Raised in Bellingham, where her family had a “hobby farm” with chickens, cows and pigs, Janelle Maiocco is no stranger to tractors and muddy barn boots. The 41-year-old mother of two has been a trained chef, food blogger and food marketer, and in September she launched Farmstr.com—a kind of Craigslist for locally farmed food. Two months later, Farmstr took first place at the prestigious Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s First Look Forum. The online marketplace allows small, sustainable farms (including Maiocco’s own urban farm in Wallingford) to sell organic, non-GMO foods directly to customers seeking a local source of high-quality produce, meats and dairy. Most goods are seasonal (this month, expect a variety of early spring veggies), plus a regular supply of eggs, honey, grass-fed beef, raw milk and salmon. Participating farmers deliver to a host of drop sites around the city, where they can meet buyers in person. “It’s all about the handshake, the relationship and the community building,” Maiocco says. Growers eliminate the middleman, are able to connect with people who care about the story behind their food, and ultimately become a part of the “greater solution for the food system across the country.”
NEED TO KNOW
1/ Janelle Maiocco plans to take Farmstr nationwide, and will begin expansion to Portland in late 2014.
2/ According to Maiocco, farmers selling to grocery stores make an estimated 11–16 cents on the dollar, but Farmstr earns them as much as five to six times more.
3/ Farmstr employs five people, and works with more than 40 farmers and 300 customers—and those numbers are on the rise.
4/ At a recent Northwest entrepreneur competition, the company beat out several startup ideas, including bicycle helmets with integrated rearview mirrors and topical medication embedded in textiles.
5/ Maiocco’s advice for entrepreneurs: “Don’t look back. Succeed—or fail big.”