goods, pantry items and prepared foods, and home and beauty products)—plus fully customizable farm share boxes.
We choose our market vendors by evaluating the quality of their products, the health and safety of their workers, and the farms’ or companies’ environmental impact. For the majority of the year our food is sourced within a 150-mile radius of Philadelphia. During the drought of winter we source elsewhere, but our high standards of production never change. Whenever we can’t source locally, we choose items that have the most direct path to us, and we never introduce non-local items that will compete with products from our local farmers. Some of our farmers grow organically but are uncertified, some use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) growing methods, and some are pursuing Certified Naturally Grown status (a less costly alternative to USDA Organic).
Support Local Farmers & Producer
We work with a diverse group of farmers and producers to navigate the challenges faced by producing outside of the mainstream commodity food system. While most Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs run only during prime growing seasons, our year-round farm shares and food subscriptions provide small-scale farmers and producers with financial support when they need it the most. We also coordinate the transportation of food from the farms to our warehouse, making the process as efficient as possible, and we collaborate closely with growers to reduce crop overlap and help set them up for success in future growing seasons.
Increase Food Access for Those in Need
The food we sell reflects the real cost of production, which often makes it inaccessible to some of our neighbors. To help bridge that gap, we have built relationships with local food cupboards and have worked with Philly-area organizations to distribute food to those in need via fundraising drives, donations, and charity events.
In 2019, we partnered with Greensgrow Farms to build a scalable model that will make farm shares available to beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) throughout Philadelphia. In this joint effort, SNAP members are responsible for 50% of the food costs, and, together with Greensgrow, we subsidize the remaining 50% with grants and donations. Click here to learn more about our SNAP farm share program. Philly Foodworks members can contribute to this program by making a one- time donation or subscribing to make a recurring contribution.
How We're different
Fair Prices & Efficient Transportation Routes
Unlike many traditional distributors that demand exclusivity and leverage competition to get the lowest-possible prices, we keep farmers’ well-being at the center of our business model. We allow our growers and producers to sell to whomever they want and encourage them to do what is best for their businesses. We have established a network of aggregation hubs where multiple farmers in certain areas can deliver products to be transported in consolidated deliveries to our warehouse in Philadelphia. And we cover the cost of trucking! This not only reduces the carbon footprint and allows smaller farmers to access the city market, but it also allows farmers to keep more of their profits to invest back in their business . . . or hey, maybe even go on vacation!
Investments in Producer Operations
Another way we support farmers and producers is by helping them make investments in their day-to-day operations. In the past, we have provided financing for seed, greenhouses, coolers, and even a truck for various farms. In 2019, we are in talks to help finance another greenhouse for one of our farmers, which will help us guarantee a steady crop of greens throughout the winter.
Crop Planning & Collaboration with Farmers
In 2018, we launched a project aimed at increasing the diversity of our products and locking in seasonal orders far in advance. The result was a giant spreadsheet detailing the specific crops each of our farmers grow, roughly how much they will be planting for upcoming seasons, and the approximate time they plan to harvest. When he noted overlapping crops among different farms, our produce buyer, Loren, collaborated with the farmers to choose different varieties or later planting times so Philly Foodworks won’t have to turn away any of our farmers’ crops due to excess supply, and so excess crops won’t go to waste in the fields due to lack of demand. As a bonus, this also means that we’ll have an even wider range of produce in the coming seasons, as well as longer availability of items due to staggered plantings among different farms. For the farmers, it means that they have a guaranteed market for their products and the support (both financial and strategic) to try new varieties—like Black Nebula carrots and Sichuan Red Beauty radishes, for instance.
Thanks to Loren’s efforts, we now have a system for coordinating farmers and availability and a tool that helps us plan our inventory for the year (even into winter greens!). Our farmers know when they’ll get paid, and we know when we’ll have new products. It’s the ultimate win-win!
We are currently working with 10 different farmers and farmer collectives, and we’re in talks with others who will hopefully join Philly Foodworks soon. Because of our efforts to collaborate with farmers, reduce overlap, and increase crop diversity, here’s what we’ll be able to offer customers in the coming seasons:
- More sweet potato varieties
- Specialty produce such as okra, artichokes, husk cherries, avalanche beets, Cheddar cauliflower, fennel, and figs
- More pepper varieties (Padron, cayenne mix, habanero, Tennessee cheese, yummy, shishitos, cherry hots, long hots, bull’s horn). In 2018, we had 12 sweet and 7 spicy varieties; in 2019, we’re projecting 16 sweet and 9 spicy varieties.
- More varieties of beans (in 2018, we had 3 different varieties; in 2019, we’re projecting 6 different varieties, including tongue of fire, Italian Romas, and fresh limas)
- More winter squash (extended the season by diversifying varieties)
- More varieties of greens (baby broccoli raab, baby mustards, baby beet greens, scarlet kale, Asian mix, chicory/radicchio, endive, and escarole) (locked in weekly runs of baby greens September - Feb)
Next up, we’re planning to expand this system to nearby farmers in New Jersey!