You can’t walk a block in some urban neighborhoods these days without bumping into a market or restaurant hawking locally sourced food. The "locavore" trend is only set to grow this year, but up until now, meat has largely been left out of the equation (with some exceptions). That’s about to change with the launch of AgLocal, a platform that connects local meat-providing farms with grocery stores and restaurants that are willing to pay a little extra for the hometown credentials. The startup’s tagline? "Power to the meat lover."
AgLocal is the brainchild of Naithan Jones, the former director of the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program. His family provided the inspiration for the project. "My brother is a chef. I’d watch him spend twice as much for local because he knows he has a relationship with the farmer, and he knows how the animal is raised, so he knows how it tastes," he explains. "And my wife’s family is about to lose their farm in Kansas. I asked what it would have taken to keep their farm. [They said] the urban buyers didn’t have a connection to rural areas."
And so Jones (pictured below) set out on a quest to save local family farms by connecting them to the distant-seeming urban centers. AgLocal is in the midst of setting up alpha testers in Kansas City and the Bay Area. The startup already has 20 farms (60 more are in the pipeline) as well as at least one national grocery chain that wants to be a part of the service.
Jones’s connection to Kansas City is obvious--he lives there--but California was a strategic choice. There are four times as many independent farms in California as in the Midwest, largely because farms in America’s heartland have been consumed by big corporations.
Customers who really care about local meat can use AgLocal to search for individual meat products, browse through what’s available, and put in requests for products that aren’t listed. An alert is sent when farmers within a 250- to 300-mile radius respond, and the farmers get paid when their orders are fulfilled. AgLocal doesn’t take a cut from the transactions, but the Kansas City and San Francisco–based startup may offer additional premium features in the future.
It doesn’t make a difference to Jones whether the farms are organic or breed only grass-fed cattle, but many of the farms that have signed on to AgLocal--Mettenburg Farm in Kansas, for example--subscribe to those practices. "That may help them get more sales," he offers.
AgLocal will expand to 30 cities in March as part of a closed beta. Farmers can hardly wait. "The farms that we approached embraced us. They asked us where we’ve been," says Jones. Surely the meat-loving foodies found in urban centers across the U.S. will embrace AgLocal too.