MilkRun, a Portland, Oregon-based company is supporting small, local farmers by enabling them to sell produce safely and directly to consumers’ homes.
Founded by farmer and entrepreneur Julia Niiro, MilkRun is an online platform that lets farmers set their own prices cutting out as wholesalers, shippers, and truckers. Once consumers place an order through MilkRun, farmers deliver produce to an aggregation hub, which MilkRun then boxes and ships to consumers’ doorsteps.
On average, farmers receive eight percent of the purchase price from grocery stores according to The American Farm Bureau Federation. But MilkRun estimates a return of up to 70 percent of the purchase price through their platform.
The platform is also trying to provide data on consumer purchasing patterns, purchase quantities, and food mileage, information that is often difficult for small farmers to obtain.
“Ninety percent of our nation’s farms right now don’t have even simple tools…they are having to recreate every data point… how can we help them do their jobs better?” Niiro tells Food Tank.
Niiro believes that the future of farming is bright, and she hopes to help farmers achieve success. “For young farmers, they need to know there’s hope…you should be able to make a living and realize your dreams,” Niiro tells Food Tank “Who are we going to leave our food system to if not them?”.
Niiro says that COVID-19 is also having unexpected benefits for both MilkRun and farmers. “COVID has put farmers back in business.” Niiro tells Food Tank. She explains that while wholesale orders from restaurants have decreased dramatically, direct purchasing from consumers is offsetting the loss.
According to Niiro, farmers are re-scaling, creating new safety practices, and adapting to direct consumer demands. She says these changes are enabling farmers to turn a profit during the pandemic.
“I’ve never been more proud to be someone who’s in this work and serving people,” Niiro says “The pride that comes with serving people and giving them an incredible experience makes us essential.”