New England

App Expansion Provides New Opportunities for Vt. Farmers

An app that's expanding throughout New England is providing new opportunities for Vermont farmers to sell their products to grocery stores and other customers.

"It makes the communication faster," farmer Aly Martelle said of the Forager platform.

Forager aims to reduce headaches for farmers and their customers when it comes to the business side of agriculture, in areas like marketing and inventory management, by simplifying the way grocery stores, distributors, restaurants and institutions source locally-grown food direct from producers.

Martelle grows and harvests vegetables at the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington, She manages wholesale accounts as one of her responsibilities.

All farmers like Martelle need to do is update their pages on the platform with what's fresh and available — and provide pricing and delivery info — so buyers have a streamlined way to get her veggies.

"It could save a bunch of time," Martelle told necn. "I just have to update the list once a week, and that's instead of sending multiple emails to somebody. That's just saving me time on the computer, really, which is great."

Eli Lesser-Goldsmith owns Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington. He uses Forager to connect with producers, including the Intervale Community Farm and a hydroponic lettuce and herb grower in northern Vermont, to find a range of local products for his shelves.

"This app makes them better businesspeople," Lesser-Goldsmith observed of the farmers his store buys from. "It's more information for us the retailers, so it's a powerful tool — better for us, better for the consumer in the end."

A year ago, necn first spotlighted Forager when David Stone launched it in Portland, Maine.

"More and more local people are putting local food on their plates," Stone told necn in March of 2017. "So it's growing really fast, but the technology hasn't focused on it yet. We think we can double, triple the local food economy."

Since then, the tool has expanded into more of New England, and said Wednesday that it has crossed $1 million in wholesale food sold through the platform.

In addition to produce, entrepreneurs use the platform to sell meat, dairy products and specialty foods, such as tortillas and artisanal chocolates, Forager noted.

Aly Martelle said she hopes the tool helps the Intervale Community Farm maintain a focus on its mission.

"Trying to make healthy, organic food more accessible," the farmer said, smiling.

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