I met Deb Marsden, the founder of CT Farm Fresh Express several years ago when we were attending a panel on organic foods at the Greenwich Audubon. Deb’s website, www.ctffe.com,allows you to order foods from farms around Connecticut and have them delivered to your door. I spoke to Deb about her business and hopes for the future.
RK: What motivated you to start CT Farm Fresh Express?
DM: My mother had always shopped at local farm stands and had a garden and when I had my own children, I made my own baby food and ensured that most of what we ate was organic. The need to eat locally and have fresh food was the utmost priority in my life. I tried some supermarket delivery services but the produce was bad. Then I tried CSAs but sometimes I got stuff that my family wouldn’t eat, and ended up feeding to my chickens.
I was in mid-life and had always wanted to start a business and realized that that was the niche I was looking for. One night at dinner, my son said, “CT Farm Fresh Express”! In the first few weeks, I worked with 4 farms and 8 customers. I would send a spreadsheet out of what was available and deliver what the customers ordered. Now we have a large website and I have a warehouse, with a small office on the side.
RK: What is your long-term goal for CT Farm Fresh Express?
DM: I would like to be able to support farmers and make a profit doing so. I am trying to make it as convenient as possible for farmers to deliver their produce and reach as many customers as possible. I work with 40-50 farms and store non-perishable products in the warehouse. Last week we did 28 pick-ups and had around 70 orders.
RK: Do the farms you work with follow organic principles?
DM: Not all the farms are organic but they do grow organically and I pay attention to their growing practices. Some farms are politically motivated to not get involved with the USDA and wouldn’t even think of using some of the products that are allowed by the USDA.
Some farmers follow the Farmer’s Pledge, whereby they do not have an organic certifier come to the farm but pledge to follow the same farming practices as an organic farm and don’t spray pesticides unless it’s absolutely necessary.
RK: What do you think is the problem with food in America?
DM: The US government has subsidized farmers who have abused the lands by using genetically modified seeds and are destroying the soil*. Moms are filling up their shopping carts with foods that they are not educated about, such as genetically modified corn, wheat, sugar beets or soy. The government is keeping us from labeling foods that contain GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Almost every other country doesn’t allow GMO seeds or products containing GMOs into their borders, but we do. They are so bad for the land and us. Sugar is nothing compared to this, and sugar beets – which most of the sugar comes from – have also been modified!
How can we as a country feed our kids and expect them to learn anything? In the school cafeteria we feed them packaged products or GMOs that are unhealthy for them. Schools need to teach kids about farms and include less packaged products in their kitchens.
*Note: Genetic modification is a process whereby the genes of one species of plant or animal are inserted into the genes of another in order to give that plant or animal certain positive traits. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be created with genes from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or humans. One of the problems with GMOs is that, to date, no long-term studies on the safety of GMOs have been undertaken. They are thought to be a risk to human health.
RK: What do you think the solution to this problem is?
DM: We need to get more people involved and encourage consumers to stop buying products containing GMOs. It’s all about education. We need to encourage people to eat locally and to eat foods without chemicals and GM products.
RK: Where do you see your business in 5-10 years?
DM: I would like to be delivering to 200-300 homes a week and be working with more farms.
I am very committed to the Anti-GMO movement. I am constantly trying to find farms that are not using GM seeds, whether for produce or to feed their animals. We are looking into setting up a cooperative for farms to get better quality grains.
We also need to start working on getting fresh produce all year long. In Connecticut, there is a very short growing season so we need to have farms create greenhouses so they can grow food all year long. Apparently, Connecticut would survive only 6 weeks if all our borders were closed and we couldn’t get food from elsewhere! We need to work on changing that.
RK: What is the best part of your job?
DM: I love talking to farmers, seeing what’s going on with their farm, and having a service that is helpful to people growing good foods. Sometimes it is difficult for farmers to get to farmers markets and they can’t resell their leftover foods. CT Farm Fresh Express allows the farmers to sell their products and we don’t limit the number of farmers we have – the customers have the choice of which farm they would prefer to buy from.
I also enjoy seeing the joy it brings to people who order the foods.
For more information on CT Farm Fresh Express or to place an order for farm-fresh produce delivered to your door, check out www.ctffe.com.