Indianapolis-based Green B.E.A.N. Delivery planted a seed here four years ago, and now the organic food-shipping service is cultivating its own 60-acre farm in Sheridan.
The company launched certified-organic Feel Good Farm in the Hamilton County town this month with plans to grow broccoli, tomatoes, okra and party pan squash, among other crops.
It is yet another entity under the umbrella of delivery-service parent B.E.A.N. LLC—for Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture, Nutrition. Other initiatives include Tiny Footprint Distribution, which delivers locally made food to retail stores; Farm to Kitchen Foods, which has its own product line; and Cool School Lunch, a program launched last year to help schools order fruits and vegetables.
Green B.E.A.N. also offers delivery service in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio. It just added Louisville and plans to expand to Fort Wayne in the next month.
In all, CEO Matt Ewer’s companies employ 60 people.
Ewer and his wife, nutritionist Elizabeth Blessing, launched what was then called Farm Fresh Delivery LLC in 2007 with an investment of less than $50,000. They wanted to grow their own crops from the start, but decided to wait until they were sure the business was well-rooted.
So they offered the delivery service to other organic growers in the region. Green B.E.A.N. members sign up to receive produce bins every week or every other week. The minimum order is $35.
The service now has 40 vendors and about 3,500 deliveries a week. Annual sales top $5 million, Ewer said.
Its growth followed rapid expansion of small-acre farms throughout Indiana. According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of small farms in the state nearly doubled from 2002 to 2007.
The stable market conditions and demand for his service made Ewer feel secure enough to go ahead with his plan, using profits from delivery to begin farming.
Feel Good Farm will offer crops that are more difficult to cultivate on small-scale farms, Ewer said. Products such as broccoli, soybeans and green beans are among the staples he said will fill an untapped market in organic produce.
“We saw that there was kind of an agricultural gap as far as the products go,” Ewer said. “We’re taking a very structured approach to the farm, and we’re looking to supplement our market.”
Feel Good Farm is intended to provide organic vegetables not currently available in the area and will not compete with its partner farms, he said.
A native of Marion, Ewer got a degree in environmental management from Indiana University. He worked for a farm in Bloomington before heading to Seattle, where he said the organic food movement was further along. Ewer spent about four years there as the general manager of Full Circle Farm before returning to his home state and starting Green B.E.A.N. Delivery.
“We felt like there was a market potential in the Midwest that was untapped,” Ewer said. “Looking back a few years later, we were right on the mark with that. … The community was really ready for something like Green B.E.A.N. Delivery.”
Blessing, a native of Noblesville, has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from IU and a master’s in nutrition from Bastyr University in Seattle. She worked for Washington State University King County Extension’s Food $ense Program before returning to Indiana.
The couple began by establishing relationships with businesses such as Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse in Bloomington, where Ewer had once worked, and Trader’s Point Creamery in Zionsville. From there, the operation quickly expanded.
“After a while, we had artisans and farmers starting to come to us to grow their market value,” Ewer said.
He and his management team know Feel Good Farm will initially operate at a loss, he said, but he is optimistic his investment will eventually provide solid returns.
“It’s coming to fruition now, the way we look at it,” he said of his business strategy. “It can be profitable in a few years. … Overall, this has been the game plan since day one.”
Feel Good Farm also will offer the Indianapolis community a picture of how producers of organic agriculture operate, Ewer said. His plans include programs for schools to visit the farm as well as monthly gatherings for customers.
“We’re trying to teach kids as well as adults where their food comes from and why it’s important to support local farmers and local products,” he said.?