INTERVIEW WITH MR MARK MEYTIN, CEO of 1000ECOFARMS. Conducted by Henry Tanjong
April 4th, 2017
1000Ecofarms is an online community that connects sellers and consumers of organic, local natural fresh food. They are located in the Washington, DC and Baltimore metro area. Consumers can buy food online through their service. The firm also earns revenue from the farmers whose products they are promoting. They educate the public about sustainable agriculture by promoting their online magazine that profiles individual farmers. The magazine also promotes food related non-profits. The vision of the founders is one where farms of all kinds and sizes are better able to access markets that already exist in their communities by using new technology-driven sales channels.
What kind of role do you play in this business model?
We are middlemen for farmers who sell their products online. We make it easy for people to find small farmers and the products that they grow at least that was our original idea. Our model give small farmers an additional channel to sell their product. Our reason was that people buy a lot of stuff online and why not fresh food? I came from a technology background but I have learnt a lot about agriculture and running a business as a result of this operation.
We are changing our model to create a market place for something that our farmers are not use to doing. Selling online in volume is not easy in agricultural sales due to the fact that, the idea is revolutionary. Small farmers are not interested in technology e.g. selling online and will prefer to sell on farmers market. Free platforms to put their products online with no money for such services make it uninteresting for farmers.
We have changed our model to small middlemen also known as “food buying club”. In this model a person in one neighborhood will take everyone’s order and generally make an order for 5 to 10 people and make their order for them. We give buying club a service because farmers don’t want to deal with computer related service while the club members can handle technology related issues to do transaction with us.
How do you make money in this model?
We charge a 2-4.9 percent pending the type of member and the service they need they pay for service that take place through us and percentage might increase from 10-25 percent. We are changing from servicing individual farmers to serving “buyer’s club” in that in order to grow we need to increase our customer base by using buying club. We still serve individual farmers who are interested.
Why do you operate in Washington DC and Baltimore?
This is due to ease of dealing with buying clubs in these areas. However we are a global service, we want small farmers around the world to list their service in our website. One will only to order products within their local area however they are free to order anywhere depending on what they are ordering. We want to create a consumer farmer market place. This is a good idea for African and Russian farmers. Our model is to include many farmers. However some laws in most part of the USA don’t allow the sale of unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk will be sold in certain circumstance on special condition.
What is the difference between sellers and buyers on your website?
We don’t hide sellers from buyers anyone is free to visit the farmers. We allow information sharing. Buyers can by-pass us. Our commission is so low that our farmers don’t like to by-pass us. Even if they sold product that someone learnt of it from our online service they come to tell us because our commission are low and they want to put more add so as to make more products known. The more their products are known the more they sell.
What are your inspiration?
This idea originally came from our Russian partner because in Moscow it was hard to get fresh food from farmers. The system there was too inefficient to service the need for small farmers and the community that they serve. And also the concept of farmers market don’t exist so we were trying to find a means to help small farmers who had no means of showcasing their product in the more complicated mall system in Moscow.
How about franchising and vetting products under your name?
For now we do not do any vetting but we do recognize the need of them. We are just at our infancy and we lack the resources for vetting to make sure that the product are purely organic.
However we have organizations that we would like to work with such as (WWOOF) willing workers one organic farm. We have assistance from Bethesda Green who are also supported by Montgomery County government and we are also supported by Mentor Capital Network. Bethesda Green gives us work space but for now we are a Virtual company. We will be growing the company with buying clubs, farmers, buyers to grow the business.
You can learn more about 1000Ecofarms at https://www.1000ecofarms.com/