Sunday, November 17, 2013

State of the Art: Good Eggs, a Virtual Farmer’s Market, Delivers Real Food

Farm-to-Click: The Times’s Jenna Wortham reviews Good Eggs, a new food shopping website that delivers locally sourced farmer’s market products right to your door.

When I was growing up, my father was fond of ordering steaks through the mail. When they arrived, my sister and I gleefully danced around the icy packages and argued over who got to open them. I can still remember marveling at the novelty of meat arriving in the same pile as regular letters, and our amazement that it tasted as good as — if not better than — the beef we purchased in the supermarket.

I experienced a similar kind of delight last week, when an appropriately hip delivery guy arrived on my doorstep in Brooklyn and handed me two grocery bags overflowing with fresh produce and goods from a new online service, Good Eggs.

Good Eggs, which opened for business in February, is a website and delivery service that lets you order food from local farmers and artisanal food makers. The Good Eggs model is much more advanced than the Omaha steaks of my youth, however. It is much closer to an online version of a farmer’s market.

Shoppers can go on the site and browse through dozens of virtual stands, searching by the type of item (dairy, meats, baked goods, produce and so forth) or by farm. Good Eggs says each order is fulfilled and assembled on-demand. According to the company, my order, placed last Wednesday, was harvested at and collected from the farms on Thursday, and assembled at a warehouse in Brooklyn before it was delivered to me the following day, Friday.

Good Eggs is one of a handful of companies around the country that are tapping into the local food movement and making it more accessible with technology. They offer a large array of products from a variety of farms, which distinguishes them from services known as C.S.A.'s, or community-supported agricultural programs. C.S.A.'s let people pay up front for a season’s worth of local produce to be delivered or picked up once a week. But they tend to work with one or two farms, so you may find yourself with unwanted produce, like too many pounds of new potatoes, beets or turnips, as has happened to me many times.

Good Eggs is available in Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, and Rob Spiro, one of its founders, said it was working on expanding its footprint nationwide.

The overall trend toward local goods delivered to your doorstep seems to be growing, so similar services should soon be starting in your area, if they haven’t already. In New York, there’s also Urban Organic and Next Door Organics, as well as companies like Quinciple that are specializing in artisanal food delivery. Start-ups like Farmigo are building software systems that any local farm can use to offer online ordering. Farmigo says it is working with 300 farms in more than 20 states across the country.

Even Amazon is getting into the business with a new trial service, AmazonFresh, and although the company is primarily focusing on grocery delivery, it is working with local merchants to include their goods on its digital shelves as well. (FreshDirect, which I did not test for this column, offers a similar online grocery service, but it is more closely modeled after a sprawling, upscale food market, versus the small-town farmer’s market feel that Good Eggs is trying to cultivate.)

The Good Eggs site itself is an orgy of visual pleasure. Plump, pink scallops and tender duck confit lay on one page, while hunks of fresh bread beckon from another. Hearty bags of golden-colored pears look as if they just came from an orchard, and pearly jugs of milk look as if they were just pulled from the fridge. The luscious photos made me more inclined to indulge and over-order, even though I was trying to limit my spending to around $40.

I ordered a wide selection of items from Good Eggs, including maple yogurt, organic rolled oats, Tuscan kale, sour pickles, a bunch of fennel, sunchokes, a jar of white kimchi and a package of Berkshire pork chops. The total amount of my delivery, including taxes and fees, came to $69.13.

The company gave me, a first-time customer, a $10 coupon, so I wound up paying $59.13, which is still much more than I’d spend on average at the grocery store or even at a farmer’s market. My C.S.A. usually costs me about $20 a week for a hefty bag of whatever fruits and vegetables were in season that month, which makes up the bulk of my meals that week. So it’s a bit more money than I’m used to spending on food for a meal or two at home. But it’s worth noting that I included several artisanal items (like the oats and kimchi), since both are harder to find on a regular trip to the store.

Jenna Wortham, a technology reporter, is a guest columnist for State of the Art.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 13, 2013

An earlier version of this column rendered incorrectly the name of a delivery service. It is Good Eggs, not GoodEggs.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 15, 2013

The State of the Art column on Thursday, about Good Eggs, a company that sells online and delivers products from local farmers and artisanal food producers, misstated its status in Los Angeles. Good Eggs operates there now; it is not considering an expansion to that city.

No comments:

Post a Comment