The farm-to-table movement has gained a lot of momentum in the past decade.
By Caitlin Brown
The farm-to-table movement has gained a lot of momentum in the past decade. Thanks to books by author/activist Michael Pollan and documentaries such as “Food Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives,” people have become more informed, and, as a result, more concerned about the food they eat. Gone are the days of deferring to the food industry’s seal of approval.
While most of us have shopped at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and tasted what is supposed to be the freshest, the trucks that arrive at local farms from these markets take unripened food to their hub and it can take weeks before it is routed to your neighborhood market. As a result, the food doesn’t taste the same as it would if it were picked and eaten at its peak, and it’s not as nutritious. Also, the produce isn’t necessarily coming from a local farm. It could be coming from Guatemala and take weeks to get to your neighborhood; it could have been treated with chemicals. “Organic” is a very loosely used term these days.
How do you know what is truly organic? Ask Mike Geller, founder of Mike’s Organic Delivery — a farm-to-home delivery service, which serves Westchester and Fairfield counties. “People ask me ‘What is organic,’ and I say, you should ask the farmer. If you can’t ask them that, you probably won’t ever know. That is what makes the whole foods system so challenging.”
Mike, and his core team of three — Chris and Mackenzie, friends from Brunswick School, and Crystal, a trained chef and health coach — are out on the farms every week, talking to farmers and picking the freshest produce, eggs, cheese, meat, honey, and more to deliver to customers.
The company, which was founded in 2009 and based in Stamford, is a labor of love for Mike and his team. He had just left a successful, but unfulfilling, career in advertising and wanted to re-think his path. This brought him to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana to help build a Photographic Safari Camp — not bad for a change of scenery. It was here, standing in a supermarket in Muan, Botswana, six years ago — seeing and tasting how fresh all the food was that he became inspired to learn more about how our food is grown and how to bring fresh local food to his own community.
Back from Africa, Mike immersed himself in the local farming community, working on farms, including Stone Barns, home of the now-famous farm-to-table Blue Hill restaurant, and attending lectures and learning how farming has changed in the last 30 years. He is still learning. He and his team visit over 20 farms within 60 miles of our area each week, interacting with the farmers on a personal basis and gaining a further understanding of the value of sustainably grown food and the importance of eating food close to home. It is their mission. Sure, they all love the food and want you to as well (trust me, it’s a game changer), but they also want to spread the word and educate.
Mike is driven to reconnect the people of Fairfield and Westchester to where, how, and when their food is grown. All the farms they buy from use the following practices: organic, sustainable, free range, pesticide-free, no added hormones, no steroids, and no antibiotics. While we may see some of these practices on supermarket labels, Mike and his team guarantee that the produce is picked no more than 36, and most often less than 24 hours, from the time it is delivered to your door (a supermarket could never guarantee that).
If the opportunity presents itself when delivering their baskets of goodies, Mike and Chris have been known to regail customers with stories about the farms they come from and the farmers who grew or raised them, plus ways to prepare the food.
He says most people don’t know that 200 varieties of apples are grown on farms in the U.S., because most Americans only see five to ten different varieties at the supermarket, and that our local farms have 500 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
According to Mike, “The food system we have created in our country does three things remarkably well.
1.) Durable Food: Tomatoes that can withstand two weeks bouncing around on trucks and still be unblemished.
2.) Cheap Food: To the consumer the price is low, but the cost (environmentally, lack of taste and nutrients, and heavily subsidized by the government) is high.
3.) Year-Round Food: Blueberries every day of the year. The question is, does this make for healthy consumers, happy farmers, and an environment that can sustain us in the long run?”
Food really does taste and look different when we eat locally and, more importantly, when we eat food that is grown the right way. Chris says, “We are hyperlocal. The farthest we will go for produce is 58 miles away; the meat, an hour and a half away.”
Mike and his team are also all passionate cooks. Each week they send recipes for the goodies that will arrive in the basket.
So, how does the delivery service work? Customers go to mikes organicdelivery.com, and order Week-to-Week or Full Season packages. Week-to-Week shoppers can choose produce baskets (two fruits and seven vegetables depending on what they are picking at the farm that week), farm-fresh eggs, pasteurized meats, wild fish, pantry items, dairy products, and much more. Full-Season customers can choose from several packages that include all of the above, and at a discounted rate.
The Produce basket feeds a family of four for the week and includes amazing variety and usable quantities; you’ll never receive six bunches of kale from Mike’s. On a recent week, a mixed Fruit and Veggie Basket contained strawberries, cherries, baby lettuce, gold beets, red Russian kale, French breakfast radishes, sugar snap peas, and garlic scapes. If you don’t eat certain items, Mike will modify the basket to accommodate your eating habits.
Orders must be placed on their website by 5 p.m. on Sunday for delivery the following week. Delivery times are sent out on Sundays and Recipes/Basket contents are sent on Monday evening, so you can set up your food options for the week.
On first glance, the prices might seem high, but the truth is, the prices are actually reasonable. “We have many clients tell us they save money using our service for three reasons: The product is fresher and lasts longer because they throw less away; they find themselves cooking more and eating out less; and they inevitably buy things at the market they don’t need and end up wasting money.”
To reach Mike’s Organic Delivery, call 203-832-3000 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.