East Lyme — Rosemary Ostfeld fell in love with farming one summer while working at White Gate Farm, and now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic she hopes to help local consumers connect with nearby organic growers through her website Healthy PlanEat.
“A lot of farmers markets have shut down,” she said. “It shows how important our local food systems are.”
The idea behind Healthy PlanEat is to connect consumers and small businesses to farms in their area by allowing them to order products online and then pick them up a day or two later, either at the farm, a farmers market or a local pop-up event.
Ostfeld, an assistant professor at Wesleyan University with a Ph.D in land economy, built a rudimentary site on her own last year and had done some initial testing of the concept, then in January launched a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign that didn’t raise the required funding. Now, she’s more than three-quarters of the way through a $10,000 Indiegogo fundraiser that would help pay for a vastly improved website by an experienced team of developers.
Her initial concept was to develop an app that would allow customers to order items and farms to track the orders. But she has since discarded the app idea and is working with a Seattle website developer, looking forward to being ready to launch the startup once the growing season is fully under way this summer.
“I believe in organic farming and sustainable agriculture,” said Ostfeld, a 2006 graduate of Eat Lyme High School. “I want to help increase access to healthy and sustainable food.”
Ostfeld pointed out that Connecticut is the home to more than 5,000 farms. Her concept would allow for each farm to create its own page where it would list available products, prices and hours and places for pickup.
She has been working with several Connecticut farms to develop the website, including Provider Farm in Salem. She also has held a pop-up event with Starlight Garden in Durham that allowed people to pick up produce at Kidcity Children’s Museum in Middletown.
Ostfeld said the website will allow farmers to upload inventory, manage Community Supported Agriculture programs and track incoming orders. The hope is to be able to expand quickly into Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York after a local launch, then build from there. Healthy PlanEat would make money by taking a commission on each sale through the website.
Farmers interested in being part of the website can email email@example.com.
“I’m hoping it takes hold,” she said. “I’m eager to reach large audiences of people interested in organic, locally grown food.”
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