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By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
PAWTUCKET – Local farms increased sales to chefs and grocers by up to 50 percent in 2012 thanks to Market Mobile, according to a release from Fresh Farm Rhode Island.
Farm Fresh’s Market Mobile “food hub” reached $1.5 million in sales for the 2012 calendar year, a sum that translates to an estimated $4 million local economic impact so far this year, according to the group.
Market Mobile is a wholesale food distribution system that helps local farmers from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut deliver fresh, local food to local chefs, grocers and schools in Rhode Island and in the Boston area.
Sixty local farmers and food producers list their fresh produce, honey, eggs, dairy and meat for sale to wholesale customers in Providence, Newport, Westerly and the Boston metro area on www.marketmobile.org, which then pools together sales, delivery and invoicing, allowing the farmers to focus on growing and harvesting their products.
Buyers have only one order form, delivery and invoice to deal with, no matter how many farms they order products from.
“It also has meant small family farms are able to grow their businesses, and chefs and groceries have access to high-quality produce. Everyone who lives and eats here can find tasty, local foods in more and more places,” said a Farm Fresh Rhode Island release.
According to the release, the idea for Market Mobile came around in a 2006 meeting between Farm Fresh Rhode Island and the Newport Restaurant Group as an easy way for restaurants to order from local farmers. Since its 2009 inception, Market Mobile has experienced “phenomenal growth” as a result of increasing demand for fresh foods as well as the ease and efficiency of the Market Mobile model.
According to Farm Fresh, through the help of Market Mobile, farmers have sold more than $3.5 million dollars of local food to nearly 300 chefs, grocery stores, hospitals, schools and other customers. The platform has also created 53 new jobs both on and off the farm and helped get fresh food to thousands of Rhode Island and Massachusetts eaters.
The Market Mobile “farm-to-table model” is currently being used across the country to help start up similar food hubs. Market Mobile was chosen as a case study for the National Good Food Network and participates in Wholesome Wave’s Healthy Food Commerce Initiative.
A 2013 expansion effort will give Farm Fresh the cooler space to allow Market Mobile farms to help grow sales another 50 percent in the next two years, said the release.