Farm to Fork has gone from startup to storefront, with the natural food co-op’s newly-opened retail shop at 2001 W. Mayfield Road.“A lot of people like the new storefront already,” said Micah Grant on Wednesday, after only a week of operation. Grant and his wife, Krista, own and operate Farm to Fork Foods.Customers can still order meats and pick them up at drop-off points in Keller, Fort Worth, Mansfield and Midlothian, but the new store offers point-of-sale convenience.Grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, free-range chicken and bison are stocked in a big commercial freezer, with another case holding fresh nonhomogenized, low-temperature pasteurized milk and pastured eggs. All the foods are produced without “unnatural enhancements.”Blackboard signs and burlap curtains punctuate the country-style atmosphere of the sandy-colored stone building, at the front of a tract it shares with a family business.The Grants will operate the storefront for only a few hours a day four days a week so they will have time to prepare the orders for the drop-off points.Farm to Fork began about 2 1/2 years ago in the couple’s garage as the Arlington Meat Co-Op, born of the couple’s efforts to serve fresh, preservative-free natural foods to their young children. Their research and footwork finding sources for the foods convinced them that a business like theirs was a community need.“I’ve been a customer since it was in their garage,” said Tiffany Cara of Midlothian, who serves as a order pickup contact for her area. She learned of the Grants’ operation through a network of people in the Fort Worth area who seek out fresh and preservative-free food sources.The Caras began changing their diet when their 10-month-old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.“What I really love about this is, not only do I know what farm the food is from, and where the farm is, but what those animals were eating,” Cara said. “I’m really big on knowing what I’m putting into my body.” Originally a start-up with only an email address and a Facebook page, Farm to Fork now sends out about 2,000 email newsletters and has 4,600 Facebook friends in addition to the foot traffic to the storefront.“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Krista Grant, who handles much of Farm to Fork’s business. “A year and half ago, if you had told me that we were doing this, I would have told you you were crazy.”The conversion of the small, onetime farmhouse on the property fronting Mayfield Road into a retail establishment has been an ongoing process for the Grants. They completed some reconstruction a year ago, and have slowly been adding furniture, freezers and refrigerators.The biggest challenges? Switching over their accounting software, coordinating with suppliers and taking more deliveries each week.They have taken on three part-time employees to help.“We’re pleasantly surprised with the traffic we got,” Krista Grant said of the first week. “We saw a lot of new faces. There’s a lot of people who came in and said ‘we had no idea you existed, and we only live a mile down the street’.”The Grants understand that their niche is meat and seafood, but they have expanded their in-store product lines to include fresh salsas from Fort Worth, vegan food bars from San Diego, maple syrup from New England, organic honey from Sunnyvale, and potato chips from Colorado that are fried in coconut oil.Retail prices are higher than national-chain grocers, but about the same as Farm to Fork’s order prices.“We try to keep prices as low as we can while covering our expenses,” Krista Grant said. “We want to be competitive with or cheaper than Whole Foods or Central Market.”Per pound, whole chickens are $4.60, boneless breasts $9.99; ground beef is $6.15, ribeye steaks $18.80; pork chops are $8.25, ribs are $6.50; and bison brisket is $11, ribeye steak $25.Wild Alaskan halibut is $24 per pound, Pacific cod is $11.70, and sockeye salmon is $16.25.It isn’t that the Grants are planning on building a natural-food empire, she said.“We’ve grown with it and decided to do only what we need to do, and only what our customers want,” she said. One reason the Grants moved toward a storefront operation was because their suppliers began to struggle with filling the ever-growing twice-a-month orders. Smaller, more frequent orders were more manageable.Customer comments also suggested that some people were having a hard time connecting to the drop-off points within the time frames, so a storefront made sense. Many prospective customers were reluctant to try the order method.“Our feedback indicated that the whole pre-order thing was a little intimidating and hard to figure out,” Krista Grant said. “They wanted to be able to walk into a store and see what they liked and what caught their eye.” This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins