In a country full of fast food joints, cheap produce from Mexico, and salty snacks you can purchase pretty much anywhere, seeking out local, organic food takes a lot of energy, time, and money. From keeping up with exploding CSA boxes in the summer to visiting a farmers market on the weekend to budgeting for the higher cost of most organic food, eating locally is not for the faint of heart.
Paul Otten of Natura Farms in Marine on St. Croix, MN, thinks he knows why so many people opt out of farmers markets and other sources of chemical-free produce: “Convenience is one of the prime reasons for so many Americans falling for the trap of fast ‘food.’”
Enter Honeybee Mobile Market, a program that Otten will participate in this summer. Honeybee Mobile will bring the farm directly to the people with the creation of a mobile farmers market and an online grocery. The business is the brainchild of St. Paul couple Tony Pavelko and Gina DiMaggio (above).
Pavelko and DiMaggio are currently running a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $20,000 for their mobile farmers market. With that money they’ll purchase a trailer that they’ll retrofit into the mobile market. Shoppers will enter the back of the trailer, walk through as if it were a grocery store aisle, and then exit at the side door at the front. At the time we published this article, the team had raised nearly $17,000. They will move forward whether they do or don’t hit their Kickstarter goal.
The husband and wife team met in college, in Italy, in a class called “Food Cultures of Italy.” The two are motivated by their love of “bringing people together over good, quality food.” For a few years they owned and operated another food delivery business before expanding on that idea and creating Honeybee Mobile Market. DiMaggio works a full-time job while Pavelko devotes all his time to Honeybee. The business is for profit, with the goal of expanding and running sustainably in the future.
So in a region full of farmers markets and CSA options, why create a business that seems, at first anyway, similar to what already exists?
Co-owner Pavelko is not so worried about the already over-saturated market. He believes Honeybee will offer something different.
The special-order home delivery part of the business operates somewhat like a CSA, although with more flexibility and variety. When using Honeybee’s services, customers will be able to order products from a variety of farms whenever they desire. Purchases will be delivered to a home or office. Available products will include produce, meat, cheese, eggs, bread, and honey. Some of the participating farms are Harmony Valley, Featherstone, Natura, Ridgeroll, and Cedar Summit. There will be a fee of $5 for home / office delivery, but this fee can be avoided by signing up for recurring deliveries.
When ordering vegetables, customers won’t be able to select specific vegetables due to the inconsistency of products from farms based on the season and weather. Instead, customers can purchase “harvest boxes,” which will have an assortment of vegetables. There will be an option to select a specific box size, and also to note if you absolutely do not want, say, kohlrabi in your box.
Where Honeybee will be markedly unique is their mobile farmers market. Farmers markets as they are now, Pavelko says, are fabulous but not always convenient. The duo will target areas where there are lots of people and cart products in their trailer. “We want to follow the interest,” says Pavelko, perhaps an area with lots of offices where office dwellers are eager to do some shopping over their lunch breaks. Locations are in the works and will hinge partly on permits from the city.
Additionally, Pavelko wants to make Honeybee just as convenient for the farmers as it is for customers. “Let the farmers farm. They don’t have to spend all day setting up a farmers market stand. We’ll do that,” says Pavelko. He and DiMaggio will do the promoting and delivery, and whatever else comes up. They will have one central spot for farmers to make their deliveries.
In a fashion that is amusingly contradictory, Honeybee Mobile wants to be just as convenient as those fast food restaurants Paul Otten blames our food problems on.
Otten, however, is excited about Honeybee: “Having a delivery system to custom-deliver orders to a lot of different neighborhoods seems to be at least a part solution to make more fresh local produce conveniently available to areas and eaters that may previously not had as ready access to it.”