Bringing Produce to the People
How Field Goods Changes Business-As-Usual
By Jodi La Marco
Part delivery service, part CSA, Hudson Valley-based Field Goods is getting locally-grown produce into the hands of consumers in a whole new way. As with a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, customers receive a weekly assortment of fruits and vegetables grown by area farmers. The selection depends on what’s in-season, but Field Goods’ model offers more choices than a traditional CSA. In addition to the week’s allotment, subscribers can purchase more of the things they want through the Field Goods website, as well as other goods such as eggs, bread, cheese, yogurt and pasta—all of which are sourced from nearby producers.
“What makes the product unique is really how it’s farmed. We stay within the northeast because we believe that trying to eat as seasonally as you can is important,” says founder Donna Williams. The bulk of Field Goods’ produce comes from farms in the Schoharie Valley, the Hudson Valley, Columbia County, and Essex County. In the spring and winter, some of Field Goods’ fruits and veggies are sourced from New Jersey where the growing season begins earlier than in New York State.
Although the selection of what goes into a weekly bag of produce depends on what’s available locally, delivery doesn’t stop after the fall harvest. “You’d be surprised at how late in the season you can still get field crops, depending on the weather. We also use greenhouse products and storage crops. In the winter, we offer frozen items that we get from the Farm Bridge which is based in Kingston. We may even do things like polenta or canola oil, or other local products that we can put in the weekly bag,” Williams explains.
The other component of what makes Field Goods special is how it gets its product to consumers. Customers pick up their weekly share and any add-ons they have purchased at group distribution locations. This, says Williams, is what makes Field Goods different. “There’s all of these home delivery schemes, and that can work in a dense urban area, but it doesn’t work in the suburbs. So, how do you get that local food to people in Clifton Park who may be too busy for farmers markets? I thought, why not approach companies and see if they would be interested in having Field Goods delivered to their location, so that their employees could have easy access to local produce at a really great value. Companies have a vested interest in improving the health and wellness of their employees, as well as sustainability in their local communities,” Williams explains.
The idea for Field Goods came out of work Williams did for the Greene County Industrial Development Agency. “They had asked me to do an agricultural incubator study because they wanted to grow small farming in Greene County.There was a huge demand for local produce, but there wasn’t a distribution option that would really maintain the integrity of a small farm. We had farmers markets and CSA, but at a certain point, those options are limited,” she says.
To date, the company has distributed more than $6 million worth of locally-grown produce since launching in 2011, which has had measurable effects on both area farmers and the eating habits of customers. The Sage Colleges in Troy found that weekly subscribers increased the amount of vegetables they consumed by 10 percent. Customers also reported that they were making fewer trips to the grocery store, and that their grocery bills had dropped about $20 per month on average.
Not only does buying from Field Goods encourage a healthier diet, it’s good for farming, too. Last year, the company conducted a survey of its supplying farms. The 25 farmers who responded reported that their acreage had grown 180 percent since working with Field Goods, and that the company had a significant part in that growth.
Field Goods also strives to have a positive impact on the communities it services. Although the majority of customers pick up their share where they work, deliveries are also brought to public locations. “Because we have these community locations, we have a fundraiser program for schools and libraries where we add a dollar to the cost of the bag, and then collect the money for them so they can use it for their own fundraising,” Williams says. “A good chunk of our promotional programming is really spent in the local communities with our partners.”
Field Goods also eagerly hires disabled workers. In 2016, the company was given the Statewide National Disability Employment Awareness Month award. “On the topic of hiring the disabled, they serve us more than we serve them. They’re some of our best and long-standing employees. The goal is to find the right job for the right person,” Williams says.
In just six years, Field Goods has spread to three states, and pickup locations are both widespread and plentiful. Since there’s no signup or subscription fee, customers are free to start or stop deliveries whenever they wish at no cost. The size of weekly shares range from portions suitable for an individual ($16), to family bags designed to feed three to five people ($32) and even come with recipe ideas specific to the week’s selection of fruits and veggies. To check out Field Goods for yourself, visit their website at field-goods.com.