What started as a decision by Krista and Micah Grant to improve their diet when they were expecting their first child more than three years ago has become a blossoming Arlington-based meat and seafood co-op that draws customers from all over the Metroplex.Farm to Fork: A Natural Food Co-op Llc. started in the Grants garage but now has its own delivery and pickup site at 2001 W. Mayfield Road in central Arlington, as well as drop points in Allen, Oak Cliff and north Fort Worth.About 550 families are signed up to receive its emails, Krista Grant said Friday, and almost 1,200 people interact with its Facebook page.The co-op, whose slogan is Real Food for Real People, has developed contacts with North Texas-based producers of Angus, longhorn and bison; free-range and pastured chicken; pork, and Alaskan-caught sockeye salmon, halibut and crab. Locally harvested raw honey and Texas olive oil are also sometimes available.Each producer is thoroughly evaluated by the Grants. All beef, for example, must be not just grass-fed but grass-finished, meaning it is never given grain, much less pumped full of hormones or antibiotics.We ask a lot of questions, Krista Grant said. We know exactly where the food is coming from.The Grants also keep a close eye on the safety of the food they sell.All of the places we use are processed in properly licensed processing facilities, she said. They are also all inspected by the state, and this tag of inspection is on all of the packaging. Our seafood has a different set of standards because it comes from out of state, but is similar.Gaining momentumEarly on, the Grants found that such all-natural beef was either hard to find or too expensive at health food stores. Their research led them to local producers like Chisholm Trail Grass-fed Beef that met their criteria.The way it really got going was with seafood, Krista Grant said. They found a fisherman willing to truck it straight from Alaska, but only if they ordered at least 1,000 pounds. I asked my friends to ask their friends, and soon the Grants were helping other families buy groceries, too.Orders generally rotate monthly between meat and chicken, with seafood and other items available on occasion. Families can order however much they wish; there are no membership fees or requirements for participation.Farm to Fork has little overhead beyond utilities, thanks to its use of a site on the property of another business Micah Grants family owns. But operating it will soon require more time than Krista Grant, a stay-at-home mom with a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old, can squeeze in during nap times and preschool hours.We are getting close to the point of needing to hire an employee or two, she said. The Grants also hope to add drop points in Granbury and the Mansfield-Burleson area.Grass-fed beefMom-to-be Michele Massey lives in north Fort Worth and picks up orders for families in that area so that they dont have to drive as far. Instead, they just go to her house, which serves as a drop point.Like the Grants, they knew of co-ops, farmers markets and other places to buy locally grown organic produce and grains, like Urban Acres, which runs a market in north Oak Cliff, and Your Health Source, which has pickup locations throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, but finding suitable meat was a challenge.My husband and I drink raw milk, eat organic when possible and have searched and searched for a consistent source for local, free-range, grass-fed meat, Massey said.Now that she is connected to Farm to Fork, she said, I typically order every time for any beef and chicken order. I have tried the seafood and loved it, though we dont eat seafood too often in our house.Because the meat, poultry and seafood are premium products, their prices are higher than at regular supermarkets. A pound of ground longhorn beef, for example, costs $5.29. A cut-up chicken is $4.89 a pound. A dozen eggs is $5.99. A pound of pork breakfast sausage is $8.Grass-fed longhorn beef can taste different at first, said Chisholm Trail partner Ed Ambrose, but experimenting with how best to cook it usually yields delicious results.The Grants were hooked almost instantly.It was the best tenderloin we had ever had, Krista Grant said.
Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1