My farm, Hearty Roots Farm, during a morning meeting. Hearty Roots was among 18 farms to test Farm Generations’ GrownBy software this season.

Small Farmers, Let’s Go Big Together.

Lindsey Lusher Shute
4 min readSep 28, 2020

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Farm Generations is seeking farmers to join a cooperative building technology for regional and sustainable agriculture. Join the waitlist now.

The first week of April this year was supposed to be a sleepy winter week at our retail Farm Market here at our family business, Hearty Roots Farm. The same week in 2019 we sold a few hundred dollars worth of our produce and other local food to 16 customers. We never would have expected that April 2nd of 2020 would be our highest day of sales ever — the high season is supposed to be in August!

In a year, everything had transformed. Within days of the start of COVID-19 lockdowns, we turned our little retail shop into a packed-full mini warehouse of local food, pre-ordered online by our customers, and bagged up and ready to be brought out for contactless pickup in the farm parking lot. Our sales were more than 30 times higher than the same week the year before, with hundreds of customers visiting the farm on each of our distribution days.

COVID-19 was the first time our customers connected how local food is critical to their very existence. Consumers told us that they just felt safer knowing all of us at the farm— being closer to the people who knew how to grow their food.

This moment made it possible for farmers like us to imagine a food system where households buy most of their food from producers in their own region.

This moment made it possible for farmers like us to imagine a food system where households buy most of their food from producers in their own region. Although the idea of buying local has become more trendy over the last two decades, the market share for local food hasn’t exactly followed. Local food purchasing accounts for just 3% of “household calories” and an estimated 1.5% of the value of US agricultural production.

But this doesn’t need to be the way forward and it shouldn’t be. The land needs farmers in each and every region to steward it; consumers need farmers nearby to achieve basic food security; and farmers and rural people need a way to make a decent living.

Building viable regional food systems will require farmers to broadly upgrade their technology and achieve new levels of cooperation. If we want to be part of more consumers’ lives for the duration, then we have to meet their expectations for convenience and selection. Accelerating this work requires coordination and systems at scale.

That’s where Farm Generations comes in. Way before COVID, I worked with a team at the National Young Farmers Coalition to research the potential of farmer-owned technology. We did this because we were worried about how tech startups in the space were treating farmers. That work evolved into the Farm Generations Cooperative, a company building fair technology for farms. Our first product is GrownBy, a software platform that makes it dead simple to buy and sell local food. Eighteen farms tested GrownBy this season.

What we’re building here is not just a website for one farm or another, but rather a place of community where consumers can find and interact with the entire cooperative of farms.

What we’re building here is not just a website for one farm or another, but rather a place of community where consumers can find and interact with the entire cooperative of farms. When a consumer wants local, fair, and authentic, this will be the place for them to find it.

The platform supports farms selling CSA subscriptions and pre-orders for markets and farm stands. We can process credit cards, cash/check, and we’re working on EBT. In the future, we’ll expand to include all of the direct market channels that so many of us rely on.

GrownBy is owned by the members of the Farm Generations Cooperative. Any farmer who downloads our GrownBy app (available later this year) and sells a product on it will be eligible to buy an equity stake in the company. With a member share, a farmer can receive a portion of company profits. Farmer-members can also vote on major company decisions, such as the farmer representatives to the board of directors.

Our team is made up of farmers and developers who believe that the world requires this kind of change. We’re not just passing through the local farm community as an economic opportunity; we care deeply. And for me, the success of this project impacts my own farm and family.

So if you’re a farmer and you’d like to join in a movement to make the buying trends that we’re seeing in COVID become the future of local agriculture, we invite you to join the waitlist for the Farm Generations Cooperative. When we release GrownBy 1.0 this fall, you’ll be first to be invited to join the platform and become an owner of the company.

And when we all get together, who knows what’s next? Our community of incredible farmers, working for mutual benefit, can bring technology and cooperation to bear in so many creative ways. This is only just the beginning. We hope you will join us on this journey together.

Hearty Roots Farm in 2020

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