Back in the winter of 2008, Mark and Judy Dornstreich of Branch Creek Farm invited Mikey Azzara out to their Bucks County farm with a simple point: “Distribution is still the missing link between talented growers, great local product, and interested wholesale customers, particularly chefs.”
So if there was all this great local product and unmet demand, why wasn’t it happening?
As it turns out, several inherent challenges exist. That night at Branch Creek, they laid out the issues in connecting farmers with customers and discussed ways to bridge the gap.
Given Mikey’s farming background and work at NOFA-NJ (2003-2008) to connect NJ / PA growers with interested wholesale customers, Mark and Judy emphasized that he was uniquely positioned to take a more active role. At the same time, Chef Will of The Brothers Moon Restaurant in Hopewell was also nudging him; “You know all the farmers, and you know who the right customers are. Just get a truck and start doing it.”
All he needed was a truck and the local food system would be fixed, huh?
It’s certainly taken more than a truck, but Zone 7 has benefited from the support of countless individuals, farms and businesses (Branch Creek, Matt at Cherry Grove, Mike at North Slope, Gary Giberson of Sustainable Fare, etc.) that have shared our vision for a healthy food system.
Zone 7 was founded on strong relationships not only with farms, but also with customers. We’ve had to learn the ins and outs of distribution, and we couldn’t have done it without our customers’ understanding along the way. (Thanks Huntley Taverne! Thanks Frog and the Peach!)
In 2008, we started with 10 farms and picked up and delivered produce all in the same day. Today, we’re working with over 120 farms and have devised a distribution system that effectively works for both the farmer and the customer.
What allows it to work? Our system requires great growers that consistently provide the highest quality produce and customers that truly care about great local food.
We always try to keep things as easy as possible with one goal in mind: keeping the connection alive between farmer and customer.