146. Alfrea Local Sustainable Food Grown to Order | Patrick Mullin | Northfield, NJ

Patrick Mullin is here to share his service connecting farmers with markets, would-be gardeners with land, and customers with local fresh produce!

Patrick Mullan AlfreaAlfrea

Alfrea is a revolutionary new sharing site designed to connect people with local, sustainable food, grown-to-order. We are building a groundbreaking portal that will connect people who want to grow their own food with people who have land and expertise. No time to garden? Then we’ll connect you with hyperlocal producers. Now that’s fresh.

AlfreaHomepage

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m in New Jersey, and we started Alfrea back in August. Before that I was a personal trainer, I have a degree in health nutrition, so that’s where my interest is – I have a strong interest in healthy food options, including foods that are

  • low calorie
  • nutrient dense 

and obviously, in the garden is where a lot of that starts.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I actually grew up in Atlantic City myself, and growing up I didn’t do too much gardening. But when I started Alfrea, and through my nutrition certification, I saw the value of growing your own food and having more fruits and vegetables in your diet. So my buddy and I started our own vegetable garden, around the end of March, beginning of April this year. Right now we have some

  • lettuce
  • carrots
  • squash
  • peppers
  • strawberries

So that’s my gardening experience … I enjoy it a lot, when we put this project into action. I believe our strawberries are starting to sprout, so I’m excited about that!

Why don’t you tell listeners what Alfrea is and how it came to be?

Alfrea is a web platform, alfrea.com. We help people who want to grow their own food but lack

  • land

  • time

  • knowledge

to do so. So we connect you. Let’s say you live in NYC, and you want to grow your own food, but you don’t have the land to do so, we’ll connect you with someone who has land, that will host your food or vegetable plants. If you’re someone who has land but don’t know what to do with it, we’ll connect you with someone who does. Anyone who has surplus crop, they can sell that on the website too! [Alfrea also connects people with helpers and gardening experts as part of the sharing economy.]

  alfrea.com

National Geographic Article Ugly Fruits

It all started when my co-founder David, his father and another family member wanted to grow some of their own fruits and vegetables, but they didn’t have someone to tend it, so he hired someone through Craigslist to come in. We realized the world could use a trusted website connecting people who are growing food, where you wouldn’t have the awkwardness of having to exchange money.

It kind of evolved from there. … If this person had the land, and that person had the expertise, well maybe we should help people who want to grow their own food to connect with land owners. Further, if we know that 40% of all food that’s grown is wasted, let’s not let that go to waste, let’s give people the ability to sell their homegrown food, also.

40% of all food goest to waste?

National Geographic Article Ugly Fruits Can Help Solve World Hunger

40% of all food goes to waste?

It was in an article recently in National Geographic (mostly it’s talking about school lunches where 40% goes to waste otherwise it’s about 1/3 – still very high – enough to feed 2 billion people!!!!)

My listeners know I love millennials, there are lots of rock star millennials who are socially conscious and environmentally conscious. 

Yes, that’s correct. It’s certainly a growing demographic that is much more interested in growing their own food and getting their hands dirty. That was something we got excited about. I’m a millennial myself, and I’ve always seen the value in it [growing your own food], and I’ve always wanted to do it, but I just didn’t know how. And that’s what we’re doing with Alfrea.

Is your business started? Or can people just sign up for the mailing list?

So we’re launching on June 17th and as it stands right now, we are still developing more of the technology. Anyone who visits right Alfrea.com now can sign up, and when the time comes for the launch, they’ll be invited to join the marketplace and start to offer services, land or food. [Ed. Note: Alfrea launched on June 17th and the site is active.]

So it will be national right?

Yes, it will be national. Right now we’re focusing our efforts building up certain urban areas first [Alfrea has launched in Southern New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA and Frederick, MD]. When it comes to local food, and availability of that food, it can be a little bit tougher for urban areas – especially low income areas – to get access to that.

What we’re going to do is develop a marketplace, and the only way this works is if someone connects with someone in their local community. So we’re going to start with the US first, and we’ll be in urban areas and some regions before others, but that doesn’t man someone can’t join – anyone can join, and they can certainly create a community of growers or services providers and sellers themselves.

As we develop, folks will be able to decide where they best fit, and what they can bring to the table. 

We want a community of people who had different interests and skill sets to bring, there’s  a great chance someone across the world will need to know what you have.

Is there anything else you want to talk about?

I know you had asked how this come about

OmnivoresDilemna

I know you had asked how this came about. For me personally, I had read  The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan when I first took this on. I realized that what we were doing with Alfrea could certainly disrupt some of the long-standing industrial agricultural processes.

As we know, some of the soil degradation and climate change that comes from those industrial processes can be reversed by people growing their own food. Back in WWII there were a lot of different people growing their own food – there was a larger number of Americans growing their own food than there is now. Everything was local, and for me, I believe that would be such an awesome thing for folks to have that kind of availability, not have to depend on the large food system. I’m very much against GMO’s, if someone can grow their food organically, and know what’s in their food and where it’s coming from, that puts my mind at ease.

Wow! That just kinds of sums it all up! My mom is always like that organic food is such a hoax and expensive, but I’m always like that food is not the same as it was when we were kids. And yes it seems like it’s overpriced and I’m lucky my husband grows a lot of vegetables because I like to eat a lot. I think listeners are probably in that boat and would like to have more options.

I talk about food deserts a lot and there’s a giant food desert right by the new high school, a big forest service building, and there’s an apartment complex and they’re building another mall there on the primmest farm land, and there’s not food store. No Safeway, Rosauers, Super One, what do we have. Three’s a Naturals but how many farm/ranch kids go there? Farmer’s market limits your time to go shopping, limits you can only get your produce once a week.

Alfrea Twitter Page

We do have a Facebook page, we do have a Twitter page. We’ve been thinking about how people are going to interact, and we do have a forum section on our website. But obviously Facebook groups have a different place, so we’ll be checking that out.

I have to give a shout-out to Katie Krimitsos who has a great VERY affordable course at Facebook Groups Rock. And she talks about the difference between a page and a group. She is the master of Facebook groups and community. She’s always in her group and pays a great amount of time answering questions and responding to her members. It seems like at this time conferences are bigger then ever! And people are connecting with others so when you go to conferences you connect with people, you don’t feel as alone in those places because you meet people … and also I see my husband is starting to connect more with other gardeners… also the nice thing about Facebook is people are already on there, it makes communicating better.

Do you want to talk about the nutrient-dense food since you have a degree in nutrition?

Sure, I’ll talk about what I generally will prescribe for my clients. When you think about the meals you have a day. You have 3 meals:

  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner

I personally like to recommend a vegetable with each meal, and obviously fruits. Why? They’re:

  • nutrient dense
  • not processed
  • whole foods
  • and low calorie

You can expect to get the energy you need from them and at the same time you can expect they are not going to spike your insulin, because they are not full of added sugars. That’s my thinking, and it’s great for maintaining weight or weight loss. And obviously, everyone is aware of that. You don’t want to stick to whole foods just because of what they do for your waistline and your strength levels, you also want to stick to them because there’s a lower risk of added salts and chemicals and whatever else you can imagine goes into food. I always recommend that to folks, and they have great results with it.

How does that apply to Alfrea? Well if someone is able to grow their own foods in their garden, and they’re able to have those things readily available, it cuts a lot of the tough issues out. If you want to eat organic, but it’s too expensive, well now you’re able to grow that stuff on your won. Have those foods readily available. So it eliminates that blockade.

Further, having that ability to decide what we need. If you need strawberries, apples – it really cuts out the need for spending the money on those things. If you can redirect that money towards getting grass-fed beef, or getting eggs and chicken that is healthier, that stuff is worth a lot in terms of great health and performance.

So even though I love vegetables, I completely struggle to eat fruit. Do you have any suggestions for people like me?

If that’s the case, I would ask why. Is it because you have a busy lifestyle? Is it because you need something that’s convenient? Is it because you don’t actually have them in your house? Because you can eat fruits if you don’t have them in your home, right?

I would say it’s my busy lifestyle, I eat a lot of food in my car, it’s MESSY and time consuming to cut up cantaloupe etc.

I highly recommend apples – that’s always an easy one – and bananas. If you really want to fit these things in your diet, try to prepare for it. On a Sunday, take an hour, cut it up for the week, store it in the fridge. You can make it really simple for yourself. Make it convenient. You don’t have to make it overly complicated. Do the best you can when it comes to preparation, and that should really help you. If you are the road, put that stuff together, go buy a little lunch box, put it in the box, in your car. That’s how I would approach that, and then I would connect that to someone’s goals. Do they want to:

  • lose weight
  • eat healthier
  • feel more energized

Just try to connect it back to your goals – what’s going to help me get there?

do you want to

  • lose weight
  • eat healthier
  • feel more energized

Just connect it back to someones goals.

You mentioned that for every dollar you spend on growing your own food, you save – what are the figures?

We did some research in the beginning. The Center of American Dream said you get a 15 times return on your reinvestment. That’s a lot.

Do you have a business advice for people about getting started selling extra produce, or getting started in the industry?

When it comes to letting people know about your business, I would say:

  • know who you’re targeting
  • market and advertise to everyone you think would like this
  • put it out there; be annoying, be repetitive, have some fun with it
  • always try to network, find people who are like-minded, you never know who they know
  • If you mess up, start over, start again.

I read this book by Anastasia Cole Plakais, it’s called the Farm On The Roof, and its about creating green jobs. In the beginning finding who were interested and finding like minded people, who were interested in a green culture was a key to making good partnerships and finding the right roofs. If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I would say, from what I’ve learned and what I’ve read, where my passion really lives now is with local food. Being able to cut down on the amount of shipping, the amount of carbon emissions it takes to get food from one place to another, having things local, growing things sustainably, would really improve the environment. Alfrea can help that. I’d like to see people get more involved with CSAs, or get more involved with growing their own food and supporting local food and local agriculture, because there’s so much benefit to that, compared to what we rely on so much, which is industrial agriculture and supermarkets. That just adds to the problem. Being able to reverse that with a local food revolution, I think there’s a lot of benefit to our environment, and obviously our climate.

A local food revolution! I love it! Your another one of those rockstar millenials making the world a better place. Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

I think I will take this back to what I said before, about the business advice and marketing. I’d say try it. If you mess up, you know you’ll get a second chance. Put your feet and hands in the dirt and try to connect that with someone that has what you need, whether you’re growing a plant or fruits and vegetables. Get out there, do the best you can, if it doesn’t happen for you, try to figure out why, and start all over again, and keep trying. 

How do we connect with you?

You can visit www.alfrea.com, or on our Twitter page, I personally answer all questions – it’s @alfreagardening.

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

Advertisements