MIDDLETOWN —The Wesleyan University professor who found success last fall with a pilot project connecting area residents with produce from local farms has begun a Kickstarter campaign to fund a smartphone app.
Rosemary Ostfeld, an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, founded Healthy PlanEat, a start-up business through which farmers can sell their food to local buyers. The site was launched in late October in Middletown in partnership with Star Light Gardens of Durham and others.
She filled 48 orders during the eight-week trial, a majority of which came from a pop-up pick-up station at Kidcity Children’s Museum on Washington Street. Ostfeld was satisfied with the response to her one-person operation, which allowed her to balance her participation with her other responsibilities.
“I’m the one whose sort of the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain,” she said.
“Kidcity and the other pickup options for the farms I was working with reaffirmed I really wanted to work on this, and that it could be something people could be interested in,” Ostfeld said.
The professor created Healthy PlanEat “to help re-energize the connection between people and local farms, and to help people achieve a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet,” she said.
She intends to use the app to streamline the process and re-energize the connection between communities and local farms so people can enjoy a healthy and sustainable diet.
“That will make it easier for the project to expand,” Ostfeld said. If successfully funded through Kickstarter’s “all or nothing” policy, the app will allow farmers to create their own “page” listing their location and pick-up options.
She hopes to eventually include recipes for preparing various produce, as customers may need help, for instance, using vegetables they may not have cooked before.
“One of the ladies was wondering what she could cook with her turnips. Sometimes people pick up items at farmers markets and are at a loss for how to consume them.
“What even is radicchio or escarole?” some wonder. “If people are members of the [community supported agriculture program], maybe they’ll get 30 turnips and wonder what to do with them,” Ostfeld said.
She receives a commission on each order, which typically range between $15 and $30.
Ostfeld is also using the campaign to determine areas of Connecticut — and possibly eventually Rhode Island and New York — that might elicit interest from residents in a particular municipality or county in the state. She’d then contact farmers in that area who may be willing to collaborate.
Also in the works is a feature that would let people learn about benefits of sourcing food from local farms.
“If you are purchasing these items that are in season, you can save this amount of greenhouse gas emissions or reduce your climate impact by this amount. If you were buying strawberries flown to you from Washington state in the middle of the winter, it would show you the benefits of having food from your local farmer,” Osfeld explained.
She also has floated the idea of offering produce drop-off at area fitness centers, gyms and yoga studios.
“I realized people were talking about food deserts in Middletown, and you look around. There really aren’t that many grocery stores in the center. That’s the case for a lot of cities.
“If there are ways people can pick up fresh food while they’re already doing other activities, that would be great,” as opposed to expecting customers with limited time to drive to each individual farm.
Those who contribute to the Kickstarter page are offered incentives for each donation level.
For information, visit Healthy PlanEat: Healthy & sustainable food from local farms on Kickstarter, Healthy Planeat on Facebook