Bringing the farm to your front door
Notable trends over the past decade have included some trivial, like avocado toast, some light-hearted like Gangnam Style, and others that possess the possibility for a greater, longer-lasting impact, such as Community Supported Agriculture or CSA, where consumers buy foo, locally and in-season, directly from the farmer. Inspired by the CSA model, Toledoans Jacob Beakas and Jason Gonring launched a modified version: Urbivors LLC.
“We like the model of a CSA, but we felt that was too restrictive for a lot of people because they had to show up to a certain place at a certain time every week,” said cofounder Jacob Bekas “They also have to pay such a large amount up front and then they’re locked in all year.” Urbivors LLC provides an extra level of convenience unseen in most CSAs; Rather than requiring customers to meet at a designated location, Urbivors LLC delivers directly to customers and requires no long-term commitment.
Urbivores is the brainchild of shared interests of sustainability and entrepreneurship between Beakas and Gonring, who met at the University of Toledo. They realized that the UT campus was a place in need of fresh, healthy food. Launching at UT just made sense.
“You have a lot of young people but not a lot of options for fresh food,” Beakas said. “There is a food store on Central Avenue and that is a decent round trip to carry groceries without a car, so that’s not a real practical option.”
The major grocery stores are at least 7-mile round-trips, and therefore even less feasible for students. Urbivors LLC developed a partnership with UT’s residence life staff, creating a drop-off shelf in Parks Tower for students. Urbivors LLC then expanded and is now delivering to other areas in West Toledo.
Accessibility in finance and logistics
In an effort to be accessible both financially and logistically, Urbivors follows a simple system:
Reihms, Eshlemans and Z Farms inform Urbivors of their available produce each week. Urbivors LLC lists the produce options online, customers place an order, then receive their delivery from Beakas or Gonring. To cater to a wider-demographic, Urbivors set no minimum order amount or long-term commitment. As winter approaches, Urbivores doesn’t intend to slow down. To offer year-round produce, Urbivors will also be working with Monnette’s.
Part-time job, full-time passion
Beakas works full-time at another job and Gonring is finishing his last semester of college – all while growing their company. It’s a lot but not too much when you care so deeply about what you’re doing. Their interest in sustainability glows and their business model contributes to the local economy by limiting food waste and energy spent. “We are focusing on local farmers, so we keep the dollar spent on food local and flowing in our economy,” said Jacob. “Environmentally we try to partner with farmers that grow the food with organic practices as best they can. Also, in limiting the distance from farm-to-table there is a lot less energy expended.”
Like most CSAs, Urbivors LLC is often pricier than shopping at the grocery store, but the small extra expense is overcome by the customer’s realization that their purchase benefits the community and the environment.
Connecting our community
Farmers’ markets help build a sense of community, but Beakas and Gonring know that markets aren’t realistic for everyone. Consider the college student without a car or the elderly who cannot jostle bags of produce amongst a crowd. “We want to create a system where more local growers can interact with more buyers. Rather than just being a produce delivery company, we want to facilitate that connection,” Gonring explains.
Urbivors brings that farmers’ market atmosphere to the customer’s doorstep. Along with fresh produce, customers familiarize themselves with the farmers who grow their food thanks to a bio written on each receipt sharing information about where and who the food is coming from. “We want our customers to understand who they’re supporting and form a more holistic outlook on what they’re eating,” Beakas said.
Urbivors LLC is not in competition with CSAs, but it is an alternative. “Honestly, if we didn’t have to exist because everyone bought from a CSA that would be great, but that’s not the case,” said Jacob. “A vast majority of people don’t participate or go to the farmers’ market. We just want to offer convenience to the people who aren’t otherwise participating in a CSA.”
For more information, visit urbivors.com
More CSA Options
Toledo area shoppers have a wide variety of deliciously fresh meats and produce that can be acquired directly from local growers via CSA shares. Beyond Riehm Produce Farm, a few options include:
- Bittersweet Farms 419-875-6986. bittersweetfarms.org – Member shares from Bittersweet not only bring fresh crops to your table, they support the farm’s mission to employ adults with autism.
- Legacy Acres Farm 419-217-8226. legacyacresfarm.com – Weekly or bi-weekly boxes, meat and produce, it can all be found at Bellevue’s Legacy Acres.
- Pilbeam Family Farm 734-320-0589. facebook.com/ThePilbeamFamilyFarm – Established in 1910, this generational farm offers CSA shares as well as a produce stand.
- Shared Legacy Farms 419-344-7092. sharedlegacyfarms.com – Farmer Kurt in Elmore features a variety of options, from a standard vegetable box to “The Works” featuring fruit, eggs and more.
- Toledo GROWs 419-720-8714. toledogrows.org – GROWs’ Grown Food Hub gives urban farmers a chance to sell food to the hub, which then sells it to consumers as part of a CSA.
Weber Ranch 419-575-5104. weberranchllc.com – Choose from a variety of pasture-raised meats, eggs and honey, then pick it up at a scheduled pick-up date in Perrysburg, Sylvania or Wayne.