When From the Farmer co-founders Nick Phelps and Jason Lundberg rolled out their unique Washington area enterprise three years ago, business began on a modest scale. It was a fitting launch for a farm-to-consumer purveyor linking small regional food producers with urban and suburban dwellers by providing affordable home delivery of fresh produce.
Their veritable weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of diverse top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting, as well as handcrafted bakery breads and specialties such as organic honey.
Service is offered without time-length contract commitments and is easy to turn on-and-off digitally with as little as one-day notice when necessitated by personal plans or travel. From the Farmer has become the premier service of its kind for a broad delivery area spanning D.C., Baltimore, Howard County and most of Montgomery County in Maryland, and a wide expanse of Northern Virginia locales.
Custom-made, high-quality insulated picnic-basket-style frame-and-fabric collapsible containers branded with the company logo are delivered to apartments, homes and workplaces on a designated weekday, recycling the previous container. These farm-to-kitchen packages arrive between midnight and 7 a.m., preceded by an email reminder listing six-to-10 stocked food items for menu planning.
“Transport traffic is easier” in the pre-dawn hours, explains company vice-president Phelps, allowing “more deliveries per hour. Temperatures are coolest at that time in the warm weather months and no one is waiting around for a delivery – it’s there to pick up when you wake up.”
A customization option allows specifying “none, normal or more” of each weekly item in “half, single or double bushels.” Company website “FromTheFarmerDC.com” illustrates sample volume bounties of beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, zucchini, arugula, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cantaloupe and cucumbers.
The entrepreneurial duo, in their late-20s and friends since Colorado college days, share backgrounds in business and a passion for food – both contributing to the company’s growing stature and success. Lundberg, company president, handles financial accounting and back-end operations. Phelps concentrates on sales coordination, and customer experience and service management.
Following a two-year “beta phase” start-up, the company grew rapidly in the past year while simultaneously generating extraordinary customer satisfaction. In-house delivery fulfillment and direct interaction have been essential to maintaining patron loyalty.
“Handling all aspects of service with care and attention has been very important,” notes Phelps. Staffing has grown four-fold to meet market demand in recent months, with 21 employees and plans for adding 10 or more by the end of the year.
Five staff members currently work in downtown D.C. while others receive and sort foodstuffs, prepare packages and dispatch deliveries from a suburban warehouse. The entire staff will soon be joined at a larger Beltsville, Md., combined warehouse and office facility. In addition to allowing more efficient operations and growth potential, the new space will provide an on-site test kitchen to develop recipe suggestions in advance of each week’s harvest.
“It’s really important to be able to see and touch the food every day as it comes in from partner farms,” stresses Phelps. “The only thing I enjoy more is visiting and talking with local farmers.”
Nowadays “a few thousand customers” enjoy the fruits of their labors and that of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania farmers. “The hardest thing for local farms of 200 acres or less is how to get their products out and sold,” says Phelps. “Our goal is making good, local food more accessible and supporting the regional farm economy.”
More than that, Phelps emphasizes, the entire From the Farmer team strives to create “real long-term sustainable change” in the quality of food on home plates.