La Ruche qui dit Oui!

La Ruche qui dit Oui! (the hive that says yes) is a marketplace that connects farmers to people who want farm fresh food in their kitchens and on their tables. We got to know the company last winter when my friends Simon and Toby from Mosaic introduced me to Marc-David Choukroun, one of the two founders of La Ruche. The Gotham Gal and I were in Paris and we met up with Marc-David at a Ruche on a saturday morning. We sipped coffee and talked to the farmers and customers who were stopping by to pick up their weekly supply of meat, cheese, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and bread. We were smitten.

For years, USV has been on the hunt for a way to invest in the “farm to table” market sector. As you all know very well, we believe in the power of networks to solve the challenging problems of our time. And making high quality farm fresh quality food available at a reasonable price to everyone is certainly one of those challenging problems. The most affordable food is also the most mass produced and, generally, the most unhealthy food. How can we get back to a time when the food we eat is produced nearby, is high quality, and is healthy?

One way is to use the power of the network to connect farmers and consumers. And many entrepreneurs have been working on this problem over the past twenty years. We have met with most of them. Unfortunately, not many of them, until recently, met our test of a lightweight, peer to peer, capital efficient, people powered network. We call these “thin networks” and we are drawn to them as investors and as consumers.

La Ruche has been operating in France and Belgium for the past four years. Their marketplace connects farmers, consumers, and, most importantly, hosts together to form communities (Ruches or Assemblies) that come together once a week to exchange products, feedback, and friendships. These are communities in the truest sense of the word. My colleague Nick went to a Ruche in Paris last month and there was live music playing and people were hanging out enjoying the lovely spring day. A community is the thing that La Ruche’s marketplace software helps people create.

The business model is simple. Consumers order the food they want to pick up in advance and pay for it. The farmer comes to the community at the designated time, sets up next to the other farmers, and delivers his or her products in person. The farmer keeps most of the money, but the host and La Ruche split a small take rate for facilitating the transaction. It is a win/win/win. Farmers make more money selling directly, consumers get high quality products at reasonable prices, and the hosts make money for their effort to create the community, recruit the consumers, and curate the farmers. For many hosts, the income they get from creating and running these communities helps pay the bills, in the same way that selling on Etsy can help a family make a little extra money each month to make ends meet.

La Ruche has expanded to the UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy recently. The communities are known as La Ruche qui dit Oui! in France and Belgium; The Food Assembly in the UK and Germany, ¡La Colmena que dice Si! in Spain, L’alveare che dice Si! in Italy and Boeren & Buren in flemish Belgium. With its recent expansion in Europe, the network now has 100,000 active customers, 4,500 local producers, 700 communities. The company has 70 employees operating in six countries.

Over the past six months, USV has worked with Marc-David and his partner Guilhem Cheron to put together the right investor group to help La Ruche with their european expansion. La Ruche is a socially conscious mission driven organization that values farmers and communities and the needs of both as much as (or more than) the pure profit motive. In the US, they would be a B Corporation. And so they needed an investor group that was aligned on that. I am pleased and proud to say that they have succeeded in finding that investor group and USV is part of it. Our partners in this adventure are Frederic Court of Felix Capital, existing investor Rodolphe Menegaux and Xange, Eric Archambeau and Aymeric Jung of the social venture capital fund Quadia, and a few angel investors who are aligned with the company and its mission.

If you find yourself in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, or the UK in the coming months, go to La Ruche and find a Ruche or Assembly and stop by and check it out. It’s something to see. Here’s a map that will help you find one near you.

#Food and Drink#marketplaces

Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    “The farmer keeps most of the money.”Fred, I love this. Kudos.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Rohan

        Congrats Fred!

      2. Faisal Naqab

        Fred,Great effort.I conceived this idea 10 years ago and started off with my plan in, where else, Pakistan, my home country where there are several distribution layers between the farmer and the end consumer. This business done by intermediaries have been generational and has started since farm cultivation started in these areas. I was politely asked to scrap these marketplace ideas and ,at best, offered me a chance to be become an additional distribution channel for a less consumed crop.I am glad this concept is making a good breakthrough in the developed nations while I can tell the penetration into developing countries will only account for lost jobs and business to millions of people, for a reasons mentioned below,

        1. Matt A. Myers

          This could become an issue in France as well and other countries. You don’t want local medium-sized farms shutting down because smaller non-local farms are now making their product/produce available where they before weren’t available.In the U.S. the industrial farming already took over and the reverse would benefit from happening – it’s all about pricing and if you allow low-quality produce to takeover then those who have even slightly higher costs (while producing much higher quality produce) end up going out of business and not being able to earn a living.In France and many European countries their social net is much better than the U.S. as well, and I suppose countries like Pakistan who require that naturally distribution of resources – as it’s known that health is inherently linked to wealth, and the more distributed resources are in a society the healthier that society is.

          1. JLM

            .It’s also about distribution and transportation and pricing.Sometimes, you have to go to the farms.The Fredericksburg, TX peaches are just now coming in. You drive to F’burg and get fresh peaches, peach cider (the best natural laxative known to man) and eat peach ice cream. In the winter, you get peach schnapps — on your peach ice cream, also.It is a tradition and a tasty one.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. ShanaC

            I once turned orange from eating only peaches. I’m not sure I should have peach cider

          3. timraleigh

            …are you trying to say I am full of shit? You may be right.

          4. JLM

            .Quart of peach cider will change your current status.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. timraleigh

            Seriously, I had never heard of “peach cider” before. I gotta try it now.

          6. JLM

            .Abbott’s Farm in SC. Order it on line. This is peach season right now.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Nathan Gantz

          Developing countries do not have supermarkets in the villages. Only tourists and rich people buy their food in the mall. Developing countries have farmers markets. La Ruche is a type of farmers market. La Ruche is doing something in developed countries which is already done in developing countries.Food costs in developing countries are much higher than labor. For example, in the US you can buy one haircut for the price of two chickens. In Southeast Asia you can buy one chicken for the price of three haircuts. That means semiskilled labor has one-sixth the value in developing countries, in terms of buying chicken. When labor is cheap and food is expensive, anything that can bring down the price of food is good for the people — even if it destroys some intermediary jobs.

    2. Matt Kruza

      I would think the unit economics are pretty strong. Distribution costs so much in te food space I wouldn’t be surprised if the farmer normally only gets 40% of the retail price, and in this model I could see them getting 80%. I think the key is the pre-ordering, as this leads to enough demand to scale without farmers taking on a huge risk of no buyers, and then hence spoiled product. Could eventually turn into a set recurring “subscription” of $20 of produce a week etc. picked up on Monday and Thursday, completely eliminating the middleman / grocery store. Especially in the big cities I see the cutting out of expensive retailers as leaving a TON of margin for the farmers and the company with their cut.

      1. awaldstein

        For produce in distribution.Store gets 30pts, distribution 20-30pt.Off of wholesale.The economics and the behavior of this model needs to be looked not against standard grocery store stuff but against the Green Market model.This one is quite super and obviously scalable. Human shopping behavior is of course key here as in everything else.

        1. Richard

          And idea who eats more produce (at home) per capita (American or Europeans)

          1. awaldstein


          2. Richard

            My gut tells me that for foods prepared at home, many Americans lack the skills and the time to prepare fruits and vegetables on par with Europeans

          3. Matt Kruza

            Rich, I think that is a very good point. It takes no skills to warm-up processed foods or to buy food that is prepared, but cooking while not that hard of a skill, is still a skill nonetheless. Also, lets be real in that fruits and vegetables are not as naturally pleasing as sugars, copious fats and salt. Sugar and fat in particular trigger meaningful dopamaine release in the brain (particularly in the important habit forming nuclear acumbens part of the basal ganglia) so there is a matter of free will an discipline needed as well to see this shift become real large

          4. Richard


          5. Matt Kruza

            Hey rich, just found you on linkedin and saw Case Western? Any other ties to the Cleveland area. Probably the biggest pro-Cleveland advocate here as I put my company and the city on the map 🙂 Just curious if you are in the region much!

          6. Girish Mehta

            “…fruits and vegetables are not as naturally pleasing as….”The issue I’d have is with the word ‘naturally’. Fruits and vegetables can actually be much more pleasing..

          7. Matt Kruza

            I guess I mean at a brains biochemistry level. Sugar is often compared to cocaine for the dopamine hits / levels and urges it produces. (I take these studies with grains of salt.. no pun intended.. but still shows how powerful at a biological / neurotransmitter level). To be sure I guess cocaine is not exactly “naturally” pleasing, but addicting or appealing to our base impulses I suppose is the better way to articulate it

          8. Girish Mehta

            Understood. The thing is processed / packaged sugary foods alter the ability to taste natural foods. It takes several months (no science to the number, each individual is different) of not eating several foods to rediscover the natural taste of fruits and vegetables.Personally, I take very, very little “added” sugar (eat it naturally in fruits), but to each their own.Paraselcus the father of toxicology said -“Sola Dosis Facit Venenum”“The dose makes the poison”Specifically, what he said was – “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.”A lot of sugar is bad. Not clear that the addiction theory of sugar has been scientifically established…read a fair bit on that. But too much is bad, nevertheless. But you know what else is bad if you take a lot of ? Water. Drinking 6 liters of water at a time will kill a moderate weight (~ 160 lb) person. Can’t live without it, and drinking a lot of it kills you :-)The dose makes the poison.p.s. Obviously this does not apply in any health condition, in which case the right dose may be zero…something for a qualified doctor to decide.

          9. Matt Kruza

            I can agree with your premise on altering natural food. Sort of like how drugs alter people’s ability to get enjoyment from mundane things which don’t give a high. I am not arguing at all that sugar should be consumed more, just rather that it indeed is very appealing at a base level. The more people realize that the better they can use their higher reasoning functions to fight against those cravings

          10. SubstrateUndertow

            Sugar/fats/salt are super appealing as a directed result of evolutionary necessity.Its the sudden unlimited factory-food over-dosing of these ounce hard to acquire key survival nutrients that turns them into poisonous easy profit magnets for corporate food producers.

          11. awaldstein

            the entire farm to table explosion starting with alice waters would disagree with you on the taste quality of fruits and vegetables.

          12. Matt Kruza

            The broad based results of the 70% who are obese or overweight largely serve as an example of those who disagree.. to be sure, I am not saying that fruits and vegetables are not good for you (they are!!),but there is no way fruits and vegetables are as addicting / pleasurable to your brain on a neurochemical and biological level. Again, it is best to try and rise above these base impulses (we don’t all want to use drugs and alcohol just because they can trigger dopamine and other at least temporary hits / highs), but its important to acknowledge the powerful base feelings of these unhealthy foods.. as that is one main reason people eat so much of it. Agree/ disagree?

          13. SubstrateUndertow

            All these TV chef competition show but none that focus on preparing quick, keep it simple, fresh/taste/health meals that meet the needs of busy working folks ?TV has a lot of fat chefs but the real trick for a true modern chef is producing gourmet meals that are also fresh and healthy in a timely manner with widely available ingredients.My dream chef competition show:Chefs compete to produce quick, keep it simple, fresh/taste/health timely meals for the masses then a week later viewers vote the winner who’s meals viewers actually found to be simple, fresh/taste and timely to prepare !

          14. Anne Libby

            Tina Ye at is working on this issue online. Not the chef competition, but simple smart cooking.(Tina is an alum of Gary Chou’s Orbital bootcamp…)

          15. Girish Mehta

            Popularity of TV cooking shows increases while meals cooked at home declines.”FoodTech”(..*cough*”logistics”*cough*..) companies provide exotic, delicious meals home in 45 minutes. Which you can eat while watching the TV chef competition.Watching Food being cooked is more interesting than cooking food.These are the days of of Miracle and Wonder…

          16. Matt Kruza

            I am down with that , but I am also down with a politically informed electorate… not sure if either will happen!

          17. ShanaC

            I’d watch that

          18. awaldstein


          19. ShanaC

            No idea. Americans are switching to more produce though

      2. Anne Libby

        A music lover in my circle consumes music in this way here in NYC, “secret” concerts that happen in people’s homes. I’m sure there are other uses for this kind of model.

        1. ShanaC

          How do I find these concerts

          1. Anne Libby

            I’ll ask him, will see him later this week. I don’t know that they’re really “secret.”

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Farmers already would keep most of the money, this just allows farmers who perhaps aren’t big enough to have a full booth supply the locals; I do wonder how local the products/produce comes from and how the locals with full booths are taking to this. In reality this could be good for consumers and specific producers, though unsure if it is as good for the full-time or medium size farmers.The key here is that the physical infrastructure and cultural behaviour already exist – weekly markets – and so it was a matter of adding the logistical layer and cost-sharing to bring economies of scale into play.Where this model makes more sense is that normally if one wanted to have a place for picking up pre-ordered goods or selling them with other producers’ products, requiring a retail space, is that the cost of a weekly pickup place (farmers market booth) is much lower than what rent would be in a city. It also plays well as a marketing platform as people inevitably will see this new concept when they go to market.

      1. JLM

        .A lot of cities donate a park on Saturday morning for local farmers.ATX does.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. Faisal Naqab

        Wonder what will happen to the commodities trading markets around the world if this farm-to-mouth kicks off big time, like say, airbnb.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          The tipping point for revolution is much closer than people realize.

        2. Doug Calahan

          Faisal, we hope to find out soon. Our company, Local Roots, is beginning trials of our peer-to-peer network in 3 weeks. Basically, anyone growing in their backyard can sell to their neighbors via our mobile platform. Everything is neighborhood based (think of a combination of Nextdoor and Etsy for local food). Our goal as a company is to move the food supply back into Local communities and reverse the last 70 years of “progress”. So rather than just using real farms (of which there are not nearly enough local independent farms anymore), we want to turn your hobbyist urban gardener into micro-farmers. Can we get the hobbyists to start scaling up their production a little bit? Will consumers be willing to change their behavior a little bit? Not sure, yet, but we’ll have some solid data points in about a month.

    4. Faisal Naqab

      That is exactly the problem. “Farmers making most of the money”. In the Asian/Middle East countries, farmer is a laborer and not a producer. It is like saying the guy that makes the burgers for you will get to keep most of the money and not the franchise per se.And when labor ekes out more money than the intermediaries , unions will pitch in to negotiate. This is the scenario happening in 90% of the countries now. Sorry to say technology has a tough assignment to disrupt this method and will only backfire in those nations

    5. ShanaC

      Csa type model with less politics

      1. Lucas Dailey

        I’d say it’s more like an ala carte CSA model. More choice, more flexibility, and of course easier discovery and transactions.This is a product that will exist, it’s just about the right team with the right execution. And of course assuming a adjacent competitor with a take rate of 0 doesn’t swoop in with different business model.

  2. kenberger

    Mosaic is a new juggernaut to be sure.My wife (with the design firm she founded) produces their pitch decks, logos, etc !

  3. LIAD

    i like it. grass roots. natural. hunch is the ambience aspect is a big part of the appeal.pre-ordering boosts this from a database of ‘flash farmers markets’ to, over time, a consumption data powerhouse.i like how pre-ordering gives farmers a known dependable income in advance and streamlines the transaction for customers.there is something to say however about the serendipity of browsing a market and coming back with unplanned delights. – do customers have to order in advance? if not would be interesting to know what %age do and how much additional produce farmers take with them to account for passing trade.

    1. Jon Michael Miles

      I did a profile on Duke University and it’s health promotion efforts a while back. Ironically doctors et al are some of the most unhealthy people around. To promote healthy food intake Duke had farmers markets each week with music. It focused on creating a ‘festival atmosphere.’ Ambience and socialization are both a big deal for a healthy life. So your hunch is backed by science.

      1. LE

        doctors et al are some of the most unhealthy people aroundDoctors have addictions like everyone else. And food, unhealthy and tasty food in large quantities that is, is an addiction. In small quantities, and as part of otherwise eating well, it’s not significant. And knowledge that something is “bad for you” is often well known to begin with anyway. (Take excessive alcohol consumption as only one example.)The reverse of this addiction of course is the “addiction” to the idea that you can somehow prolong your life greatly by worship to healthier foods or living in a way that totally excludes “eating any crap”. A little crap is fine and part of a healthy balanced life to many people. The benefit is most likely more psychological than physiological.I always find interesting the paradox of people who worship healthy foods but then engage in otherwise dangerous and risky behaviors.

        1. andyswan

          The farmers I know have all worked (literally) until the day they died.Most of them saw no value in living the cult of healthiness simply to prolong life. They enjoyed good things and good people. I don’t know… that comment just rubbed me the wrong way. Food prudes usually do.

          1. LE

            My comment? What rubbed you the wrong way it seems that you agree with what I said.

          2. andyswan

            not yours. the one saying how farmers are unhealthy.

        2. Richard

          Truth is we don’t know if a little crap is ok any more than we know a little pollution is okThe issue isn’t ok not ok, the issue is risk vs benefits

    2. fredwilson

      Yes they do have to order in advance but they can see something at the Ruche and order it for the next week

      1. LIAD

        i’m guessing savvy famers bring along extra produce to cater to window shoppers in real-time.should probably be encouraged by the co. better experience for all if can buy on spur of the moment.ah – but it can’t – no take on those sales.hmmm – needs addressing i would think

  4. Mark Essel

    This is great, and sounds delicious. Look forward to their eventual presence in the US

  5. Joe Lazarus

    I love this concept. I’m curious how it compares to a local farmer’s market. How do the fees to farmers compare to renting a booth at a farmer’s market. How early in advance to buyers place their order? Is a basket of goods prepared in advance of your arrival or do you pick up from each farmer at the venue? What sort of venue typically hosts the weekly pickup location?

    1. LE

      I am curious about the same thing. It would seem that farmers attending farmers markets (being field smart as they are) would already have a grip on the demand at a particular market in advance certainly over time. This seems like more of a benefit to the person who wants a particular product not ending up with the anxiety of knowing whether a particular item will be available by the time that they arrive at the market. The same reason that I use opentable instead of showing up and wondering how long it will take to get a seat at a restaurant.

    2. fredwilson

      You order roughly three days in advance. You stroll through and pick up from each farmer one by one. That encourages discussion with the farmer about the products. Venues can be cafes, parking lots, stoops, pretty much anything

      1. Joe Lazarus

        I just went through the online ordering process for one of the Ruches in London. Signup and checkout are pretty simple and the selection decent. Still curious in terms of advantages over traditional farmer’s markets for buyers & sellers. Or, are the Ruches in markets that aren’t served by traditional farmer’s markets? Must be compelling if they already have 100k customers. In any case, as a foodie & marketplace fan, I admire what they’re doing.

  6. Bob Struble

    Why not (or better yet when) in the US?

    1. fredwilson

      They are expanding in Europe for now.

  7. pointsnfigures

    My wife and I have a huge interest in this sector being from the Midwest. She has worked on organic farms, pasture cattle/sheep/goat/pig/chicken ranches just outside of Chicago. There are incredible logistical problems that have to be overcome. I traded hogs for a while and learned a lot about how they are raised, processed and distributed.Farming is very challenging-and the USDA/FDA stunt innovation. Government policy in the US favors huge factory farms and economic incentives cause them to plant row crops of soybeans and corn.The interesting thing is that the demand side of the equation has done a 180. People want organic. Our local grocers can’t get enough pastured chicken. I think that there could be more small family type farms given a logistical solution to get product to market. Maybe this is it?It is time to figure out ways to unbundle agriculture.

    1. William Mougayar

      Very much agreed. And urban expansion around cities continues to take over farmland and they build homes instead, and open-up strip malls with junk food stores in them.

    2. Tom Labus

      Congrats on the Hawks win!

      1. pointsnfigures

        Thanks. It’s awesome. Can say it’s a dynasty. In 2006, they were at the bottom. Ashes. Hope for Knicks fans.

        1. andyswan

          Am I missing something? Did the Knicks get rid of “Melo”?

        2. Anne Libby

          I was on the phone last pm with a family member who lives in the suburbs last night, and could hear her neighbors yelling.

    3. andyswan

      the USDA and EPA are unbelievable in how much they tilt the tables towards BigCoFood. All in the name of “clean water” and “healthy babies”

      1. PhilipSugar

        They had a amish farmer near me arrested for selling un pasteurized milk.Many people believe in it because the feeling is that the cows are eating the local grass and giving a child who has allergies that milk helps them build immunity to the pollen and such.

        1. Rob Larson

          the downside is it also comes with the risk of listeria, which although rare is not to be taken lightly. I’ve drunk lots of unpasteurized milk in my life, but for my kids I prefer to give them pasteurized.

    4. awaldstein

      The only was is obviously to remove yourself from distribution which hasn’t changed since I was a kid.Doesn’t online models compete directly with green markets though?In NY at least we have markets, we have numerous coop solutions like buying into a farmers yield and having it delivered once a week.I’ve tried them all and invariably just shop at the green markets.

      1. pointsnfigures

        To William’s point: it’s all about logistics. As urban areas expand, food is farther from demand. NY is unique. LOTS of demand. Hard to compare NYC to the rest of the US.

        1. awaldstein

          Good point but I’m not sure.NY is the most vertical city in the US certainly so a great point.But the reality of how people shop for produce in NY is honestly the same in LA which is as spread out as it gets.Less economical for carbon usage to get the food there but it happens year round because of the climate.So unsure whether this holds.To some degree yes and I agree but it is more about the economics of the market. Logistics is just the tech.

        2. JLM

          .The elephant in the room about farming is — when the crops come in, there is a glut. Prices are driven down.When the crops are not coming in, you have to transport produce a long way.We get fresh strawberries in ATX all year round. Sometimes fairly local and other times from deep into Old Mexico.Prices vary greatly.You know who does this well?Sam’s and Costco.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. pointsnfigures

            Actually, that is handled by futures, OTC forwards and cold storage. Ironically, the Federal government forces sour cherry growers to dump cherries because of price support regulations etc-and that is not the only group. Best example is peanut subsidies, which incent peanut farmers to pay more. US govt buys surplus peanuts and puts them into storage, or grinds them and stores them. Contributes about .50 to a higher price on every jar of peanut butter.Your point about climate is well taken. In most areas of the country, produce is seasonal.

          2. JLM

            .The whole gov’t program of cherries, peanuts, cheese — we could bomb N Korea with American excess.There are even peanut allotments in Texas — not just Virginia. A peanut allotment which goes with the land makes a lousy piece of ranch land twice as valuable.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Anne Libby

            I loved Barbara Kingsolver’s *Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,* about a family who lived local for a year.

          4. JLM

            .I have become completely local. Every place I spend a $ has to meet that test. Some things I can’t get local but I can patronize local owned businesses.I also apply it to charity.”I live here. I give here.”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. Anne Libby

            The book is a fun read, and thought provoking…

          6. Amar

            hrmm.. how do you do that in Austin? I am game 🙂 to try it out… as long as it is not insanely expensive. My wife shops at Trader Joe’s and HEB — can we go “local”?

    5. Campbell Macdonald

      Isn’t what La Ruche is doing largely provided by Farmer’s Markets or am I missing something? The key difference is pre-pay & pre-ordering (which is HUGE for cash flow and demand forecast).

      1. Campbell Macdonald

        Jeff: Chicago has a pretty healthy Farmer’s Market system (or did in Lakeview). I see La Ruche as being an extension of this. Though it’s not clear to me how they could create massive barriers in this space.

        1. pointsnfigures

          But, it’s the same farmers with the same stuff. Each market is the same as the other. Etsy for farming is an interesting concept because that means you increase total supply of goods by allowing boutique farmers to get into the game. Right now it’s impossible for them.

          1. JamesHRH

            Calgary restaurants working w local farms to ‘design’ meat & veg.Major trend, high quality custom food supply?

          2. Campbell Macdonald

            Yes and no. Niche is good and I like/support that.You are right that it’s the same farmers with the same stuff (I’m assuming you aren’t saying the same farmers who supply HEB). But is your concern maintaining a price for a farmer (which will go down if there are a bunch of “commodities” on sale at one time? Or do you actually want boutique food for yourself? Or is that farmer’s markets don’t have a model that allow them to grow and get new, smaller farmers into the game? Each of these points are imporant, different and, I believe, solvable.

          3. pointsnfigures

            I don’t see this as a niche. See it as a movement.I don’t have a concern about maintaining a price. Let a free market set the price. Farmers can manage risk with forward contracts and futures.I do want boutique food for myself-and right now I am looking for a farm to live/grow it on.I think this platform could enable more people to get into farming if it can solve the logistical/demand side for goods.

          4. JLM

            .Every place I’ve been in the last few years has a farmer’s market.It is a movement.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. awaldstein

            It’s part of the fabric of life.What i the largest competitor for produce for Whole Foods? Green Markets.

          6. JLM

            .You can sure get lulled to sleep going to Whole Paycheck.Their presentation, reliability of product and depth of product is excellent.If I were a single guy, I’d be trolling the produce department at WF in the evenings.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. awaldstein

            An org I am becoming quite familiar with.

          8. awaldstein

            They as expected has a vendor loan and vc fund as well. Very approachable btw.

          9. JLM

            .I have known John Mackey since he had one store — flooded by the May 1981 floods which were just replicated last week — on Lamar Blvd.The rebuilding of that one store is how John got the bug up his ass to become WF. He liked building new stores.He is a very interesting cat. Believe it or not, he and I agree on almost everything related to politics just come from completely different directions.Very smart guy.He reduced his salary to $1 and then resigned as Chairman. He still sits on the Board and is really the guiding light.Used to be a big blogger and got in trouble for his anonymous comments on Yahoo.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          10. awaldstein

            I have heard the same.Buddy of mine in private equity rolled up some supermarket chains and had dinner with him recently.WFM is a force of nature for urban life.

          11. JLM

            .How much different stuff can they have?I do love the local honey.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          12. Doug Calahan

            pointsnfigures – if you don’t mind, go check out our website I’d be very interested to get your feedback on what we’re doing. We always tell people that we’re building Etsy for local food (probably more of a combo Nextdoor and Etsy, though). If we can make our marketplace work, we’ll be able to provide the platform for new boutique farmers (especial urban farmers) to make a go of it. Truly, I’d love your feedback as we are very early stage right now.

    6. Mike Bestvina

      Fellow Chicago-suburban here! Go hawks!> People want organic.People want organic because they’re misinformed. I have personal relationships with both a small strawberry farmer in the UK and the CEO of one of the largest CPG companies in the world (50€ bil rev). Both say the same thing – organic is economically unsustainable. People can’t expect to afford non-GMO food forever and farmers are increasingly making *less* money trying to sell organic food.IMO, the real evil doer in the farm industry are the seed patent trolls (*cough*Monsanto*cough*). They affect the bottom line of the farm’s cost structure.

  8. Louis Dclrt

    Great news ! I love this business model. I think its a great investment : kind of a marketplace, recurring revenues. I read everyday but was far from imagine an article from Fred about a French startup… My wife is currently opening a Ruche in Versailles, and customers and producers are very excited. It will open in September : easy opening process. Please come by in fall.Louis

    1. fredwilson


  9. JimHirshfield

    The Meetup and Etsy of farmers markets. Sow cool.

    1. kenberger

      Well plowed.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Oh, ewe see what I did there?

    2. fredwilson


  10. JaredMermey

    Had a buddy who tried to start something like this but specific to grass fed meats and poultries. He had the biggest issue figuring out a delivery mechanism to get the goods from farmer’s farm to consumer’s table in a cost efficient manner. The community idea is a very elegant solution.Does this come down to can the community delivery scheme scale? With current traction it definitely seems worth it to find out.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Meat delivery is different than vegetable delivery because of refrigeration. Also, in order to butcher meat, it has to go through a USDA regulated slaughterhouse. Those are expensive to set up. Then there are the logistical issues of growing livestock and having a constant supply.

      1. JaredMermey

        For sure. But I imagine (and very well could be wrong) that vegetables have a shelf life that is only so long and somehow limits how they must be shipped. Would be awesome if veggies came through the mail much easier.Further complexity came from disrupting the distribution. It was hard to turn a farmer/slaughterhouse into a consumer distribution point. They were not used to sending such small cuts/quantities. I could imagine that is easier for veggies too, but something to think about.

  11. Brandon Kessler

    The hosts! Brilliant. The sharing economy meets retailers (for the first time?).We in New York would go crazy for this.

    1. andyswan

      Yes I can see NY/SF loving this action

  12. Jim Borden

    I also think the Ruche is a great business model. I’ve heard great things about a co-op in the Houston area that has over 6,000 members, https://www.rawfullyorganic…The co-op has successfully brought together farmers, consumers, and the local community; seems like the model could spread to other cities.The founder of the co-op is an amazing young woman who has more than 600,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, FullyRawKristina.

    1. andyswan

      That’s really cool

  13. Jon Michael Miles

    I’d love to buy more food at the existing farmers markets. Often we have no idea when they’re going to pop up. Some are obvious, 6 am Saturday at such and such park. Others less so, like Wednesday at the Silver Line metro here in DC. Take this a step further and include community gardens and I’d easily buy fresh food daily for the house. Do it all bitcoin, sans les taxes, that’s just scrumptious.

  14. Tom Labus

    My niece and her family ive on a 75 acre organic farm in WI. They have 600 CSAs which takes a huge effort to push out each week.along with their staff (who have health care via the farm). It’s nice pre ordering.

    1. pointsnfigures

      CSA is a massive amount of work. Probably too much work given the marginal revenue.

  15. William Mougayar

    Congratulations. I hope this could work in the US/Canada. It’s not easy finding consistently local, honest, farm-fresh food. Big food productions and junk food franchises are killing the supply and demand side of artisanal food production.Curious how do these suppliers overlap with the ones that offer their goods to fine restaurants who often have direct relationships with farmers?

  16. andyswan

    TLDR: A great way for people with excess money to feel better about the food they eat, and a great way for farmers with no desire to compete with efficient, larger producers to get higher margins.30 years ago I was taught by a well-meaning school teacher from social studies book written by a committee of do-gooders that it was a scientific fact that the world COULD NOT feed a population of over 5 billion. This was after the chapter on the coming acid rains.Today we are creating more food than necessary to feed 8 billion… with less farmers and less acreage per caloric output by multiples. OVERALL– “Mass production of food” has been a boon of health and wealth for the world.That said, there is nothing that compares to the taste (and possibly health benefits) of an ear of corn straight off the cob and a rib from a pig you just shot.Demand is natural (especially among the relatively wealthy) and I’m sure there are farmers (especially smaller ones) who will be intrigued by the low-volume, high-margin opportunity.BUT— I really have to wonder if this would work in the US. Maybe around true urban islands, completely disconnected from the food that they eat.I grew up in a family of farmers. I see them work 20 hour days during peak times for 14-18 days straight. I can’t imagine them taking a pack list and heading down to a festival. Of course… where they live it’s a 1/2 mile drive just to take some watermelon to the next door neighbor :)Love the niche…and I think they’ve started in the exact right part of the world.But that name… wow. “The hive”? ugh

    1. pointsnfigures

      We should maybe change the metrics. Measure by calories per acre and not bushels per acre. I have seen some incredibly efficient organic farms that produce a lot of produce. We also need to get back to eating whole animals.

      1. awaldstein

        nutrient density per acres is better than calories honestly.less clear and more disruptive but i think where it is all going over time.

      1. andyswan

        right on. I don’t think it needs the US at all. I bet it’d work around NYC and SF… but there might be better swords for that fight.

    2. LE

      TLDR: A great way for people with excess money to feel better about the food they eat, and a great way for farmers with no desire to compete with efficient, larger producers to get higher margins.5 Diamonds on that one. Adjunct tldr: A business calls itself “boutique” when they can’t piss in the weeds with the big dogs.Also a great way for people with excess money to feel that they are “helping the little guy” and “making a difference”. Let’s just boil it down to basic human behavior..

    3. Ryan Frew

      I’m trying to read into your tone here regarding “farmers with no desire to compete with efficient, larger producers”. Are you harboring ill feelings towards those farmers? To me, this is a form of competition, but with a different value proposition. What’s wrong with that? I can’t claim to know much about farming, but I don’t think I would want to go against the big players if I were a samll independent farmer. And if I could rake in thicker margins without going to bat against them, why wouldn’t I? It’s that smart move.

      1. andyswan

        No ill feelings at all. They see a market they want to supply and are doing so. It’s great.

        1. Ryan Frew

          Word. Here we are discussing the bigger problems of the world, when there is still big money to be made in figuring out how to portray tone/sentiment within internet comments haha

    4. SubstrateUndertow

      All your points are well take buy but are they sustainable in the long run ?Climate changes, mono-crop genetic traps, soil depletion, low nutritional content, soil microbial collapse caused by massive glyphosate(round-up) which may not direct poison humans but seriously effects/distorts our gut microbial makeup may make the status quo unsustainable moving forward ?

  17. Joseph Zaccardi

    Being a relatively affluent suburbanite, this is awesome and I hope it becomes available in my area some time soon.One thing did jump out at me:”How can we get back to a time when the food we eat is produced nearby, is high quality, and is healthy?”When exactly was this time? When food was mainly produced locally, the population was at risk of dying of starvation from a blight or famine. The variety of food available was ludicrous compared to what is available today for pennies. How often do you think you could have fresh oranges, bananas, limes, strawberries, or countless other fruits and vegetables in NYC if you relied on locally grown produce?Further, how much more expensive and carbon intensive is it for farmers to individually deliver their produce to markets (even close markets) compared to using well established distribution channels?This is a great idea, but let’s call it what it is: a way for wealthy people to feel better about themselves.

    1. andyswan

      The idea that food production was healthier in the past is beyond bizarre. It’s downright backwards.

      1. LE

        I would have a hard time deciding if it was more interesting to watch airplanes take off and land, an active construction dig, or a John Deere outfitted with a GPS farming.

    2. LE

      Further, how much more expensive and carbon intensive is it for farmers to individually deliver their produce to markets (even close markets) compared to using well established distribution channels?Exactly. And a good example of how you can manipulate anything by playing with the numbers and rationalizing benefits in the way that suits the point you are trying to make.True “Net cost” is rarely figured into decisions. One of my examples of this is noting how many big ass SUV’s exist solely so parents can shlep their kids to soccer games and sports events.I even ran into this with my wife recently. I wanted her to get a different sportier SUV but she insisted that she needed the model that she has (which actually is pretty fuel efficient) because 1 time per year the kids go to camp and back and she needs the few extra cu of space! So instead of having the nicer, classier, more maneuverable, safer SUV (that she will use every single day) she wants to stick with the one that she has now which satisfies a particular important use for 2 times per year. (This is typical behavior as people often buy for outliers and rationalize the purchase).

  18. pointsnfigures

    Another investment outside of the US, and not in Silicon Valley…….hmmm

  19. LE

    Well then post those videos!

  20. Ana Milicevic

    I’ve tried to explain the concept of food deserts to a few friends from Europe and you can imagine how well that explanation went. With that I can’t help thinking how amazing this idea is for urban areas that are not well-served by mass-scale food distribution.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I might disagree with that. If there was demand in those areas for fresh food, it would be there. Most of the deserts aren’t really “safe” either. High risk of robbery and other violent crime in them. http://donsurber.blogspot.c

      1. Ana Milicevic

        Demand is a bit of a chicken and egg issue – it’s hard to build awareness and interest in something if you have no access to it. There’s a strong play for community pride and community building here (perhaps akin to the urban farming initiatives in Detroit – and I agree with the post you shared wholeheartedly): with stronger sense of community comes safety too (at least in theory). After all, what’s more diplomatic than some delicious home cooking?

        1. Doug Calahan

          Ana, food deserts are such an interesting case. I personally believe that the only way you can solve food desert issues is by growing within the community. I live in Atlanta and we have some serious food desert issues. Most try to solve by finding creative ways to import produce into food deserts, but they never seem to work. Hence my belief that you have to find ways to incent people within lower income communities to grow.We’ve developed a platform (called Local Roots) that is built for peer-to-peer sales of produce. So someone growing as a hobby on a tiny plot in a food desert could sell to their neighbors. One of the biggest challenge that we’ve had adapting our platform to food deserts, though, is the ability to accept SNAP benefits. Our platform is a pure digital platform (somewhat similar to La Ruch qui dit Oui) and SNAP requires the actual card reader, making it impossible to adapt our model. It’s very frustrating because we think we have a platform that (a) could help people in low income communities make a little extra money, and (b) get more fresh produce to people in food deserts. But we need USDA to adapt before we can ever make it happen.

          1. Ana Milicevic

            Are you familiar with the ‘Cooking Simplified’ project at UC Berkley? It’s a very interesting and I think quite promising twist and attempt to solve the unfortunate SNAP issue: they prepare meal kits (akin to Blue Apron, etc) at affordable prices that can be picked up and include instructions, etc. Here’s their website: http://cooking-simplified.s…Solving the SNAP issue just for NYC would be huge and I wonder if this is the way to go about it (by representing and pricing out a meal subscription that covers a certain number of meals and in an ideal world providing an incentive for buying directly from a CSA or via something like your platform vs. opting for soda at 7/11).

  21. Michiel (The Netherlands)

    A marketplace for farmers’ products with 100K customers and 4.5K local producers? That is a distributor of chickens and eggs that became successful by solving the chicken and egg problem!

  22. Dara Albright

    This is fantastic! When do you foresee this available in the US?

    1. Ilya Chernov

      In US you have

  23. Pranay Srinivasan

    Love the idea of a farmers cooperative that organizes them better 😉 wish India had something like this.They did a quasi-govt thing for a Milk Cooperative in the 60s called Amul and its a Billion Dollar powerhouse today.

    1. Ana Milicevic

      I was thinking about how huge of an opportunity this could be in India and especially in China where the food distribution system has severe challenges that lead to an exorbitant amount of spoiled food. Same goes for other int’l markets that aren’t as geographically dense or developed as Europe. Oh, the possibilities!

      1. Pranay Srinivasan

        Yes, absolutely, esp if it can be done on Mobile, because most Indians arent computer / language literate but can use a touch screen impeccably.

  24. Ronnie Rendel

    “met our test of a lightweight, peer to peer, capital efficient, people powered network. We call these “thin networks” and we are drawn to them as investors and as consumers.”It was worth the read if only for that clear statement. Thanks.

  25. Marcus Detry

    Love it. I imagine integration with a courier service is somewhere in the pipeline. The only thing better than picking up healthy, locally-farmed food, would be having it delivered to you.

  26. Twain Twain

    Congrats to La Ruche. Trust the French to do farmers’ markets and food communities really well!In Paris, Marché Bastille is where I hang out. Best lemon thyme rotisserie chicken and grapes anywhere!*…Once I photographed a Japanese woman in full kimono right in the middle of the market.

  27. Abs Ghosh

    This is great! Thanks, Fred!

  28. JLM

    .Good for your head.Good for your heart.Good for your pocketbook.Good for your stomach.Well played!What an interesting inspiring story, thought process and execution.This is a great example of technology transforming an “old economy” business into a “new economy” business.The way you tell the story and describe your decision making and critical decision points makes the logic able to be replicated and, thereby, provides a great educational lesson.Well played indeed!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  29. ZekeV

    Very cool! Interesting to compare vs. the “farmers’ markets” or farm-shares that proliferate in our neck of the woods.

  30. sachmo

    I think farm to table is the real future of food. Soylent is like 21st century McDonalds except worse.

  31. ShanaC

    Sending this to people, and when are they coming to ny, pretty please…

  32. Eric Woods

    There are many food cooperatives doing exactly this in NYC with Hudson Valley farmers. Is the goal to aggregate this market or disrupt it?

  33. Matt A. Myers

    Europe, and France specifically, is the place to launch such an online marketplace. La Ruche qui dit Oui! is a very smart model where the physical infrastructure and cultural behaviour already existed and just needed the logistical piece implemented.My mother is from France and so I have been there many times. Her family’s business was also agriculture. They would grow everything: vegetables, fruit – and before my time they did alcohol and tobacco – both of which the grandfather I have a single memory of (sitting on his lap) apparently drank and smoked himself to death with. They also did dried flower arrangements which was always my favourite; okay, stealing fresh fruit off of the back of their trucks, along with the other children of the workers, was probably my favourite – however the fields of flowers and helping bundle and hang flowers to dry was most calming, peaceful.The farmer keeping most of the money is how France’s agriculture has always been. The French have always understood the value and importance of food and the economics behind it. Land must be divided up a certain way, you can’t necessarily own too much either. Farmer families will travel to different towns throughout the week to setup a legit market with stands. I have some fond memories of getting up very early, watching trucks getting loaded and then driving for 1-2 hours and setting up to be ready to sell by 6 or 7am in whatever town they would go to on a weekly basis.If the economics of the U.S. didn’t exist with economies of scale, and mass farming being primary, then having a local farm would be the way to be perhaps owning one of the wealthiest ventures – access to fresh food, keeping you physically busy, and bringing in an income; I’d like to see a modern city where farming and education and health is the 80 percent and everything else can perfectly fit in the other 20.My mother’s family were a business family understanding politics, appearances, and relationships – they would go to church 5 days a week – the curated social network of their time.The family built most of the early houses in the town as well, primarily for the immediate family as it grew out, and outside of the fortified walls of the downtown; France’s development history is fantastic.The social aspect of France has always been part of their culture – I suppose churches and farmers’ markets being the first. You will always find free festivals, live music, markets, and other social opportunities throughout France – in small and large towns/cities.Dinner parties, social opportunities, are still commonplace in France. My mother and father had basically no friends here in Canada, however whenever they’d visit France they would be invited and go to multiple dinner parties with highschool and university friends of my mother; long-term and regular socializing is known to be the leading metric to long-term health and quality and length of life; I believe facilitating socializing, and engaging people, is the key to wellness and the focus of my work – as we are social beings; was the times my mother was also being raised to be a nun – which she wanted no part in, and stemmed her direction into getting her Phd in Psychology; she had to work full-time to pay for this as her family wouldn’t support her in this endeavor.France reminds me a lot of my father. He didn’t want a ceremony, however he did want his ashes spread to the places he loved visiting – France being one of them. His connection and heart went deep with France. He loved the wine, the bread, the cheeses – most of which he would give up when returning to Canada.I’m going to always wish he wasn’t stuck in the patterns he was with my mother and wish society had a more widespread culture of preventative and proactive health, self-awareness.Life was tough for him from early on though and it is hard to learn through observing culture when hardly anyone was aware, even harder when your patterns keep you more or less isolated.Society is gaining traction towards self-awareness, though I am merely 10 years into the journey and I learn more depth all the time. The rabbit hole is deep, however we just need people to be incentivized enough or have the impetus and courage to just poke their head into it; yoga, that I describe as a framework for self-exploration, is the way I see that happening most quickly – even though it is still evolving and community curation is still required.

  34. B Tenneson

    Great business model for a large and growing market-Seems a lot like farmers markets in the US-I wonder how the “Ruches” are different?Apologies-already asked below…

  35. Adrian Palacios

    I can’t tell you how happy I am that you put money into an idea like this. I wish them the best. I also hope they make it to the U.S. someday.

  36. craig blair

    we are a Australian VC who has been partnering with O/S platforms for many years now and we know market places intimately (we launched Ebay in Aus). I grew up on a farm and would love to support the company in Australia.

  37. Dave

    great story on pbs news tonight re wasted farm fresh food; supply in need of demand…

  38. andyswan


  39. Júlio Santos

    We built with a similar philosophy. The difference is we strive to actually be farm-to-table as we deliver to the customer’s doorstep – and our platform caters to B2B too. We’re only in Denmark at the moment but will soon expand abroad.

  40. Nate

    How can I host a Ruche in Marin?

  41. LaMarEstaba

    I love this idea.

  42. Prokofy

    It’s funny that you went overseas to find this when we have it right here in our state (and other states). ShanaC is talking about the CSA model which is leftist politics and communalism, but there are “lite” versions of this all over. There’s one at Waterside where I live. There’s a farm upstate somewhere serving our buildings and others nearby. You pay a basic subscription, depending on how much food and variety you want, say $50 to $250. And you get a medley of food, although they do caution that they can’t always guarantee everything.The problem is that it’s too expensive in an environment where you can also go to the fruit cart on your street or the farmer’s market on Union’s Square on the weekends and find things cheaper. But they offer things like organic or organized visits to their farm. Not enough people sign up to keep it going in some buildings. In others, people have to make do with what they offer which can be bland. And I don’t know how much they make, I don’t get the impression these people are getting rich from this system, which is labor-intensive not only in the food cultivation but the processing of orders and delivery, although it’s online.Obviously the more people sign up, the more variety and cheaper prices they could offer. But adding customers to a farm is not handled like adding servers to a start-up. They only have so much tillable land they own to start with and only so much they can do in that climate and so on. For example, with the bee collapse, they can’t offer honey as they used to.I wonder how the farms in France like this are handling the problems of scale. In any event, it is nice to have fresh food delivered to your door and feel you are keeping a farm alive.

  43. kidmercury

    def have to side with charlie in this beef. the longest living people, with the lowest rates of cancer and mental illness (alzheimers, dementia, autism), are in island areas that do not rely on industrialized agriculture. okinawa, southeast asia, greece come to mind. there are other reasons for the good health — weather, low stress, social strutures — but food is widely regarded as the leading reasons.

  44. andyswan… is full of amazing information and should help you understand why I say what I say (along with anecdotes from my grandfather, who went from working a single plow in 1928 to operating an air-conditioned, GPS equipped combine on the day he died.)

  45. LE

    You are not claiming that the entire country would be able to survive based on the food output by “local organic farmers”. Are you? You don’t think that government subsidies have any value in terms of keeping the supply chain open and working over the long term? I think you have to look at the big picture of this. I will let Andy Swan chime in to tidy up my points..

  46. andyswan

    You’re right. It’s a choice. I’m all for individual Coolio and most of the world…I want some steak with my beans and rice.

  47. kidmercury

    organic is growing precisely because it is more economically viable. yield per square foot is higher with organic and there isn’t the whole seed monopoly issue. if it were so economically unviable, it would not be growing — you see organic sections in poor grocery stores now.

  48. LE

    I think you have to keep in mind that the majority of the population doesn’t care about this. They are perfectly happy stopping by the supermarket and picking up whatever is there. Which is a big step up from eating McDonalds or Fried chicken or “Kirkland Brand” slabs of pork (sold at Costco..)You know almost every single mass restaurant (and Wawa) has tried the healthy thing with the masses and they don’t go for it. [1] I used to ask why the Wawa didn’t have any non fat ice cream. Was told by multiple managers “doesn’t sell”.[1] Mainly because it’s not addictive enough in taste and flavor is my guess.

  49. pointsnfigures

    I think the Bitcoin and Blockchain could set up small futures markets to do exactly what you say.

  50. LE

    Honestly I think people who shop in “poor” grocery stores have bigger fish to fry health wise with their limited dollars than by spending it on organic foods.

  51. andyswan

    source for yield per square foot being higher? Caloric output pls.

  52. JLM

    .In farming, “yield” and “efficiency” are different things.Big Farma uses big machines to create substantial labor efficiencies.Organic usually implies a more hands on bespoke approach and uses comparatively more labor. [Then again, this farmer may be the owner and that labor incorporated into his food is his labor, overhead and profit.]Actual yields on specific crops tend to be way higher — lbs per acre — on Big Farma because they don’t need to build in the space for the people to be scurrying around.The very word “organic” is a tricky proposition.Cows are raised on a pasture which is all grass. Sometimes the grass may be fertilized — usually not.But if you are growing Coastal to feed your stock in the winter, you likely fertilize the grass.Is the beef organic?Cows get hormones to spur growth — cow growth hormone just like movie stars — and antibiotics to prevent diseases.Both are considered to be outside the definition of “organic” — depends on who you’re talking.Lots of cows get sent to a feedlot to be “finished off”. They are fed nothing but grains.In one of the nastiest environments you can imagine — the wind blows the wrong way in Lubbock or Amarillo, you know what I mean. Yet, everything they eat is natural.I worry that a lot of what is labelled “organic” is tampered with and then I think, so what?Whole Foods could talk about this for a few months but they know one thing for sure — people will pay extra for the organic food they want.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  53. andyswan

    I think we’re arguing two very different points.

  54. awaldstein

    As fanatical as i am about organics, the yield compared to industrialized farming is invariably less.Balanced out by the healthy and nutritional quality of the produce, not only calories but in nutrient density per acre.

  55. kidmercury

    you can of course find studies that contradict, but here is one large study arguing organic production methods can have higher yields:

  56. andyswan

    The ONLY thing that matters to me is the macros. I want my 3500 calories coming from 80% fats and proteins and I’m good to go. Nutrients seem to come along nicely with the deal.

  57. pointsnfigures

    @disqus_Awy3Cl8ObF:disqus, that used to be true. I am not so sure anymore. I have seen ONE organic farm that was incredibly productive, more than an industrial farm next door. It’s in Southwest Wisconsin. Guy is an engineer and radically changed how to farm. He drives regulators and scientists nuts. But, he is incredibly productive.I follow the animal space pretty closely. Farmers of raw milk are seeing huge increases in production over the life cycle of the cow based on better management practices of their pastures. It’s really cool to watch.

  58. ErikSchwartz

    Yeah, moving someone from a diet of fritos, big gulps, and ding dongs to a diet of industrially produced chicken, rice, and broccoli is way more important than moving someone from a diet of industrially produced chicken, rice, and broccoli to a diet of organic chicken, rice, and broccoli

  59. Richard

    I’m a raw Foody who eats primarily organic, it’s a very expensive endeavor.

  60. kidmercury

    you’re initial comment to which i replied was in regards to the viability of organic production at scale. you assumed it was not viable. i’m saying it is, and in fact given soil depletion resulting from non-organic methods, may not only be viable, but necessary and inevitable.

  61. awaldstein

    Yup!Spending some time with serious strength trainers as Lianna’s new store shares an entrance.They are challenging and expanding my more narrow green views.That being said they so wanted the store connected to their high end gym.

  62. Richard


  63. SubstrateUndertow

    80% fat is just fine with me the problem is get health cleans fats !

  64. andyswan

    If that’s true then why doesn’t my uncle (and every large-land farmer like him) grow organically? Why wouldn’t they be maximizing output per acre? Is it vastly less efficient from a labor standpoint?

  65. LE

    This pricing doesn’t look like a myth to me:…We are talking about people making min wage here and/or on public assistance? That live from paycheck to paycheck? And you think that eating organic is more important than perhaps keeping a little nest egg and not living from hand to mouth?By your definition of “afford” (ie “has the money”) someone making $200k per year might be able to “afford” and keep up with the paymentd on a boat or a vacation home but that is not necessary a wise financial decision (when they lose their job and have no runway).

  66. Richard

    sorry Charlie, if you factor in other things (cable TV, phones, beer etc, yes), but apples v apples no comparison

  67. pointsnfigures

    also a question of logistics and skill. All Americans have gotten away from cooking at home.

  68. LE

    Charlie is trying to make your uncle (and his cohorts) as if they were big steel and this new energy efficient mini mill is the way to go and that they will soon be out of business. Impossible for me to believe that with field smart farmers that would be the case.

  69. andyswan

    It’s just a total disconnect from what I’ve seen my entire life. Seed companies coming out to test new hybrids, John Deere innovating the way tractors apply seed/fertilizer, Drones sending back yield projections and irrigation recommendations.EVERYONE is in it to increase yield. Constantly. I can’t imagine that they’re all missing something that much more efficient– for what purpose? He just wants to make as much money as possible and feed people.

  70. LE

    I kind of get the feeling that Charlie is more textbook than practical in some ways and I am not trying to dig at Charlie by saying that (even though it appears that I am). Charlie was raised by a Physician (iirc) and they have clearer guidelines and structure by their training to base their decisions on. It’s not balanced toward touch and feel seat of the pants try this try that.You were probably raised (as I was) by (or had relatives who were) people who are more street smart and actually have to carry out and make something happen (by considering all of the parts involved) not just the theory. So it’s bred into you and drives much of your cynicism. Same with me. Like “yeah I might have to pay off the union guy to get my booth erected at the trade show it’s the cost of doing business … who cares … forget about the good fight”.I remember when I was in Wharton my dad used to say “yeah they will just tell you to just hire someone to do this or that job” (or something like that). What he was implying (I later found out when I started a business) was that hiring was the hard part, not the bullshit theory like “so make sure to hire a good lawyer…”.

  71. pointsnfigures

    they are concentrating on row crops, beans, corn, wheat. Ironically, there are highly developed regulated futures markets to manage risk in those products as well. In commodities like eggs, onions, no way to hedge risk.

  72. Richard

    Yep, but the biggest problem for the poor is a time deficit and the pain of living poor, which our society has created.

  73. awaldstein

    try Chia XScads of calories, lots of protein and good stuff.Big seller in the paleo power lifting world.

  74. LE

    Not an effective use of my time. Not something that I would enjoy doing.But I am putting a kitchen into my office so that I can make myself breakfast and lunch instead of having to pick it up in the morning (or make it at home which wouldn’t be time effective at the office I can multi-task). I can afford to do that because of the time that I spend doing what I can do that nobody else can vs. what I can pay someone else to do for me. (Like mow the lawn, paint the house and so on.). It is a core principle.As far as time, doesn’t that go back to priorities?

  75. pointsnfigures

    Yes, this is what I am finding out. We are actively looking to buy a farm and convert it.

  76. andyswan

    I texted my uncle. I asked him “What is the reason that you don’t farm all organic?”His reply:—–“It is EXTREMELY labor/mechanical intensiveno herbicide, no insecticide, no fungicideThink of it this way: You have decided that you “want the best environment for your family in your home.”Now, if you go “organic”, the only way to fight termites, ants, bed bugs, spiders, etc is manual/mechanical because “you don’t want any of those fungicides or insecticides used around MY family!”The amount of labor you’d have to put into keeping those insects from harming your family would be intense. Now try it on 1000’s of acres. Yes you can get more crop per acre, but it takes literally 250 men to do what I can do alone with my John Deere.It will get there. Everyone wants it. The seed companies will be the ones to do it if they are allowed to profit from it. They can make the food not NEED the sprays. That’s when we tip.”—-FWIW @pointsnfigures:disqus @domainregistry:disqus @JLM:disqus @kidmercury:disqus

  77. LE

    Geographically how far can you ship organic w/o preservatives?Also in theory if everybody (and Andy’s uncle) starts to do this then wouldn’t the price drop to the point where it wasn’t as viable as you are making it out to be? Especially if it gets super efficient like you seem to be implying.

  78. Matt Kruza

    Ok, so kind of proving andy’s point about cost I think. Average acre of corn produces around 150 bushels (up FROM 20 in 1920’s before all the modern tactics you decry… so an 8 fold increase) and spot prices appear to be around $4 per bushel. So conventional farming is making $600 or so per acre. If they can make $50k – 80k (I get this is probably retail, so perhaps divide by 2 or 3 to equal wholesale bushel price I mention above), that is a 100X increase (maybe only 30x at wholesale price). Which would have to render the economics horribly more expensive for calories. Even if it is only a 5x difference “at the plate” for consumers, the broad majority of people in the US, and obviously almost all in the developing / poor world can’t afford $80k per acre food, especially sicne caloric content per acre is about the same at best (I have seen studies sayng that organic is about equal to traditional techniques… but then that 100x gap is more troubling). Organic is almost a religion it feels like? Welcome your replies

  79. pointsnfigures

    yup-the big ag means big debt. My friend had a nice hog operation. He had to make a choice-go big or get out of the business. I think he pushes 5000 acres of corn and beans-and all of the production goes into feeding his hog operation. Hogs are whelped, and manufactured-they see about 20-30 minutes of human contact before going to the processing plant. Now, don’t get me wrong-he cares deeply about his hogs. But, it’s not Charlotte’s Web.

  80. JLM

    .The issue about dirt to soil is a big thing.We are basically putting chemicals into soil as a substrate for the chemicals. The equivalent of hydroponic farming.Rebuilding the natural strength of the soil is a good thing. Worms!When you do a controlled, prescription burn on a ranch, the grass that comes up the next year is two-three times heavier in protein which translates directly into cow coverage. (Cows per acres or acres per cow.)This is not the same thing as “swailing” or hazard reduction burning which is more of a forestry technique.I have seen 10,000 acre ranches (small ranch) where a guy has taken five years to remove all trash cedar, mesquite and sprayed native grasses. You have to run cattle at the same time to work the seed into the ground — odd thing.Cut in more swales to hold the water and let it pond rather than running off.When it all comes together, old springs reappear and the grass is unbelievable. Texas was more savannah than trees. The trees — cedar and mesquite — came with bird droppings. Birds ate seed, flew west and bombed the prairies.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  81. LE

    (I padded the diss and it’s not a diss if you pad it..)Penn Med impresses me btw, sports do not.

  82. JLM

    .You are also a Republican, a conservative Republican and love Ted Cruz? Getting sweet on Carly?You’re a good man, Charlie Crystle. Leave it at that.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  83. Richard

    Fill us in for those in LA, NY (factor in time and travel)

  84. Girish Mehta

    Here in Bangalore – Organic tomatoes – 70 cents for 2.2. lbs…a few weeks back it was 65 cents. Non-organic tomatoes are 50 cents for 2.2 lbs. I picked up some absolutely delicious organic mangoes and tomatoes this evening….eating my second mango as I write this. :-).

  85. Richard

    I hear ya ! Ive been organic since college, well before it became trendy and have owned healthfood stores, organic juice bars and organic vegan cafes.If it were up to me id replace the home mortgage deduction with organic fruits and veggies tax credits !!

  86. Richard

    Wholefoods sells a lot of crap too

  87. JLM

    .Organic is a cult.Nothing wrong with cultivating a cult.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  88. Matt Kruza

    Organic is the left or liberal’s global warming or evolution issue that many on the right have a problem acknowledging. GMO’s and other food are scientifically sound, just like using fertilizer and pesticiees in the appropriate manner is to. But just like telling a devout Christian (not all..but some) that evolution is indeed true, is almost worthless because if something is a cult / religion, then the suspension of logic makes logical debate counter productive.

  89. JLM

    .Point made.It is subtle because you can have folks who are cultish in their praise of organics who are agnostic on GMOs because they don’t intend to ever eat them.Your earlier comment on the yield of corn is a perfect example of how fertilizer and pesticides have improved crop yields. On a crop like corn, this is huge because of its many uses.Fertlizers are funny because some folks use organic fertilizer.I buy Dillo Dirt which is composed human sludge — tested and certified free of all bad stuff. The shit — joke, bad joke — is potent. You can only use a little but it makes your azaleas grow like nuts.For the Christians, it is not really evolution, it is Creation. There are a lot of folks who can embrace evolution, from a Creation perspective, but where did that first little nugget of DNA come from?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  90. pointsnfigures

    I disagree on some of that. I don’t think organic is global warming. Organic and factory farmed vegetables have identical nutritional profiles-but they taste a helluva lot different. Organic is better for the soil. Farmers are discovering that what’s in their soil makes a gigantic difference. Joel Salatin has published a bunch on this and I wouldn’t consider him a raving fanatical liberal. As a matter of fact, if you believe in global warming, one cure is a bunch of livestock on pasture. Healthy soil traps carbon.

  91. pointsnfigures


  92. panterosa,

    which bums me out

  93. awaldstein

    Super interesting and thank you.In the wine industry something similar but a bit convoluted is happening.Very large organic plots of grapes are being grown to allow for organic designation, especially in environments that lend themselves to this–like Oregon and a bunch of spots in Italy.But wine of course has what you do in the vineyard and what is done in the cave (during fermentation).So the net of it–there is now a huge amount of organic wine that is basically industrialized crap taking full advantage of the 160 or so approved additives to create artificial taste palates along with some bad shit thrown in.Organic crap that is.

  94. Matt Kruza

    Ok I am on board with some of what you say (particularly around taste and perhaps slighty better for the soil). But many, I might say most, that talk about organic say it is healthier for you… which is not true in general as you acknowledge with the identical nutritional profile. I guess the nutritional profile is the big one, and I think you agree with me there that those who say that organic is healthier for you is just simply not true. Am I accurately characterizing what you are saying?

  95. Matt Kruza

    pretty fair nuances you added.

  96. Dave Pinsen

    What’s the “time deficit” of being poor? My guess is Fred has less free time on his calends than most poor Americans.

  97. Dave Pinsen

    Actually, you can find some low prices at our local farmers market. But I don’t know how popular produce is among today’s American poor, whose food costs are heavily subsidized via SNAP, etc.

  98. JLM

    .Point made.All men are not created equal — except for time. We all get 24 hours per day.What Fred has is control over his time. He can own his time because he isn’t really compelled to use it to eat, sleep, be sheltered, etc.In that regard, the ownership of time and the ability to control it is a symptom of wealth; and, conversely, the necessity to burn time for the basic needs of life is a drag on wealth.It takes a lot of time to become an overnight success.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  99. LE

    Absolutely amazing! Not knowing if you were kidding I actually was able to quickly bring up that you are not! That’s impressive but you forgot a few things!…C. Deans Crystle came to Franklin & Marshall College fromNether Providence H.S. in Wallingford, Pa. Having contractedparalytic polio in his early childhood, which required a back andleg brace during his growing up years, Deans was unable toparticipate in high school athletics, which he dearly loved. Uponentering F&M, new challenges were presented and the competitivefires began to burn once again. Physically more mature and havinglearned to compensate for his inoperative left leg, Crystle triedout for coach George McGuinness’ varsity swimming team. He waswelcomed and quickly made his mark in the Fackenthal Swimming Poolas one of the mentally and physically toughest swimmers torepresent the College.Utilizing his upper body strength, Crystle swam the freestyle,butterfly, and freestyle relay events. During his F&M career,the team got progressively better and achieved a winning season hissenior year when he was named co-captain. During the spring,Crystle joined the men’s lacrosse club as a goalkeeper, one of themost demanding positions on the team. He was instrumental inhelping to move lacrosse from club to varsity status following hisjunior year. He was named MVP of the team following his juniorseason and captain his senior year. In addition to participating ontwo varsity teams, he was also involved in many campus activities.He was president of the Black Pyramid Senior Honor Society, amember of Phi Psi fraternity, a dormitory counselor, and secretaryof the senior class.He also found time to achieve a 3.7 grade point average and wasnamed Phi Beta Kappa. However, Crystle’s greatest honors would comeat the end of his senior year when he was named F&M’s”Outstanding Senior Athlete” and Williamson Medalist, givenannually at commencement to the outstanding student in thegraduating class. Crystle graduated from the University ofPennsylvania medical school, did residencies at Ohio State and theNational Institute of Health before accepting academic appointmentsat Ohio State, Georgetown, Penn State, and he National Institute ofHealth.He returned to Lancaster in 1974 to begin private practice inthe field of obstetrics and gynecology. Recently, he has traveledto the Mid-East to teach and consult at the Nazareth Hospital inNazareth, Israel. He has also been active with many communityorganizations and has been a member of the F&M Lancaster CountyAlumni Association.

  100. SubstrateUndertow

    We all have a steak in this 🙂

  101. JLM

    .A big opportunity may be to compost sludge.The ATX Dillo Dirt experiment began years ago. Some English friends of mine, who own a big stable and generate tons of horsehit, got involved.They sell the Dillo Dirt. It is essentially composted sludge with the compost element being all kinds of tree clippings, shredded Christmas trees and the like.Lots of ranches with big pastures take sludge which municipalities pay them to take. Some get 6-12 inches per year which has to get worked into the soil quickly to keep it from running off.Pecan farmers around San Angelo used to get it years ago for new orchards. Pecans are a funny crop with very wide spacing and almost no use of the ground underneath them.Reminds me of rubber plantations I saw decades ago.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  102. SubstrateUndertow

    Yup !Organic is a profitable space for labelling/definitional neo-cheaters to operate.

  103. andyswan

    Oh ya… He is always getting awards.  “Best conservation techniques” by Indiana ag” “Innovative seed partner” using drones on day 1… Trips to Guatemala to see irrigation techniques…Loves it. Truly. My grandpa Rock, his dad, died the same day as he drove an air conditioned combine through his fields. 81 years after he pushed a plow by hand. Innovation in the blood…glad I got a drop. He would LOVE the conversation with you even more than I do.

  104. panterosa,

    I had a friend in HS who went biodynamic. So groovy. Hard to keep that up, but always nice to try!

  105. panterosa,

    too bad Gwyneth Paltrow mucked up her SNAP effort. imagine if she had aced it, and added value to getting SNAP closer to organic.

  106. timraleigh

    Outstanding! I love this story.