Farm-to-table concept goes farm-to-door with new online delivery service
Calgary shoppers can custom order directly from Alberta farmers through CultivatR
Dan Berezan moved out of the city to be closer to fly fishing but soon discovered the world of local, organic food production. Then he came up with a business idea that he hopes will bridge the divide between his food-producing neighbours and their city-dwelling consumers.
Berezan has launched a Calgary food delivery service called CultivatR, which takes the farm-to-table concept online. Berezan, who lives south of Pincher Creek, works with southern Alberta farms to deliver their meat and produce to online shoppers in Calgary.
"We moved out to the country and we got to know our neighbours and we heard from them that they weren't making very much money selling stuff," he told host David Gray on the Calgary Eyeopener. "And coming from the city and paying a small fortune for groceries, we thought there's a disconnect here. How can we help solve this problem?"
Berezan had run an e-commerce business before. So he and his wife Joanne set to work creating a website that would eliminate the need for city-dwellers to travel to a farmers market for their grain-fed beef or their fresh-plucked cilantro.
"We thought, you know, here's an opportunity to use technology to actually help our neighbours and help our consumers as well," he said.
Berezan calls CultivatR Alberta's first e-commerce farmers market.
"You go to our website, you basically pick just like you would grocery shopping," he said.
The four Alberta farms currently involved are all devoted to best practices such as chemical-free produce, soil health, and humanely raised or grass-fed animals.
Three of them produce meat: Lambtastic Farms near Vulcan; Bear & The Flower Farm, producing pork northwest of Airdrie; and Gemstone Grass Fed Beef near Gem. Fresh produce is provided by Steel Pony Farm near Red Deer.
Berezan plans to add at least two more farms in the coming week.
All of CultivatR's small independent farms have their own websites, but Berezan is hoping all will benefit from the shared online presence. (He says many small-scale farmers have little time to set up and maintain an online ordering and delivery system.)
Berezan's model is similar in concept to the SPUD online grocery delivery system out of Vancouver — SPUD offers consolidated delivery for a wide range of products from mostly B.C. farms (there is at least one Alberta farm on the list). It has a wide-ranging delivery area and offers a full line of grocery product through its Be Fresh Marketplace.
CultivatR is much smaller in scale and is hyper-local for the Calgary market.
"Let's say you want to get your lamb. You go on there, you choose lamb. You get a chance to see the farms we work with … pick your package and then pick your other groceries and then —we're estimating about 15 days right now — you'll have your groceries at your door."
Berezan says the online shopping system will also help reduce food waste.
"Right now, the way things work is that producers just produce as much as they can and hopefully it sells and they take whatever price they can get," he said.
"We're trying to provide the freshest product. So in a lot of cases, we're not even harvesting your produce or your animals aren't being processed until we actually order. That's part of our reduction of food waste, we only sell whole animals. So once we have enough orders from people, then we actually process it."
This collaboration, he hopes, will lead to lower prices for consumers.
"Every producer sets their own price [at farmers markets]. But in comparison to the grocery stores or the other online delivery companies, we're 10 to 30 per cent cheaper depending on what you order," he said. "It's again cutting out those layers and being efficient with the inventory and eliminating the waste in the business model. We don't have retail stores."
Berezan says the site launched last week and has already gained a lot of interest.
"Even in our wildest dreams, I don't think like Superstore or any of those big retailers [that] we'll really ever be a threat to them. And they do offer that immediate convenience if you need something immediately.… We named it CultivatR because for us it's cultivating a relationship with where your food is coming from, and I think that's what we offer."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.