Food for Thought

A digital marketplace connects producers and retailers to make local food more accessible.

With thousands of farms throughout the state, buying and eating homegrown food should be easy. So, when entrepreneur David Stone began to research the local food industry and its supply chain, he was perplexed. The demand for local food was present, but after a series of studies and an analysis of the industry, Stone estimates that only about 3 percent of what Mainers consume is grown nearby. The discrepancy results from problems with accessibility, he found. It’s difficult for retailers to source food from a large number of farmers and small suppliers because each seller has to be contacted individually. To remedy the situation, Stone created Forager: a digital procurement platform and marketplace for local food. Through Forager, a farm or supplier lists its produce or products online, and retailers see what’s available and can make direct purchases through the platform. Stone’s team manages the receiving, invoicing, and payments.

Rosemont Market and Bakery was Forager’s first client. Before sign- ing on with the digital marketplace, Rosemont’s produce buyer, John Schreiber, had to talk with more than 35 farms every week—each with its own list of 30 or more products—to coordinate inventory for six stores. Now, with Forager as a one-stop shop, Schreiber saves up to 20 hours each week on coordinating inventory. By increasing the efficiency of the sourcing process, Forager has allowed buyers to purchase more local food, and suppliers are able to expand their businesses as a result. Since starting in 2015, Forager has expanded to nine states and as far west as New Mexico. As of October, Forager has added Massachusetts-based Roche Bros. Supermarkets and its 21 stores to its list of retailers. “Local food will never feed the entire nation, but it can certainly be a lot bigger than it is,” says Stone.

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