LEXINGTON — When Amanda Bosh goes grocery shopping, it’s all about super fresh apples, artisan cheese, free-range chicken, and organic Brussels sprouts.
But Bosh doesn’t get these products at an upscale supermarket. Instead, she heads to a local private school, where she will pick up the best quality meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables.
Bosh’s bounty, packed tight into a reusable grocery bag, comes courtesy of Farmers to You, a company that delivers to Boston area consumers direct from Vermont farms. In addition to drop-off sites such as the Waldorf School of Lexington, the company offers home delivery in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and a few suburban communities.
Farmers to You is one of several area companies expanding the local food movement beyond farmers markets and trendy restaurants, tapping into the growing demand by consumers to know and understand the source of their food. Some businesses, like Farmers to You, deliver from farm to fridge. Others add another stop and more convenience, by preparing local farm products as ready-to-eat meals. Still others connect New England farms to institutional food services, such as school cafeterias.
Farmers to You, based in Calais, Vt., was founded in 2009 with the dual mission of supporting farms and food producers in Vermont and improving the access of Boston area consumers to fresh farm products. Something GUD, a Somerville startup, works on a similar model, sourcing foods from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island and delivering them to pickup sites and homes from Quincy to Newburyport.
‘The greatest thing we can do as a company is make tons of money doing something positive for society.’
Prices are comparable to what a shopper would pay at Whole Foods for similar items, the company founders said. For example, a gallon of organic skim milk is about $6 both through Something GUD and at Whole Foods.
The difference: Most of the money spent with these local food businesses goes to the farmers and artisans producing the food.
Greg Georgaklis, the founder of Farmers to You, estimates the farms with which the company partners receive about 65 cents for each dollar customers pay. On average, farmers nationally get just 15.5 cents per dollar spent by consumers in supermarkets, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
“My vision of the future would be that 50 percent of food that’s bought is bought somehow directly through farmers,” Georgaklis said.
Farmers to You delivers to about 480 families that spend an average of $65 each week. The company estimates it will turn a profit when it signs up 600 families, which it expects to do by spring.
At Cuisine en Locale in Somerville, owner JJ Gonson turns local foods into frozen meals that are delivered weekly to the company’s 35 customers.
Each delivery includes about 10 pounds of prepared food, about enough to provide four meals for two adults. At $145 per week, the service costs about the same as getting takeout a few times a week, Gonson said.
Gonson uses only fresh foods produced within a 100-mile radius of Boston, never using ingredients, such as lemons, that can’t be grown here. She estimates her sales last year generated about $150,000 in revenues for area farmers, and she expects that to double in the coming year.
“We don’t even own a can opener, nor a lemon reamer,” she said.
The business evolved from Gonson’s work as a personal chef. The company operated out of shared commercial kitchens around the Boston area for the first seven years, but moved into its own space about a month ago after buying Anthony’s function hall in Somerville.
Rather than focusing on individual consumers, FoodEx in Roxbury serves institutional buyers – school districts, universities, hospitals.
JD Kemp, the chief executive and cofounder, wants to reach what he describes as “the other 90 percent of the market” – people who don’t go out of their way to pursue local food.
FoodEx secures commitments from institutions to buy produce, eggs, and dairy from farmers throughout the Northeast. The company’s customers include about 40 universities, school districts, and individual high schools.
FoodEx runs its own trucks and warehouse. This distribution system cuts out several steps — and costs — in the supply chain, which means farmers get above average prices while buyers pay the same as or less than they pay to conventional suppliers, Kemp said.
“We’re unique in this area – and perhaps in the country,” Kemp said, “because we are focused on wholesale and trying to find solutions that go beyond the individual consumer.”
Despite different approaches, the companies share a desire to promote local foods and reshape a food system that they say relies too much on big, centralized factory farms and long-distance transportation. If they can show that there is money to be made in local foods, they said, more companies will enter the market and help change the way food is produced, shipped, and sold.
“The greatest thing we can do as a company,” said Something GUD cofounder ColinDavis, “is make tons of money doing something positive for society.”
Sarah Shemkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.