New York Produce: Local Food Knocking At the Door

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The cattle at Quarry Brook Farms, one of Central New York Bounty's producers, are grassfed.
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Greens galore at Quarry Brook Farms, Sherburne, New York.
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Certified Naturally Grown sheep populate the farm in Sherburne, New York.

New York – Homemade bread, fresh corn, succulent beef and a refreshing glass of organic milk: All of this and much more can be delivered to your front door through Central New York Bounty as the program strives to provide fresh, local New York food to area residents. Bounty acts as a distributor and works with more than 90 small- to medium-sized farms and producers to offer a variety of locally produced items including vegetables, fruit, dairy, baked goods and meat. Bounty collects these goods directly from the producer, then home-delivers the groceries to local customers. It is a win-win situation emphasizing green and locally grown food and business.

“Bounty was created with the primary goal to give organic farmers access to local markets because many farmers in the community were not able to sell their product to local consumers,” says Steve Holzbaur, project coordinator. “Farmers either had to find somebody to distribute their products to other parts of the country or sell their products at farmers’ markets, which are seasonal.

“Most of the farmers we work with are not big enough to sell their product to a grocery store. We wanted to create a year-round farmers’ market, and give consumers the chance to support their local farmers through another marketing channel,” he says.

To remedy this situation, Chenango Bounty was created in 2007 with local and state aid to help small farmers create a sustainable market. In just over three years, Chenango Bounty has expanded to become Central New York Bounty, and now covers Chenango, Madison and parts of Onondaga counties. Holzbaur expects the program to expand to six counties of central New York within the next few years.

The Bounty staff works with local farmers to determine which products are available on a weekly basis. This information is available on the Bounty website (www.CNYBounty.com), where customers place their order between noon Friday and noon Monday. The Bounty staff collects the produce directly from local farms, then fills customer orders at their distribution center in Greene, New York. By the following Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, the fresh produce is delivered to your doorstep. The program offers free delivery at any of its drop sites or for orders totaling more than $35.

Bounty offers more than 900 products that are 100-percent locally produced. Unlike other programs, no membership fees are required from the producer or the consumer. Jody Horsman, a spokeswoman for Bounty, explains why customers enjoy using the program, “A customer can order one week without commitment to continue ordering in the future.”

Mina Takahashi, a Bounty customer and producer, is impressed with the variety of products and their prices. “You can’t go to the grocery store and have a lot of these products available. Bounty offers accessibility to what farmers are growing and making in the region – which is amazing,” she says.  

Bounty products are 99 percent organic or pesticide free. Farmers are encouraged to be certified organic or sign the Northeast Organic Farming Association pledge, which states the product is free of pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. Bounty products are also priced competitively with local health food stores. The organization offers hydroponics at a reasonable price, like a spring bouquet of romaine lettuce for only $2. That’s a lot less expensive than store-bought certified organic lettuce, which usually has national transportation costs associated with production.

Bounty’s role as a distributor has a big impact on the way consumers do their shopping.

“It took us awhile to get in the habit of shopping online through Bounty, and now I do it religiously and make fewer trips to the grocery store,” Takahashi says.

Before, producers and consumers would drive to a farmers’ market.

“Bounty absorbs that transportation cost of picking up and delivering items. This eliminates a major expense for small farmers, who are already challenged,” Horsman says. “We are also creating ‘drop sites’ for customer pickup.”

For example, one local hospital has become a drop site. Since employees already drive to work, that eliminates their trips to grocery stores. Bounty drops off the products between 3 and 4 p.m., so two shifts are able to benefit from the program.  

The ultimate goal of Bounty is to support the local farming community. It provides a year-round market for farmers’ goods, which is unlike seasonal markets.

“Bounty is key to my sales in the off-season. It also reduces my marketing and transportation costs,” says Adam Perrin, a Bounty producer.

Another perk to the program is that producers set their own prices and receive 77 percent of the retail dollar.

Holzbaur says, “That’s one of the reasons why we started Bounty, to put dollars into the farmers’ pockets.”

Bounty is one of the first programs in the nation that provides 100-percent locally produced food in a home-delivery system. “This could really serve as a model anywhere in the country,” Takahashi says.