Restaurants, farmers grow online R.I. connection

By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor

Consumers can seemingly buy everything online. From cars to clothing and even local produce – the Internet connects buyers and sellers in a way that has never before been possible. More

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FOCUS: TECHNOLOGY

Restaurants, farmers grow online R.I. connection

PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
PRODUCING RESULTS: Richard Schartner, owner at Schartner Farms, is participating in Market Mobile, a program that connects farmers to chefs and grocers.

By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor

Posted 5/6/13

Consumers can seemingly buy everything online. From cars to clothing and even local produce – the Internet connects buyers and sellers in a way that has never before been possible.

When Farm Fresh Rhode Island wanted to find a way to connect local restaurants and farmers, they came up with Market Mobile, a program using the power of the Web to help connect farmers to the chefs and grocers who utilize their crops.

“Restaurants and farmers both work really hard and they often work different hours, so we were trying to find a better way for them to communicate and work together,” said Hannah Mellion, food-system activator at Farm Fresh Rhode Island.

Utilizing the Market Mobile software, contributing farmers can take photos of their crops and post them on the online ordering form. Online, farmers set their own prices and everything is listed by the farm. “Farmers … are able to sell pretty much directly to their customers,” said Mellion. “We help with the delivery and the billing and the back-end sort of stuff, but farmers are able to end up with a lot more control over their prices and their product. They know exactly where things are ending up.”

Using the forms, restaurants can order from up to 63 different producers currently utilizing the program.

This way, customers can order from many different producers at one time and get it all in one order, one delivery. And farmers, instead of traveling and making 10 to 20 deliveries of week, only need to make one – to the Farm Fresh Rhode Island warehouse, where the nonprofit’s team combines orders from different farms and deliver them around the state.

“We use what we call the hub and spoke model. All the food comes into one place and then travels around the state,” said Mellion.

“You have all these little farms before like ourselves, and we might have literally six bunches of … something really unique. But how do you get something that’s worth maybe literally a $20 or $10 bill and … get that to Westerly, or how to do you get that to Boston or Providence? It’s just not economical whatsoever,” said Richard Schartner, owner of Exeter’s Schartner Farms, which participates in the program.

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