Nextdoorganics Wants to Bring Better-Quality Food to as Wide an Audience as Possible

Their five-year-plan includes 100 more hubs on the East Coast, starting with one in Manhattan in the next year.

Of all the progressive practices employed by Nextdoorganics — the Brooklyn-based food delivery service orders whole animals, buys edible weeds from a crew of New Jersey gleaners and has even contracted a company to freeze, can and ferment this summer’s harvest for the winter ahead — perhaps the most telling is their open-door policy.

Whether you’re a city community gardener, urban farmer or forager, says Nextdoorganics CEO and co-founder Josh Cook, you’re welcome to walk into their Bed-Stuy headquarters and show off what you’ve got for sale.

The ultimate goal of Nextdoorganics, says Cook, is reach: Access to better-quality food for as wide an audience as possible, while supporting as many farmers and producers as possible. You do that, says Cook, in part by being flexible.

While the four-year-old company is based on a CSA model, it builds weekly $20 to $50 shares from a unique and ever-changing collection of small-scale suppliers, cooperatives, distributors and truly local farms, such as Sky Vegetables in the Bronx and EcoStation:NY’s Bushwick Campus Farm. (In the beginning, Nextdoorganics actually grew some of their own produce at co-founder Kris Schumacher’s property in Providence, Rhode Island.) Nextdoororganics buyers can also go online and pause their deliveries anytime, change their share level or add specialty items like local cider vinegar, pink-eye beans, SCRATCHbread loaves, dried herbs or Brooklyn-roasted coffee beans — most of which are also available to the general public at their small store inside their Bed-Stuy headquarters, to boot.

Delivery is adjustable, too: Bike service to your home in Brooklyn or Manhattan is $5, or you can pay $2 to use a pickup point like Burp Castle in the East Village, Egg in Williamsburg or Four & Twenty Blackbirds in the Brooklyn Public Library. Of course dropping by Nextdoorganics’ friendly headquarters — called the “Hub,” it’s essentially a fridge, a freezer, a couch and some tables where volunteers can help pack orders in exchange for produce — is free.

Currently Nextdoorganics processes around 550 orders per week from 1,300 members, and about a third of them come to the office in person, says Cook. That’s why his five-year-plan for growth — spurred by the city business-accelerator program called Food-X, which is helping them find investors — is not just to grow their food storage space and distribution network to accommodate more customers or to foster an online community, but to build 100 more hubs in the East Coast, starting with one in Manhattan in the next year.

Maintaining a place where people can stop by is key to the business, because it provides one thing his online ordering system can’t: that real-world connection.

“We’ve got farmers pulling up in the beginning of the day, and bikers headed out in the evening,” Cook says of what it’s like to hang around the Hub. “It really feels like it’s part of the food system.”

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.