SAND LAKE, Mi. — From rising prices to empty shelves, to worries about contamination, there are plenty of reasons people are either growing more of their own food or connecting with local farmers and growers. According to the National Gardening Association, 18.3 million people took up gardening in 2021. They’re younger, more diverse and live in both urban and rural environments. And now there’s a new way to connect them with their growing community.
Niki Kalvaitis truly enjoys the life she’s created for her family at her Sister Hawk Farm in Sand Lake. She says, “I love it, outside of my children, one of my greatest joys. I feel like I’m making a difference not only for my family, but for the people around me. It’s hard, it’s frustrating and it can be costly sometimes, but it’s definitely a worthwhile endeavor.” She gave her longtime-friend Terra Osman a tour, they’ve known each other since high school, but today they also have a connection through this farm, this lifestyle and an app, called Farmish.
Terra says, “I’m a mom, I’m a gardener, I’m a web developer and when the pandemic started, I, like a lot of families started to expand our garden and look around for more local food sources.” It’s great if you know someone like Niki, but Terra was surprised how hard connecting could be. “Facebook Marketplace is not set up for local foods so it was a lot of coded language and people posting in groups that they were looking for XYZ, and so I made a lot of connections on social media, and I ended up meeting someone I found on Instagram to buy potatoes in a parking lot.”
Terra knew there was a way to make this a lot easier, so she did it herself, and developed the app, specifically designed for the local, family farm. “Farmish is a lot like Craigslist for farmers and gardeners. Users can great a free listing for things like backyard chickens, eggs, produce, garden supplies, plants, trees, and buyers can search by a map or a keyword and then send a message to the seller in the app and all the transactions happen off the app, so the seller can barter, collect PayPal, Venmo, whatever suits their situation.”
The app is completely free to use and thanks to word of mouth, and her very successful marketing on TikTok, it’s blowing up. She says, “I launched it in March, we had over 1000 users by the end of that week. We are now up to 105,000 users across the country. We have 1000’s of listings, people having conversations about eggs and plant starts and all kinds of resources and tools. Those interactions are happening all over the country, so it’s been amazing.” Interactions between farmers like Niki and others who are doing the same thing, just a few miles down the road. Bringing technology into an age-old practice; returning “grocery shopping” back to its roots. Niki says, “I raise chickens and I have these other things, like bees. But I am also a herd share owner from a local dairy a few miles away and I buy beef from a farm in Coopersville. And so I’m utilizing these other farms I buy tomatoes from a neighbor down the street, so it’s just really a way to connect with people and to as terra said to build community and I think that’s very important.”
Terra just wants to make meaningful connections easier for everyone involved. “We have not had paid promotion, we’ve not had advertising, it’s all been people finding out about Farmish and sharing it in their local communities and that’s the secret sauce. You want to be able to find them right in your community and connect with that seller and for that seller to be able to build a customer base without a website, and a marketing plan and digital advertising, it think it’s a good blend of both worlds.”
Terra offers all kinds of fun videos and advice on her social media platforms, you can follow her on Instagram, TikTok or simply download the app at https://getfarmish.com/.