Yucca, bok choy, aji peppers and other locally grown produce can be delivered straight to doorsteps of Gainesville residents through a new online delivery service run by a University of Florida student.
When Vivek Kumar began incorporating organic food into his diet, he discovered the pain of traveling to the farmers market just to get quality fruits and vegetables.
The UF finance senior said it was hard to make the weekly voyage, but he was unsatisfied with pesticide-treated produce and was unwilling to settle, so he came up with a solution.
Now, the 20-year-old entrepreneur visits the Union Street Farmers Market every Wednesday to gather produce from farmers to deliver it to residents the same day.
Kumar’s vision to change the accessibility of local produce came to life two months ago when he first launched the Farm Fresh Florida’s website.
“I found that it was kind of tough to eat organic unless you have the time commitment to go to the farmers market each week,” Kumar said. “It’s a hassle sometimes, so I thought that if it was easier, a lot more people would do it.”
Kumar said purchasing local produce maintains its freshness and reduces the pollution that transportation of shipping produce can cause. He said it also helps support nearby farms, which contribute to the local economy.
Customers can customize their online orders by first selecting a small, medium or family-sized basket and then choosing which produce they prefer. Prices range from $24 to $42.
The list of fruits and vegetables is updated weekly according to what the farmers are harvesting.
“Our plates are full, so I think it is a great opportunity for us to move our produce and to expand where the produce can reach,” said Cody Galligan, co-owner of Siembra Farm. “It’s tapping into whole new places.”
Galligan said he sells most of his produce through farmers markets, restaurants and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and sells the rest through Kumar.
Through CSA, subscribers pay at the start of the harvesting season and pick up their package at a local farmers market, whereas Farm Fresh Florida offers doorstep delivery on a noncommittal basis.
Galligan said he has mixed feelings about shopping for produce online. He prefers people be more involved, but said he still sees it as a good business opportunity for his farm.
Christine Fruin has been using Kumar’s service since its first week after reading about it on a popular food blog, Ken Eats Gainesville.
“I think it fits a need that a lot of people have,” Fruin said. “Even though CSAs are really wonderful, it was not a good fit for my particular family, and I think a lot of other people have the same hesitations for participating in them.”
She said she and her husband hesitated to join the local CSA because she was wary of the quantity of goods that come with subscribing to a farm’s harvest. Her family of three wouldn’t be able to consume a large box in one week, she said.
She also wanted to be able to choose what produce she would be receiving instead of depending on whatever was in season for a single farm.
“The ability to tailor it to your family’s size, need and tastes makes it a better choice than any of the other CSA options out there,” Fruin said.
She appreciates that it supports the local economy and makes it more convenient to get organic food, costing only a “few dollars” extra in comparison to unhealthy food options at grocery stores, she said.
Fruin said her family “freakin’ loves” the white sweet potatoes they discovered through the service and plans to continue making orders through Kumar.
“He is so personable, so committed to this,” she said. “I always wish success for people who are that personable and have such a great and new idea, and it’s something that’s healthy for people.”