The many of acres of farmland that surround New York City in all directions have benefitted urban dwellers since the first greenmarket came to NYC in the mid-'70s. Since then, dozens of markets have sprung up in all five boroughs, in addition to Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) that deliver boxes of seasonal produce to people's homes. In what could be considered the third wave in farm-to-table shopping, new services have sprung up that combine the freshness of local produce, the autonomy of the local grocery store, and the convenience of delivery straight to a dwelling.

Several such services have sprung up in recent years, like Rustic Roots, which offers both organic home delivery from local farms in addition to CSA-style packages, and Our Harvest, a Fresh Direct-like company that offers products from both farms as well as local food producers, depending on what's available.

Our Harvest co-founder Mike Winik began the company three years ago in an effort to narrow the widening gap between people and their food, along with farmers and dwindling profits.

"My wife and I were shopping at Whole Foods and the two of us walked out and it was $150. Then we looked at what we got and it was enough food for two meals. Something about it didn't make sense," he remembers. "How could farmers be getting paid so little, because they're struggling to make ends meet themselves, and my food for two meals for sub-quality, not delicious food, be so expensive? That was the question that I set out to solve."

The formula the former investment banker ended up with is simple: farms tell Winik what's ready for harvest and how much they have; Our Harvest updates their website in real time to reflect what's ready-for-purchase; customers pick what they want; farms harvest and send off their product to the consumer. Because the company buys directly from the farms, it allows prices on items like meat and seafood to remain low by comparison to a grocery store; the flip side, farmers end up making between 50 - 60% of retail price, versus 10 - 20 % at traditional grocery stores.

For now, the company services all of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens, in addition to Long Island.

Farms had to meet certain criteria for Winik to include them in his searches. He looks for small family farmers, people who are growing sustainably without hormones or antibiotics, with a target of including farms within 250 miles of NYC—if not closer. He also looks for individuals trying to maintain their farm for the next generation. "People who are looking to have their kids and their grandkids and their great grandkids [run the business] are not going to be doing anything to that land that's going to harm the soil, the environment," he says. "That's one of the key things that we look for."

"When Mike came to see our farm in 2014—I think we were one of their very first vendors—we had a tremendous number of peppers, more than we needed to service our CSA. He offered the fairest price of anybody who had ever come by from the point of view of a farmer," says Heather Forest, co-owner of Fox Hollow Farm, which grows peppers, eggplant and other vegetables on Long Island. "There are organizations that supply organic produce to people's homes directly, but they don't offer the farmer as much as what the model that Our Harvest is trying to put forth," her husband, Lawrence Foglia, elaborates.

"It's an interesting opportunity from the point of view of the farmer because people put in their order ahead of time so I'm not cutting anything that hasn't already been sold, there's no waste," Forest explains. "It's unlike a farmer's market, where you go to market with all your produce and you don't know if you're going to come home with it all or half of it or a quarter of it or nothing. By being able to cut out middle person distributors—going straight from farm to purchaser—it's more efficient and cost-effective."

What began as a five farm operation has exploded to over 125 farms and food artisans on the Our Harvest platform.

Other services offer the same type of low- to no-waste model employed here. Crowd Cow, a beef-selling company, works with independent ranches to sell cattle cut-by-cut. Once all parts of the animal have been sold, it's butchered and distributed to the customers, ensuring freshness and the less wasteful supermarket approach of flooding the market with lots of meat, some of which may end up in the garbage.

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Winik says new products and less common ingredients tend to sell very well, indicating customers are keen to learn more about things they wouldn't necessarily find on a conventional grocery store shelf. It also means customers need to be more flexible if a product they want is not in season or is suddenly out of stock due to extreme weather. "One of the criticism we get from customers—which is not a criticism in our view—is that we don't add product quickly. We're very careful in what we add, whether it's from an environment standpoint, a taste standpoint, or a sustainability standpoint," Winik says.

In addition to fresh produce, meats, fish and dairy, the company also sells prepared and packaged foods like spreads, crackers, drinks, baked goods and shelf stapes like pastas, beans, flours, spices, and condiments.

Though in an ideal world everyone would eat only what's local and what's in season, Winik understands that's just now how our culture currently thinks about food.

"There's definitely a learning curve and it takes people time to adapt. This change isn't going to happen overnight. People are adapting to that kind of behavior and we see people becoming more and more aware of it," he says. "All people are talking about is 'sustainable' and 'local' and that was not a trend five years ago. In fact, it's not a trend now, it's like an actual change in how people shop...but it's slow. People are used to something and are used to getting something a certain way and groceries are one of those things that's very embedded."

With that in mind, there are some products—avocados and salmon, for example—Winik feels compelled to include in his business, even if it means bending the rules he carefully laid in place about distance from the metro area.

"Every customer wants salmon. The selection that you get at the store are most often mislabeled, actually, so we've gone and found a salmon farm that's sustainable, does things in a very environmentally-friendly way, and that we can get fresh every day," he says. "We've handpicked a limited number of products that customers absolutely demand, but our focus is almost exclusively local."

Winik doesn't see his company as a replacement for local farmer's markets or greenmarkets, but rather as another option for a person who might not live close to those types of amenities, or the hours aren't conducive, or might not have the ability to travel easily to outlets offering high-quality foods.

"We don't view it as competitive to the farmer's market. Who we are competitive with is where you get your groceries every week," he explains. "The farmer's market might have produce or a couple items; you're not actually able to fill in your full grocery list for the week. The way we view it is that a customer is going to come and be able to get their weekly groceries for the week: their meat, their seafood, their dairy, all their fresh food essentially."

Though there are delivery fees associated with the company from the customer side—$7 - $10 per order, or no fee for picking up at one of their drop-off sites—there are no minimums per order and no up-front memberships costs. And for every order placed over $25 they donate a meal to a local food bank or food pantry—all of whom are selected based to their proximity to where people are getting deliveries or picking up orders.