Modern Farmer: Could you tell us a little about your farm- or wait, I guess you guys aren’t really a farm?
Wen-Jay Ying: I started Local Roots NYC four years ago. It creates a culture around local food in New York City, so community is a huge part of that. Our main project is managing CSAs throughout the city. We also have supper clubs, cooking classes and other events that extend that network. Our CSA is a unique model in that most CSAs are 24 weeks — ours are 12-week seasons. This means our members have more flexibility financially and with their time commitment. Most CSAs work through one vegetable farm; sometimes you may have add-ons, but we want to be offering as much variety as possible. This way you can get your week’s worth of groceries from local, sustainable farms at one location. People can pick and choose items, you aren’t committed to only getting vegetables. We have bread, milk, granola, cheese, pasta. Everything on your plate could be from a local farm that you know. It differs every season, but I would say this past summer we had over 450 CSA members, throughout multiple locations.
MF: Tell us more about your partnership with the farms. WJY: That was actually a really important foundation for us. Because we are managing the CSA for the farmers, we wanted to make sure we stayed very loyal to our farms. Every product is from a different farmer. All our vegetables are from Ragowski Farms in Pine Island, New York. All our eggs are from Millport Dairy, in Pennsylvania, and our cheese rotates between two farms: Consider Bardwell in West Pawlet, Vermont, and Chaseholm Creamery in Pine Plains, New York. All the farms are either New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey. We support 10 farms and about 10 small-batch producers. MF: Why did you join Instagram? WJY: I joined Instagram to give Local Roots more of a personality. We’re all about community, and the people behind the food you make and the people behind the CSA’s numbers. I thought that having our personality out there through this social media outlet was really important. Obviously it has helped with marketing, but I think it is the best way to share what our members are making with the food, pictures of the farm, and the online world of what it is like to be part of this.
MF: Has anything stuck out to you about Local Roots on Instagram?
WJY: We have had people come on our farm trips because I have posted our events on there. I love the idea that it is not just members of our CSA on our Instagram, that it is this larger community and they can engage with us. It’s not just New York, people around the world are looking at this.
MF: Is there anything you are looking forward to sharing this week in particular?
WJY: I am really excited to share what people are making with their CSA and also just how different the set up is for a CSA in the city. We don’t do boxes, it isn’t pick your own. I think it is kind of cool to see our layout.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.
All images courtesy Local Roots NYC.)