Our Background

What’s the urgency?

Everyone eats, and we want people to be able to access healthy, fresh food in the years to come.

With the average farmer in the U.S. 60 years old[1], 52% of U.S. farmers not reporting a profit[2], and the prevalent food industry contributing to the top environmental, economic and health problems of today[3], we’re driven by these questions:

This isn’t about organics over chemicals, or small versus big. This is about getting healthy food into the regular, mainstream food supply.

It’s time for us to work harder, together. We’re here partnering with long-standing organizations in the field to lay the foundation of stronger connections and community for our shared mission.

 

How we got here

Our team has been focused on sustainable agriculture for over a decade.  In 2007, we launched a software platform for farmers to manage sales to chefs and distributors, and we rapidly signed up farmer members across more than 25 states.

Soon, however, it became clear that regional produce sales weren’t increasing despite our regional marketplace, and that there are much more complex issues in the food system.

FarmsReach’s Regional Produce Supply Chain Convening in 2010 revealed many of the systemic obstacles in the industry, and that many initiate on the farm: farmers’ need for capital, technical assistance, and better business skills.

Based on these findings, we turned our focus to where we can have the most impact: helping the first link in the supply chain, farmers.

 

Role models

Our approach is not new. It’s based on established social enterprises in Asia and Europe, both of which have been very impactful in rehabilitating the economic situation of farmers by offering some revenue-generating services to then subsidize their other community-building and education programs.

Following their proven success, we are here to foster connections, empower partner organizations, and amplify the collective effort – ultimately helping farmers above all else.

 

Our founder

Melanie Cheng is the founder of FarmsReach as well as the nonprofit organization Om Organics. She operated the first farmers market-to-restaurant co-op in San Francisco in 2002, and developed the Om Organics website – a resource for consumers to learn about organic agriculture and find sustainably grown foods in the SF Bay Area.

In 2010, Melanie was curator of the Food Systems track at the international Social Capital Markets Conference, and authored the Building Regional Produce Supply Chains white paper. Before entering the agriculture industry, she developed training and educational materials for Cisco Systems and a university book publisher. melaniec@farmsreach.com

 

Our structure & funders

As of January 2015, FarmsReach split into two complementary parts: FarmsReach Community, a nonprofit entity, focused on strengthening ties and information-sharing among the farming community via this web platform; and FarmsReach Marketplace, a for-profit entity, focused on developing a curated marketplace for farmers to learn about, evaluate, and purchase products and technologies – initially for managing water and soil nutrients, and sustainable seed.

FarmsReach Community is funded by foundation and government grants; FarmsReach Marketplace is backed by a few benevolent angel investors, who are themselves long-time advocates and owners of sustainable food enterprises, and who support the Slow Money principles.


[1] According to USDA NASS, average age of farmers in 2012 was 58.3 years old.

[2] According to USDA NASS, 52% of farms reported a net loss.

[3] According to International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD; co-sponsored by FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, the World Bank & WHO): Agriculture At A Crossroads, 2008.

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