Acme Farms + Kitchen (Part 1 of 2)
Last week I mentioned the reduced access to locally grown foods during the winter months when the Farmers Markets are closed. This week, in following up on a suggestion from Marvin Fast at Red Barn Lavender Farm, I discovered a new business which provides a perfect solution–Acme Farms + Kitchen (AF+K).
Joy Rubey, one of the founders of Acme Farms + Kitchen, explained to me that she and her business partner Cara Piscitello are moms who wanted to know where the food they fed their families came from. They wanted to know how it was raised, and they wanted to eat as sustainably as possible. As they began to seek out locally grown food, they realized it’s not always easy to find or purchase. Joy’s husband Dustin is also a farmer, so they were aware of the problems from that perspective, too–difficulty getting farm products to market, the time involved in making deliveries, etc.
What they came up with to simplify the process is nothing short of brilliant from this locavore’s perspective. Essentially, it’s an online CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, with optional delivery service to Bellingham, Ferndale, and a few other locations.
Here’s how it works. Most CSAs require payment for a season in advance. AF+K requires only a $30 “membership fee”, which provides seed money to their lead farmer, Billy Tate (Moondance Farm, Acme). Billy’s farm grows most of the produce AF+K offer. That fee qualifies you as a member for a season (about 22 weeks).
On Friday, AF+K emails all their members with information about what proteins will be available the next week. Beef, poultry, pork, and wild salmon are all possibilities. Based on that information, members log into the AF+K website store and order the Turf or Surf options, as well as any other products they want included in their delivery. The basic food packages are large and small “locavore” boxes, similar to what you’d get in most other CSA programs, but with a twist. AF+K boxes include dinner menus and recipes utilizing the week’s ingredients. The small box includes at least three meals and the large box includes five meals (based on a family of four).
Besides seasonal local organic produce, the boxes currently include a loaf of bread from Breadfarm Bread, a wedge of cheese from Samish Bay Cheese or Gothberg Farms, a pound of pasta from Bellingham Pasta Company, one dozen pasture raised eggs, a dairy selection (cream, yogurt, ice cream), a rotating pantry item (dried beans, honey, flour, pancake mix, etc.), and a selection of 2 meats/proteins (either grass fed beef, pastured pork or chicken, wild fish). There’s even vegetarian and gluten-free options on the small locavore boxes.
In addition to the locavore boxes, AF+K has supplemental products members can order as well–frozen fruit, for example, or pantry items like pesto sauce or roasted red pepper sauce, most made with local produce. Other products include meal kits, assembled by AF+K and complete with recipes. The assortment of products to choose from is really amazing.
Members place their orders and pay for the week online by Monday, and then orders are delivered by AF+K on Wednesdays. Food can be picked up at area pickup points or delivered to areas on AF+K’s routes. Interestingly, schools are a popular delivery point. Joy says a lot of their members are teachers.
As you may have noticed, not everything they carry is grown in Whatcom County, but the majority of their products are. Most of their store items list the specific farm where they are obtained. AF+K source their products as close to home as possible, focusing primarily on Whatcom County and ranging farther afield only when necessary. AF+K help solve the farmers’ distribution problems by picking up the farm products at the farms and providing a stable market for the number of people who are members.
Currently AF+K is serving about 150 people–approximately the maximum they can handle right now. They put people’s names on a waiting list if they don’t have a spot open, and then work them in as memberships come available. In May 2012 they expect to double the number of members they can serve. They are also considering renting a downtown Bellingham location where people could come to pick up their orders each week.
One final note–AF+K makes local eating affordable. One of the ways they do that is to reduce the amount of animal proteins in their menus. Joy says a number of their members have remarked on how they are saving money on their grocery bills. “They’re just not going into the stores and buying processed foods,” Joy says.
I strongly encourage you to check out what AF+K offers. Their website is at acmefarmsandkitchen.com. You can browse their store, read about the farmers they source from, and check out sample menus and weekly orders on their blog.