This delivery truck is empty.
Start adding some amazing products!
HOW WE SUPPORT FARMERS
WE'RE NOT JUST FARMERS’ CUSTOMERS, WE’RE THEIR PARTNERS
Rueben Riehl, one of Philly Foodworks' firs partners, in his fields.
The origins of Philly Foodworks can be traced back to a phone call Dylan Baird (Philly Foodworks’ co-founder/CEO) had with Reuben Riehl in 2012. The two hit it off, discussing everything from philosophy to the struggles of running a small farm. Dylan, an urban farmer in West Philadelphia at the time, struggled to yield enough crops to meet demand. Reuben, an Amish farmer in Chester County, produced plenty of fruits and vegetables but could not find enough customers and lacked the staff, time, and resources to travel to Philly’s open-air markets.
Soon after his conversation with Reuben, Dylan and his business partners founded Philly Foodworks in an effort to help farmers in similar situations get their sustainably grown produce in the Philly-area consumer market. Since then, Philly Foodworks has become a leader in our local food system, focused not only on selling the delicious fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, and other food products our region has to offer, but also on building partnerships with growers and producers to help them thrive for years to come.
Here are the ways we are partnering with producers to build a local food system in Philadelphia.
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 discuss pricing with farmers at the beginning of the year and do not change what we are paying for product unless both sides agree it is in everyone’s best interest.
When our company was newly formed, Philly Foodworks and Rehil Family Farms worked together to create the Honey Brook Harvest Collective, an aggregation hub based on the Rehil Family Farm, which handles the cleaning, packaging, and distribution of fresh-grown produce from 12 farms in the Honey Brook area. By consolidating these tasks that require a lot of overhead (coolers, trucks, packing equipment, etc.), the Honey Brook Harvest Collective has opened up opportunities for small farmers to sell their goods in and around Philadelphia.
We have since 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.
John Glick in his high tunnel explaining his process.
CROP PLANNING & COLLABORATION WITH FARMERS
John Glick's greens in the PFW member financed greenhouse.
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.
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.
Next up, we’re planning to expand this system to nearby farmers in New Jersey!
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 financed seed, greenhouses, coolers, and even a truck..
To date PFW members have financed essential equipment and education for our farmers, including:
Greenhouses—Philly Foodworks has financed three greenhouses. One of those was for one of our longtime farming partners, John Glick, which enabled him to extend his season for raspberries and tomatoes and supply the Philly Foodworks market with more fresh produce throughout the year. We just secured funding for a second Greenhouse at John’s which will be fully heated, allowing him to grow in the ground during the dead of winter, and enabling him to expand his offerings even more—including some crops exclusively for PFW!
A truck—Used to aggregate food in Honey Brook and bring produce down to Philadelphia
A cooler—Used to store produce before it is sent to market
Washing equipment—Items like an industrial salad spinner and barrel washers for cleaning root crops make the labor-intensive practice of washing and packing produce incredibly efficient.
Farmer education—In 2016, PFW members financed a trip for six Amish farmers to travel to Harvest Valley Farms outside of Pittsburgh and meet with head farmer, Dave King, who specializes in season extension. Dave provided valuable information for the farmers to bring back to their own farms to help them grow delicious produce for PFW members.
Garlic seed—In 2017, we financed one acre of garlic at Taproot Farm. Taproot harvested and sold half an acre and kept the other half to build their own seed bank so the crop can begin to adapt to the microclimate of their farm and develop resilience particular to their region. This also allowed them to save money on next year's garlic seed.