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'Farmers to You' expands sites for farm-fresh food

Posted by Emily Files  October 31, 2012 11:55 AM

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A veteran farmer with ties to Brookline has found a unique way to connect farmers in the Vermont area to customers in Greater Boston year-round with farm-fresh milk, cheeses, breads, meats and produce distributed through his company, Farmers to You.
Greg Georgaklis answers a question for a shopper .JPG

On a recent afternoon, Greg Georgaklis (pictured at right), owner of Farmers to You, and his public relations director, Simeon Chapin, unloaded their van at the Boylston Congregational Church parking lot in Jamaica Plain’s Stony Brook section half an hour before the farmers’ market was set to begin. They filled Chapin’s car with bags of food to deliver to a new distribution site in Roslindale, as Georgaklis also set up tables.

“Now we can get down to the part I most enjoy,” Georgaklis said, putting out a couple of tables and spreading tablecloths as he chatted. “I get to put out the samples. You won’t believe how different the food tastes and how rich it is.”

Georgaklis arranged a plate of cheddar cheese, another of fresh bread, and another of Willow Moon Farm onion, garlic and chive chevre, and some hot pickles.

“I grew up in Brookline, just across the pond,” he said. “I’d been a farmer for about 30 years, and then I moved to Vermont six years ago. I started working with farmers’ groups up there, but they were just tiny. The supermarkets don’t have enough volume, and the price would be too high" to sell goods there.

Georgaklis started Farmers to You to serve dual purposes: giving Vermont farmers a new market for their produce, and satisfying Boston-area residents' desire for fresh, organic food. There are currently 34 Vermont farmers who provide Farmers to You with an array of breads, meats, cheeses, vegan products, fruits, vegetables, organic soups and other specialty items, such as caramel and cranberry sauce for the fall.

Unlike a traditional farmers’ market, customers join Farmers to You online, agreeing to purchase a minimum of $40 of food each week. They can make changes to their order weekly, but are expected to keep roughly the same minimum order, so that milk and other perishables are not wasted.

Today, Farmers to You has more than 400 customers a week who pick up groceries at 13 sites in Greater Boston, including the new site in Roslindale. Customers in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville also may have food delivered to their homes or offices for an additional charge of $8. Georgaklis eventually hopes to reach 2,000 customers.

Customers order their products online by midnight Sunday. After the orders are compiled on Monday, they are sent to the individual farmers, who pack them for delivery on Tuesday.

As Georgaklis displayed a double-crusted apple pie, he explained why customers are drawn to the fresh produce.

“People want to get a box of well-produced, trustworthy food. Everything our farmers produce is healthy and organic," he said. "Our chickens are healthy animals that are treated compassionately."

He said many customers prefer the farm-fresh food to products offered in supermarkets.
"They can’t get it in the supermarket in a way that suits them, that’s minimally processed, and they don’t know where to get it," he said. “When people really eat nutritiously, they find they’ll eat much less and be satisfied.”

Georgaklis said he stopped farming eight years ago, when he moved to Vermont. He enjoyed meeting the Vermont farmers and wanted to link them to his former customers, who were now being bombarded with groceries treated with chemicals and pesticides.

“I realized, this is what I’m meant to be doing,” he said. “I’m supposed to link the farmers with the consumers back home."

Farmers to You regulars say they are impressed not only with the quality of the food, but with the friendliness of Georgaklis and his volunteer site assistant, Bridget Colvin, who lives in Boston. At all distribution sites, volunteer coordinators get paid in food.

“Just getting the food is awesome,” said Colvin. “I like choosing what I want and knowing that a huge percentage, 65 percent, is actually going to the farmers. I’m waxing evangelically here, but my two kids love to come here -- they’ve made friends here, I’ve made new friends here."

“I think it’s great to know people who know where the real good food is,” said Dirya Kumar, a customer from Jamaica Plain. “You can actually email the farmers to learn about their practices. When you bring the food home, you know what’s going on. . .

“For almost a year, we’ve bought all of our meat, all of our dairy and eggs, and nearly all of our fruits and vegetables here."

“I love it,” said Ansley Masters of Jamaica Plain. “We will buy milk only from Farmers to You because my daughter, Amelia, needs to drink non-homogenized milk. We also get all of our bread and cheese. We are customers for life, as long as he keeps doing it.”

Jamaica Plain resident Jeremy John said that in addition to the high-quality food, he likes the focus on farming.

“I think that they really draw our attention so much to the farmers,” he said.

This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of a collaboration with The Boston Globe.

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