When the safer-at-home order went into effect in March and restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms, the economic impact extended well beyond that sector of the service industry. It disrupted the food-supply chain. With restaurants shuttering or just operating for curbside carryout, small farms suddenly lost their sales outlets. Ripon’s Avrom Farm was one of those purveyors deeply affected.
But Avrom’s owner, Hayden Holbert, turned the tumble into an opportunity when he launched an online marketplace. The farm, set on 40 acres near Green Lake, has focused on small-scale organic produce and pasture-raised pigs and chickens and supplies pork to Milwaukee’s Iron Grate BBQ.
By making their products available online – and partnering with other Wisconsin farms offering goods such as cheese, handmade pasta and organic flour – Avrom has created a new avenue for business.
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Customers shop and pay online (avromfarm. com/store), and farm employees deliver the goods directly to their homes in various parts of the state, including Milwaukee. They require a $35 minimum per order, and orders under $125 have a $9 shipping fee.
Holbert thinks this is the wave of the future for small farms. Unlike with CSAs, there’s no commitment, no buying of “shares” and no superfluous amounts of a certain crop. Holbert had tried running a CSA before but determined it “doesn’t really increase access [to local food] because it doesn’t work for everyone,” adding that he sees the marketplace as a year round model.
Milwaukee Farmers United is another enticing model that delivers fresh Wisconsin foods right to the home. It works differently from Avrom but is just as easy. The company aggregates products from multiple farms – cheeses from Clock Shadow Creamery, edible fungi from Mushroom Mike, among others – into an online platform (milwaukeefarmersunited.com). There’s no subscription fee to sign up, shipping is free with a $20 minimum, and deliveries are made twice a week. It, too, operates year-round. Removing barriers to getting healthy, local food, as these businesses are doing, is needed now more than ever.