Business

Q&A With Wen-Jay Ying: Founder Of Local Roots NYC

I met Wen-Jay a couple months back after stumbling into a Sustainability Commerce Popup Conference in Williamsburg.  She was among an eclectic panel of speakers that day who’s company missions were not only vivid with green priority, but also deeply rooted into the fabric of their local communities. Her company, Local Roots NYC provides New Yorkers with a access to goods and produce from a network of local farmers (local meaning that their supplier’s operations happen within a 250 mile radius).  It’s a subscription based membership where you can sign up for different seasons, each having a variety of different seasonal foods.  Throughout the city are different “markets” where your allotted order is ready for pickup.  What’s awesome about Local Roots is that their markets don’t just happen anywhere, they happen at your favorite cafe or dive bar right in the heart of your local New York community.

Local Roots NYC has been in operation for six years, with over 25 market sites, and over 750 members.  When meeting up with Wen-Jay at one of her market locations set up outside of a cute Brooklyn cafe, I got an overwhelmingly inclusive community vibe.  Toddlers were running around, and Local Roots members came to grab their goods while also inviting me to their yoga class later that day… I felt right at home! Here’s some things we talked about that day:

How’d you come up with the idea for Local Roots?

I wanted to find a better, more social way to connect people and their communities to local farmers.  Creating Local Roots was my solution to the gap between farm to table.  Not only does it support local farmers but also the local businesses that we symbiotically partner with for our markets.

What makes this different than meal kits or other food delivery systems?

Having markets not only encourages the social aspect to shopping with us, but also greatly reduces waste.  When you order a food kit or have groceries delivered they tend to come with an excessive amount of packaging.  At are local market locations you can bring your own reusables and stop it at your favorite bar for a drink all at the same time.

How does your company take sustainability into account?

Each of our farmers practice different levels of sustainability.  Kindness to animals and to the land are extremely important to us.  Our vegetables are either Certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program, or USDA Certified Organic . While the standards and the labels are the same – organic – the USDA Organic Program favors medium to big-sized farmers, and the Certified Naturally Grown program is better suited for small farmers. The Certified Naturally Grown label was created in 2002 in response to the USDA labeling, which is expensive in terms of time (paperwork per crop) and application fees. The Certified Naturally Grown program has farmers review fellow CNG farmers and prioritizes the exchange of feedback and ideas for growth.  More info on each of our famers can be found on our Farm page if you want to check it out.

So far what has been your favorite part of starting this company?

We’ve been running for over six years now.  In this time I’ve had customers become friends.  I’ve seen them get married and have babies, and I’ve seen those babies grow up on Local Roots produce.  Now these kids are almost three and they know so much more about their farmers and where their food comes from.  Not many other three year old kids are that connected to their food and how it grows! This makes me extremely happy and proud.

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