Tracy McEvilly is a farmer turned tech entrepreneur who recently launched a fresh meal delivery service called GreenForkNY with a focus on local, organic farm to table food.
What inspired you to start GreenForkNY?
I spent 4 years working for Early Morning Farm, a certified organic farm in central NY as their CSA manager. The biggest hurdle for retaining customers was that many busy working families couldn’t use up a full CSA box in one week or didn’t know what to do with all of the ingredients. We got lots of positive responses to the farm’s recipe blog, which I created over 1000 original recipes for. When recipe kits came onto the food scene, I thought they were interesting, but wanted organic produce and local pastured meats. The co-founder, Anton Burkett, and I developed Green Fork as a way to make supporting the local food economy easier and increase access to the amazing sundries of the Finger Lakes FoodShed across the Northeast region. Green Fork offers convenience without sacrificing quality.
How is it different than other meal delivery services?
Ingredient quality is the number one difference between Green Fork and other meal kits. The concept was born out of an organic farm and we are 100% committed to our product standards. One of our most important partnerships is with The Piggery in Ithaca, NY for sustainably and ethically raised meats, but it doesn’t end there. When people think about locally grown their mind often sticks to local produce. But, our region has so much more to offer! We work with a local flour mill, an artisan pasta maker. Our region is rich with high-quality sources of dairy, honey, eggs, maple syrup, and so much more.
Another key aspect of eating locally, is eating with the seasons. Unlike other meal kits, you won’t see tomatoes, cucumbers, or other summer produce in our winter meals. This has made recipe development a bit of a challenge, but we’re committed to using what our region has to offer. We consult with local chefs and relentlessly test our recipes in our farm kitchen. The results are delicious year-round and our customers agree. There’s a bit of education for the customer here, as well, with the seasonal aspect.
In addition to sourcing ingredients from our local community and eating with the seasons, we package our boxes through a partnership with a local non-profit, Challenge Workforce Solutions. Challenge is a non-profit organization that is committed to creating pathways to employment for people with disabilities or barriers. As we build Green Fork, we are further strengthening our local community by creating jobs as well as sourcing local ingredients.
Tell us a little bit about your career path and how it led to this venture.
I didn’t really have a direct path to working in tech, but my passion for local food and recipe development led to me to the digital world. I hold a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics and my previous lives include roles as a potter and art teacher. I also spent several years as part of the administration team of a Montessori school. Green Fork encompasses all of my passions: writing, photography, food, and a lifetime of learning. Software development is all about problem-solving and that’s what keeps me coming back everyday.
What was something that surprised you during the process of building the company?
Building custom software was an interesting and time consuming journey! Neither my co-founder or I have a background in web application development, so learning to communicate effectively with a development team was a new challenge. We ended up working with a local company in a consulting type arrangement, which works well for the time being, and is helping us to build a knowledge base to eventually hire an in-house team.
What's the tech stack you're using for the application and who else has been supporting the platform outside of your founding team?
Our tech stack for the custom web application includes React, Ruby on Rails, and PostgreSQL. We have a couple of firms that have helped us with the development work including Think Topography and Singlebrook.
What's next for GreenForkNY and how can our community offer support?
The focus for Green Fork right now is building our customer base and continuing to work with local producers in strong partnerships. For our local customers we are working on setting up an ice pack and packaging return, so we can reuse packaging. Our work with Challenge and our local purveyors are key to our mission. As part of our long-term vision, we’re building a brand that we can replicate in different regions. For the future we’ll be seeking partners and investors that share our vision. Our community can also help spread the word! Green Fork has a really neat feature where existing customers can gift a friend a free meal, it’s a great piece of technology and ends in free food, which appeals to everyone!