How do you buy locally grown food directly from a farmer? There are really only two ways to do it: you go to the farmers market, or you join a CSA (community-supported agriculture). But it’s essential that consumers can make this connection, because small farms no longer have a viable business model that can compete with major retail chains—not since the US Department of Agriculture pushed a “get big or get out” policy in the 1970s that fundamentally altered the landscape of local farming.
MilkRun is changing that. Before she was MilkRun’s founder & CEO, Julia Niiro was a farmer herself, running Revel Farm in Canby, Oregon, with her husband, Jimmy, and four sweet farm dogs. That in itself was no small undertaking, but as Julia looked around at how to get her food into the hands of her friends, her neighbors, and her community, the picture didn’t make sense. Where were all the options for selling farm-fresh food? There was no outlet for her farm to sell food even to its next-door neighbor, just 100 yards down the road.
Julia suspected this was one reason why small farms nationwide were struggling to make ends meet. So she pitched a solution to the other folks in her local food community. She teamed up with some farmer friends to try distributing their products together, and she made her first deliveries to a group of preschool teachers that she took orders from on a sheet of paper with no infrastructure at all—she drove grocery staples to them by herself in her van. But that was the beginning of what would become MilkRun.
Julia soon realized that with smartphones in everybody’s pocket and readily available technology to build a living market database, she could turn her sheet of paper into a scalable online platform that would provide everybody in the city with access to locally grown, farm-fresh goods. She created MilkRun to be the kind of marketplace and distribution system she herself would have liked to have had access to—an efficient and profitable way to sell locally produced goods directly to customers and chefs in the city.
And while MilkRun was founded primarily to provide a distribution lifeline to struggling small farms, its benefits reach entire communities. Julia had created a way for everyone to have access to the vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, and more that are being grown and produced right in their own cities and towns.
Welcome to MilkRun!