FarmLogix Connects Local Farmers & Schools
May 14, 2013
FarmLogix is an Evanston-based company that connects local producers with commercial sale opportunities for buyers like local markets, restaurants and schools.
Last month, when Audrey Rowe of the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited Dewey Elementary School in Evanston, just outside Chicago, she noticed plenty of students enjoying salads and fresh fruit with their school lunches. And even better, the lettuce, apples and other produce items came fresh from family farms in the surrounding area. Evanston’s District 65 and Evanston Township High School is able to source all this delicious local produce with the help of a unique technology platform initially used for a different side of agribusiness.
FarmLogix is an Evanston-based company that uses an online platform to connect local producers with commercial sale opportunities for buyers such as local markets, restaurants and schools. The company works with family-run farms ranging in size from three acres to 300. FarmLogix supplies some free technology assistance to farming communities that need it, such as database cleanup or setting up an online farmer’s market, and asks for the ability to hold a meeting where growers can learn about working with the company and getting their products out to local markets and schools. Farmers who participate in the program receive a free webpage where they can list the availability of products and post photos and videos. The FarmLogix team also walks farmers through the application and food safety processes and ensures schools receive a food safety document.
“What we end up doing is we take farmers that might be in a rural area that people in Chicago wouldn’t be able to find on their own, and we make them visible,” says FarmLogix founder Linda Mallers. “They’re selling at farmer’s markets, and now they have a way to reach schools. And that’s all the technology.”
Prior to developing FarmLogix, Mallers worked in futures, developing this platform initially for the price determination side of food. Over the past two decades, Mallers has been perfecting the technology, and when she saw the need for more resources in the supply chain for local farmers, she launched FarmLogix as an aggregation program. She says the idea of aggregation is a key differentiator for FarmLogix, collecting all of these products and sources and schools and distribution points and bringing them together. FarmLogix has a hub in Wisconsin for distributors and a partnership with Testa Produce, who work with FarmLogix farmers to pick up local produce and bring it to Chicago locations that use it.
Another compelling element to the program is that schools can order multiple items from multiple farms at once with one online order, that will come on one delivery truck, with the school paying one invoice, and FarmLogix paying the farmers directly based on that invoice. Schools will fill out an online form on Sunday, produce from each farm is brought to one of the main distribution centers on Friday and then produce is delivered to the school that Monday. “It’s creating a one-stop shop,” Mallers explains. “Normally, you’d be waiting for messages from all these different farmers who will drop things off; this keeps track of not only the produce itself, but things like food safety.”
For years, HSC has been involved in efforts to procure local food for school meals, and we applaud innovative ways that can make the process more efficient and cost-effective. On the day that Audrey Rowe visited Dewey Elementary, the school lunch featured four different local producers, sourced from FarmLogix. It was exciting for Mallers to show multiple farms participating, and Rowe was impressed with the system. “Schools have to buy in quantity so they are going to need access to volume,’’ Rowe told the Evanston Review in an interview. “FarmLogix has been able to figure how to do that. We may be able to replicate this and move this to other parts of the country.”