Overstock.com, the deal-based online retailer is turning its attention towards discount produce with a new CSA produce platform it’s calling “Farmers Market.”
While you might be most familiar with Overstock.com as a source for deals on electronics or jewelry or any other non-food items, you can now begin to source your farm-fresh vegetables and fruits from CSA programs (community-supported agriculture).
If eating healthier isn’t one of your everyday goals, it likely will be very soon. Not only are the benefits of healthy foods too big to ignore for our bodies, but they’re also really important to the health of the planet.
And it seems like Overstock.com has figured out that if it wants to create life-long customers, it’s going to need to keep them healthy and, presumably, living on a hospitable planet.
Overstock’s vegan CEO Patrick Byrne explained to Modern Farmer that the website's CSA program inspiration is rooted in his own childhood on a New England farm: “I was never so happy as the time I spent on a farm in Vermont,” he said.
Our nation’s move away from small-scale farming after World War II, which was seen as a sign of progress that’s still dictating a large part of the American diet, has disconnected us from our food. “I think the food Americans eat is disgusting. We’re so unhealthy because we’re eating this industrial food-like substance,” Byrne said.
While small-scale farmers certainly do exist—a stroll through one of the 8,000 actual farmers markets in the U.S. demonstrates that—Byrne says they’re still lagging behind the rest of the country. “A lot of the CSAs don’t have good technology,” he explains. “We’ve kind of supercharged [the CSA model] with our technology and our marketing efforts.”
So, in order to bring these community-supported agriculture models to the masses, Overstock.com reached out to about 1,800 CSA programs across the country. It has signed on more than a dozen farms at the site launch, with more on the way. “Cities now served include San Francisco, Austin, Richmond, and Atlanta,” Modern Farmer explains. “Byrne’s ambitious timeline has 50 to 70 percent of the country’s zip codes eligible to participate by the end of the year, and ‘99 percent’ by next March.”
Will this help farmers and Americans? The program seems to be pretty helpful all the way around: it doesn’t charge its farmers to participate and customers don’t have to pay farmer sign up fees to participate in the program either. If you’re an O Club member on Overstock, you get a five percent cash back reward when you purchase from the CSA program.
Plus, there are added benefits you might not get from your market stall on a busy Sunday. There are online farmer profiles and recipes that can make buying fresh food online feel a little less awkward and a lot more futuristic.
“What we’re trying to do is introduce our customers to this other style of eating,” Byrne told Modern Farmer. “If this works, we can disrupt that corporate agri-business supply chain.” That’s a really big selling point for the farmers and the customers who want to eat better and take better care of the planet. If technology enables us to access fresher fruits and vegetables while also supporting small businesses in our communities, there’s no limit to how we could rewrite our future. And if there’s one thing we need to be thinking about with every click or bite, it’s our future.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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Image: Nick Harris 1