The end of October pretty much marks the end of farmers market season on Long Island. Although a few stay open for the winter (here’s Edible’s list), finding fresh produce and local meats and cheeses gets hard. More grocery stores are making a point by stocking local stuff, which is good. But farmers without their own distribution systems miss out on these markets.
OurHarvest, founded in 2013 with a focus on serving Long Island, is in the business of making distribution easier for small farmers while bringing local food to consumers and giving back to the community. (Edible Manhattan wrote about the business prospects of OurHarvest last year.) Their system is similar to a CSA; all produce is seasonal and customers must pick up their orders, but they also have a much wider choice. Along with fresh apples from Wickham’s and Brieremere farms, heirloom sweet potatoes from Invincible Summer Farms and cauliflower from Meyer’s Plant and Produce Farm, OurHarvest sells grass fed beef, mushrooms, chocolates, sauces and pickles, cheese, and breads and pastries from Las Delices Patisserie, which are gluten free, vegetarian and kosher. Merch is also available. (Get a hat! Or buy a gift card.)
What sets OurHarvest apart is for every order above $25, it donates a meal to a food pantry in or near your neighborhood.
For Scott D. Reich and Michael Winik, who grew up together in East Williston, OurHarvest is a second career. Reich worked in finance and Winik was a lawyer and they often talked about opening a business that had a social consciousness. The more they talked the more they realized food distribution in the U.S. was in need of a rehaul. (Here’s their About Us page on their website.)
“We thought there were insufficiencies in the supply chain,” says Reich, “and there had to be a better way to bring consumers food with more transparency and greater freshness while helping farmers and people in need at the same time.”
Now that it’s been up and running for three years, OurHarvest works with 100 producers, has 15 pick up locations and around 1,000 active customers.
This fall on Long Island there are two pickup sites in western Suffolk County and 11 in Nassau County. (There’s delivery in Manhattan, two sites in Brooklyn and one in Queens.)
The bulk of the work to run the business is the logistics of picking up the food and putting together the orders. Reich and Winik say they have vans, which they own, on the road every day and they are out on the East End at least three times per week. The goal is to keep their costs down, so the farmers can maximize their profits.
On the farmer side, Steph Gaylor of Invincible Summer Farms in Southold says she likes working with OurHarvest the best out of all the food delivery services.
“I really like that they give back,” she says. “And they have complete respect for their purveyors. They’re not looking to profit off your farm.” Other services, she says, will try to negotiate lower prices, which in many instances, would cause her to lose money. “With them, I never feel like I’m getting taken for a ride.”
On a Tuesday, I placed an order for Saturday morning pickup in the lower parking lot of the YMCA in Huntington. Ordering on the OurHarvest website is easy; there are pictures prices and links to info about the producers, who work in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I got two pounds of grass fed beef from Thistle Creek Farm in Pennsylvania for $6.99 a pound. An 8-ounce bag of frozen cranberries from the packager Hudson Valley Harvest for $4.99 (thinking ahead to Thanksgiving), two dozen hand dug Long Island clams for $5.99 a dozen, and two and a half pounds of organic heirloom sweet potatoes from Gaylor. The total was $44.52. Finding the best place for pick up and deadlines was harder than placing the actual order. It got much easier once I found the page with the schedule. I paid ahead of time on the website, and then made the drive.
The quality was superior. So far, I’ve made linguine with white clam sauce and divided the ground beef into six burgers. Seven meals, not bad. There wasn’t too much packaging, and I’m sure they’d appreciate your bringing your own box or bag.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, OurHarvest will have fresh turkeys from DiPaola Farm in New Jersey from 12 to 22 pounds at $5.99 per pound. DiPoala’s birds are antibiotic-free, free range and are fed a mix of corn and soy. Order by November 15.