Tired of the same old mush? PSFK chats with Farm to Baby, the first source for fresh, handmade and upright food for infants sourced from local farms.
Eating locally has restored the link between the farm and the table, an ideal pioneered by Chef Alice Waters at her Berkeley, California restaurant, Chez Panisse in the early 70s. Though not a new concept, applying this ethos to babies in the form of a subscription-based food delivery service may be. Why not satiate your young child’s hunger with the freshest, seasonal ingredients which are produced sustainably and locally. Enter Farm to Baby, who aims to do just that.
They recognize that New Yorkers are busy, so they have meals covered – preparing what’s in season (because that’s what tastes best). In turn, your child develops a broad palate, avoiding tears and fussiness at meal time. PSFK spoke with Lauren Utvich, the co-founder about her involvement with the local farm community, the handmade food process, and the launch of Farm to Baby in New York.
Please share your involvement in the New York farm community & how the idea for Farm to Baby was born (no pun intended).
I became involved with food 7 years ago when I was studying nutrition. I saw firsthand the impact that our diets have on our well-being, and I wanted to do something to help people. I went to culinary school, so that I could teach people to feed themselves, but I soon learned that ingrained eating habits are very difficult to change. It seemed obvious to me that the earlier we learn to love fresh and wholesome foods, the better prepared we are to live a happy, healthy life. To that end, I decided to focus on babies and their first foods. I’ve worked in farm-to-table restaurants and for farms, but I really feel that this the best work I can do in order to make a difference.
My partner and co-founder, Marshall Louis Reaves, studies metabolism at Princeton, and he also has a strong desire to make positive contributions to the food system. The fact that a startling number of children are becoming obese is very sad because it is a preventable problem. We both decided that in order to make the biggest impact, we should go back to the start, when habits and palates are first formed. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for parents to provide fresh food that’s good for babies and good for the earth. If it’s easy for parents, then they are more likely to start and stick with it, and then children are more likely to grow up healthy because they are eating whole foods.
There’s plenty of organic baby foods already on the market, how do you seek to improve upon this space with Farm to Baby?
It is true – there are several baby foods (canned or otherwise preserved, processed foods) on the market. But we aren’t making baby food. Farm to Baby is food for babies. Not to sound glib, but we feel there is a meaningful distinction between baby food, and food that you feed to your baby. At the the store, the baby foods you find are produced in a factory, typically cooked twice at high heats, often mixed with preservatives or fillers, and packaged in single-use containers that frequently contain various toxins like plastic fixatives.
In contrast, we rely on our strong relationships in the local farming community to source seasonal produce that is grown using only the best practices. We prepare our food in small batches, puree it, and then package these whole, unadulterated foods into reusable glass jars (BPA-free, phthalate-free). We never use any additives, fillers or preservatives. So, our process is different at almost every step, and the result is a food that we’re very proud of. It’s so good, we often hear from parents that they’re guilty of taking a spoonful for themselves now and again. (It’s actually quite amusing–we have found that our foods also make excellent bases for soup with addition of some sauteed garlic and salt). We understand that many big city parents have hectic schedules, so the opportunity to take one thing off the minds of parents with our subscription-based delivery service made good sense to us.
Have you spoken to parents in New York City to gauge interest, receive feedback, and even get suggestions for items you may carry?
To date, we’ve been talking to our friends who are parents, and these baby focus groups have been coming back with rave reviews. Secondly, we’re always happy to hear what any parents have to tell us. Not only do we make it easy to contact us on our website, but right now, we’re gearing up for a parent meetup in north Brooklyn to learn more about the needs of parents, which we know can differ widely. We’ll also be organizing some events in the Park Slope area and Manhattan in preparation for our launch in those areas.
We’ve actually gotten some great recommendations so far. One mother was interested in a high quality teething biscuit, and another suggested foods that her 8-month old boy can grab with his fingers. We’re currently looking into these, and hope to expand our offerings in the future. Parents have also suggested that we work with locations to arrange afternoon or night time pickups, since delivery to home or office doesn’t work for everyone, and we plan to have at least one location in north Brooklyn by the time we launch.
When are you going to start accepting subscriptions for the service? And though it might be too early to tell, any thoughts in the future about expanding to other locales around the country.
We’re going to open up the online store to north Brooklyn (Williamsburg and Greenpoint) at noon on Sunday Feb 26th for our first home deliveries and pickup on March 2. We plan to expand to central/southern Brooklyn (Park Slope, Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, etc) in April, and finally into Manhattan in late spring/early summer. Right now, we’ve got our hands full with just these two boroughs, but we’d certainly be interested in expanding to other metro areas where parents are interested in fresh, local, and upright food for babies.