How the Cleveland startup is boosting local food and farmers
What if eating locally sourced food wasn’t just a trend or a bonus, but a way of life? That’s the vision for Farm Fare, a Cleveland startup that created a custom software to help small farms compete with large, industrialized competitors by sharing resources and providing logistics help to keep costs down. The platform creates networks of farms and food hubs to improve distribution, data and efficiency, helping local products stay in your area.
“At Farm Fare, we help small- and medium-sized family farms, usually between 15 and 50 acres, gain access to markets like hospitals, public schools and universities,” said co-founder and CEO Cullen Naumoff. “We help regional food hubs collaborate and provide farms with data that tells them exactly what to plant based on what those institutions want to purchase. In America, four percent of farms own 70 percent of the market, and there’s something wrong with that picture. We think the future is collaborative with small farms efficiently feeding their own communities.”
Farm Fare isn’t just about tasty food or market efficiencies – the startup also takes its environmental role seriously. Naumoff said the company is focused on the sustainable and environmentally friendly aspects of local food, which makes their mission more than just a business plan.
“The United Nations recently predicted that, globally, there are only 60 harvests left, which means we only have 60 more years to produce enough food to feed the world’s population in my lifetime,” said Naumoff. “We know that big, industrial agriculture won’t work. We’re facing this global urgency, and we can use the knowledge we have to better support our own communities. We can’t just help farms get bigger and bigger. Instead, we want to support the very communities that give us our fresh food. We have a better, more equitable future in mind.”
Farm Fare was founded by Naumoff, Laura Adiletta and Daniel Conway, who each brought a different perspective to the enterprise. Naumoff had worked at food hubs and had an agricultural background, Adiletta had been a chef and food critic, and Conway co-owns Great Lakes Brewing Company. By the time the trio was sharing their idea with farms and organizations, they were receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback. The response prompted Naumoff and Adiletta to quit their day jobs and go all-in on Farm Fare’s mission.
“At the food hub, I realized there had to be a better way to connect family farms to distributors and the end customer,” said Naumoff. “We knew that a new supply chain model could support the local food economy, and we knew technology could get us there. Institutions really want to purchase locally, but they’re very price- and volume-sensitive. So, we needed a way to achieve greater efficiency, and that’s exactly what our tool does.”
For Farm Fare, the future includes expanding beyond northeast Ohio to food hubs in New York and the east coast before eventually stretching across the country. The startup is well on its way toward that growth, and has forged connections with a combination of local entrepreneurial resources like JumpStart, Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, and BrainTree, and good relationships with local food organizations and distributors. Thanks in part to an award from the Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio, they have plans to continue to scale their concept.
“Those folks have been tremendously supportive of us and believe in us, and it makes all the difference when you’re trying to get something like Farm Fare off the ground,” said Naumoff. “When you’re exploring the entrepreneurial environment, it’s like opening one door and seeing 10,000 more possibilities. These resources have been such a help in navigating which doors to open. I think you have an edge when you say, ‘I’m from Cleveland. Let me tell you about what’s happening in Ohio.’ We’re not just another Silicon Valley or New York startup.”