Eating locally just got easier
Joshua Bowen and FreshFix
Joshua Bowen of FreshFix
[Please note; this interview was published in Spree August, 2018, so some facts cited in the interview have likely changed. What has not changed is that Fresh Fix is still offering boxes of locally grown produce and artisan foods for no-contact home delivery. Visit freshfix.com.)
Today, urban and suburban Western New Yorkers are fortunate to have access to locally raised food via CSAs, a glut of farmers markets, and supermarkets that finally stock local produce after recognizing increased customer interest. It wasn’t always that way. Better late than never, right? But the domestic landscape for these developments has changed dramatically.
Americans eat very differently today. We spend more money in restaurants then we do at supermarkets. Many of those who cook get their groceries and recipes in the form of weekly kits like Blue Apron or use delivery apps like Big Cartel. It seems we as Americans have changed how we feel about food in myriad ways: we want and expect fresh, good tasting, and healthy food, but few of us have the time to plan, shop, and prepare it for our families week after week.
This change, which is occurring alongside our renewed interest in farm-fresh and local foods, has presented a real conundrum for some, including farmers. How can their produce become part of our regular diets if we are shopping differently and cooking less frequently?
Locally, Joshua Bowen and wife Lucy Leone of FreshFix are answering that question for Western New Yorkers. Now two years old, FreshFix sources local vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, eggs, and some value-added goods (like bread and bagels from BreadHive and ferments from Barrel + Brine), and delivers them to the homes of its customers once a week. FreshFix purchases its stock from over a dozen farms and is flexible enough that it puts a lot of the decision making in the hands of its customers.
Photo by kc kratt
How did you become interested in farms and farm-fresh food?
My wife Lucia is a faculty member in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and studies barriers to fruit/vegetable intake. Research on fruit/vegetable consumption shows one of the biggest reasons people don’t eat fruits/vegetables is taste. We’ve found that working with local farms provides a higher quality, better tasting product that would entice people to eat more.
So, that inspired you to begin FreshFix?
Actually, she convinced me that Buffalo needed a more flexible approach to the traditional CSA model. No one else was doing it yet, unlike where we are from in North Carolina, where this business model is pretty popular. When we were in North Carolina, she started a nonprofit to bring fresh, local food to lower-income and underserved communities. They ran a mobile produce market called the Veggie Van which was partially supported by a business called the Produce Box that delivered produce to households across the state. FreshFix is based on the Produce Box model; my wife would like to use this business as a jumping point to support other socially minded spin-offs.
For the unaware, how does FreshFix differ from a traditional CSA?
FreshFix offers many conveniences that you don’t find with a traditional CSA. A few of them include:
There is no large up-front cost of money necessary. Many households cannot afford a $500 initial payment.
There is no commitment. Customers pay a small $20 membership fee to get started and then pay for their orders week to week. They can skip any weeks they want and only pay for the foods they receive.
Box flexibility. We offer multiple boxes to choose from, including all organic options. We also allow customers to swap out items their family doesn’t eat. New this year is that customers can fully customize their order.
We deliver directly to homes and offices throughout Buffalo! Most CSAs use predetermined drop-off points and times. Customers can add locally sourced items such as meats, cheeses, fresh bread and pastries, pickles, jams, coffee, etc. to their order whenever they want.
How many customers do you have currently? Is scaling in your future?
We currently have around 200 customers/week, with plans to more than double that in 2018. We believe our model appeals to a wider segment of people and we hope to see significant growth year over year.
How many farms and artisans are you working with?
We currently work with upward of eighteen local farms for produce, three farms for meats, and six local artisan suppliers. We are always looking for new and interesting add-on items.
Do you use the 100-mile rule?
Absolutely, and even that’s a stretch. The vast majority of our produce is sourced within forty miles of Buffalo.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about Buffalo’s food scene?
Farmers and producers are extending their season and getting creative. The expansion of urban farmers and producers is really great! We have hydroponic greens and mushrooms being grown in repurposed warehouses around the city. When FreshFix began, we never thought we’d sell all-local produce year-round, but this year we will!