DENVER — Local farmers can have many different revenue streams, but they're not all created equal.
Some farmers may wholesale their produce to grocery stores or, perhaps they’ll sell directly to restaurants. But according to two local farmers who recently spoke with Rocky Mountain PBS, the real money is in farmers’ markets. Some studies show that farmers make “40%-70% more for their products at the market than selling them through wholesale outlets.”
But farmers’ markets come with challenges, too. For one, the time and energy to travel and set up at the market is time and energy spent away from the farm. Secondly, hours and location are most often controlled by the market, not the individual vendors.
A new start-up called Pinemelon, launched in April of this year, offers a chance for participating farmers to extend their reach to customers by cutting out the middlemen.
A new option for local farmers to broaden their reach
Pinemelon is the sister company to the online grocery store Arbuz, based in Kazakhstan. Currently, the only location in the United States is in Denver. Its 30,000-square-foot warehouse contains pantry staples and local produce and meat that it can deliver to anyone in a half-an-hour radius.
Christin Mihon, co-owner of Tasty Acres Colorado, said that before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her family's farm made the biggest profit by selling to restaurants. But when the pandemic hit and restaurants shut down, Mihon was in a difficult spot financially. Now in partnership with Pinemelon, Mihon said she could sell her produce directly to them without having to take on administrative duties.
“That really frees us up to work on growing the food and build our food systems without getting lost in the administration,” Mihon said.
She also explained the real reason why she and her husband became farmers was to focus on the food.
“They don’t become farmers so they can spend time in an office and spend a ton of time packaging and spend a ton of time marketing, you know? All of that taking away from the actual work that needs done in the field,” Mihon said.
Tasty Acres Colorado is an organic-practicing, regenerative farm, which grows an assortment of lettuces, baby root veggies, radishes and tomatoes. They are also a no-till farm, meaning they do not plow their fields with power tools. This method can increase the nutrients in the farm's soil. Mihon described her farm as being cared for on a “human-scale,” meaning there is no mass production done that she and her husband can’t complete by hand.
John Gengel, the director of merchandising at Pinemelon, said their priority is to work with smaller farmers that are passionate about regenerative or organic farming practices.
“We feel it is our duty to help these farmers get this food into the mouths of people,” Gengel said.
Moss said for a long time, people asked to have his produce brought to locations like Aurora, Denver and Englewood, which he had to decline due to distance. But now, this partnership allows him to extend his impact.
“You know I have a 19-month-old son, and he’s eating my food," said Moss. "And I’m seeing kids grow up eating my food, and that really gives me a lot of hope.”
Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at email@example.com.