Farm to People Brings New York's Small Batch Foods to a National Audience

Food Artisans

A different New York artisan every week.

Just Passing Through

[Photographs: Eunice Choi]

Many a food lover has visited a new place on vacation and fell in love with the local market. It's where we discover our new favorite maple syrup, try some cheese we've only read in magazines, or taste 15 kinds of apple at once. But what happens when you go back home and can't find those products anywhere? That's where Farm to People comes in.

At least that's what co-founder Michael Ray Rabinov is hoping. Unlike the other farm-to-door delivery services sprouting up across the country, Farm to People makes New York's small batch products available to the wider national market. Anyone can order jerky, jam, or bitters and get them via overnight delivery.

Rabinov, a native New Yorker currently on leave from his undergrad studies at NYU, hasn't come far from his days as a teen, when he worked at Hawthorne Valley Farm's booth at Union Square Greenmarket. That experience has helped him relate to vendors feeling the financial and logistical pressures that come with expanding their business.

Nordic Breads

With traditional marketing tactics, growing your own business as a market vendor is a tall order. "We don't have the time," says Beth Linskey of Beth's Farm Kitchen. "Every branch out from the market helps." Marketing demands social media and business savvy, to say nothing of an extraverted personality and intuition for selling yourself. To make matters worse, "sometimes you don't make any money doing wholesale," says Simo Kuusisto of Nordic Breads, referring to selling products to restaurants and stores. Farm to People offers an expansion for sales with tools vendors are already using, and their goal is "to make this as easy on the producers as possible." The company picks up products direct from a vendor at their Greenmarket booth or production space.

Farm to People's online store opened in September and is still growing its list of vendors and products. It currently carries around 450, including a number from the New Amsterdam Market. Most are shelf stable, non-perishable goods like Sir Kensington mayonnaise and ketchup and Sfoglini pastas, but you can also find the perishable items like Roxbury maple cotton candy when it's available.

The small Farm to People crew hopes that a move out of their rented Upper West Side studio will yield better conditions for housing more perishables, and possibly a small storefront of their own. Future plans do include going national, which means products from elsewhere around the country will also be available on the site. It'll be a handy alternative to paying people to bring us back goodies from the San Francisco Ferry Building.