If there’s one trend that we hope doesn’t go out of style, it’s buying local produce. As the manufactured food industry showed its true sugar-y colors, consumers began to value fresh food and local farmers by buying locally. Grocery stores and their picture perfect produce have begun to decline in popularity for the fresher, “realer” look of locally grown food.
You only have to look to the famed farm-to-table movement in the restaurant industry to realize that people want their food fresh and local. “People want to be closer to the source. It could be food, it could be who makes your jeans, and your shoes. You see this in Philly more than other places,” says Katie DeLorenzo, Chief Solutions Officer at WeGardn, an app focused on bringing consumers and farmers closer together.
“Right now, I’ve seen a lot of inefficiencies in the food industry. Currently, everything is being flown an average of 1,500 miles award, it’s handled by an average of 33 different people, and 40% of that food isn’t even eaten when it’s brought to market,” adds WeGardn founder Greg Donworth.
Food does travel a good distance from farm to plate, on average. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, between 1968 and 1998, world food production increased by 84% and the population by 91%, but the food trade increased 184%. The report continues to state that, “Imports by airplane have a substantial impact on global warming pollution. In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
But how can you know where your food comes from? What if your best option for locally grown food is at an inconvenient location? For some areas, supporting locally sourced produce can be more effort than it’s worth. If you were to ask your average consumer to go out of their way in order to buy locally grown and raised food, you may get a less than civil retort.
Just ask DeLorenzo, “I get everything delivered. We’re increasingly moving to a subscription-based retail service. The only reason I was having to go to the grocery store was for fresh produce. Even then, grocery shopping can feel like diving into a cluster. It can be a total inconvenience.”
And that’s where WeGardn comes in.
“Our goal at WeGardn is to bring everything closer together. We want to make it so that the consumer is one step away from the producer. Rather than having this giant macro agricultural system which has inefficiencies at every level. WeGarden is going to make the consumer be given direct access to quality food.”
The purpose of the WeGardn app is to use data to connect local farmers with local consumers ranging from individuals looking for weekly groceries to businesses like restaurants and hospitals. All you have to do is scroll through WeGardn’s listings and you’ll find a list of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairies all from nearby farmers.
Not only that, but WeGardn also offers delivery 24/7. “If you want [your groceries] at 7pm on a Tuesday, you can have them at 7pm on a Tuesday.” The purpose is that if you don’t have the hours to dedicate visiting a farmer’s markets, or if the location is just too inconvenient, you can have the freshest fruits and vegetables delivered any time.
Mind you, this isn’t like GoPuff for fruits and veggies, you can’t just whip out your smartphone and order a quick cucumber at two in the morning. With WeGardn, you would need to set up a schedule. WeGardn partnered with Delivery Circle to deliver the produce on a day-by-day basis. You just pick when you want it delivered, and it’ll be there.
So, how did WeGardn come about? If you were to ask Donworth, “For me the inspiration was more environmental than personal. Regarding the current agriculture industry, the amount of carbon emissions that are contributing to global climate change is staggering.
“The idea came about when I was doing a lot of different research and looking at the agriculture industry as a whole. I saw many inefficiencies and a lot of waste. A when you look at global carbon emissions on a country-by-country basis, it would go: China, India, global food waste. It is an absolutely massive problem that most people don’t know about.”
Donworth, a recent graduate of Drexel University, started doing homework on the agriculture industry as a whole in order to fully understand its impact on climate change. He found plenty of local organic farms and farmers markets, but not many that were easily accessible to the average consumer. Or, if they were, it wasn’t advertised as clearly as it should.
“Once we are able to have a full list of grocery options, we’re going to be able to accept EBT, which is food stamps. We hope this will open a door for organic farming to consumers who wouldn’t normally have access to that kind of food. We’re trying to use food to alleviate this circle of poverty that people are currently in.”
What’s most impressive about WeGardn is that it cuts down on all the inefficiency Donworth pointed out within the agriculture industry. Remember the facts about 1,500 miles, handled 33 times, etc.? “We’re reducing that by 90% across the board. Everything we use is within 150 miles and handled 4 times. So we’re able to cut 90% out of the current food chain which is able to reduce a lot of food waste. We’re bringing the source closer to the consumer.”
How close? So close that when you look through WeGardn and select a certain vegetable, it’s harvested based on your selection. “If you buy a potato from us, it was harvested for you.”
WeGardn isn’t available just yet, but if you want to join their waiting list, you can visit their site.
There’s a lot of work yet to be done to reduce our carbon footprint. WeGardn is a step in the right direction.