Last week it was the mobile slaughterhouse, and this week it’s the Farm Truck. 34-year-old Credit Suisse consultant Jurrien Swarts and his 32-year-old cousin Seth Holton (whose Vermont farm has been in the family since the 1760s) had originally wanted to sell at the Greenmarket, but they found the application process prohibitive and weren’t sure they could differentiate themselves from other vendors. “We had to implement this strategy of, 'How do we get into the city?'” Swarts tells us. “How do we get into this market without anyone saying no?” The answer: a truck!
Swarts and Holton bought an old truck for $3,000, spent the winter fixing it up, and now they’re selling Holton Farms beef, chicken, asparagus, and maple syrup, as well as a host of produce provided by nine other Vermont farms. In the next weeks, they plan to start selling bags of ground Vermont Coffee Co. beans, as well as ice-cream pints from New Hampshire’s Walpole Creamery. Right now, the truck is operating daily and making eighteen stops around the city (you can keep up with it on Twitter or via its website), but it’s also trying to fly under the radar while it sorts out permits. Swarts says the Department of Health told him it doesn’t regulate farm products, and the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets told him it doesn’t regulate trucks. “We’re in a very tight position, in the sense that we’re trying to work with all these people to figure out how to create this class of permitting or get the right kinds of nods and approvals where we’re not getting hassled by the police and parks department.”
Swarts hopes the city will smile on the fact that the truck also happens to be a CSA delivery vehicle. Customers who pay as little as $250 can pick and choose products (including organic meats and, soon, artisanal cheeses) for daily pickup (and soon, bicycle delivery!). And Swarts, along with a philanthropic investor George Hornig, hopes to take advantage of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to eventually accept food stamps and sell his goods at lower prices in low-income areas. By July 1, he’ll also join the new incarnation of La Marqueta, the market beneath the Metro North tracks between 111th and 116th Streets, near Park Avenue, in East Harlem.
All very ambitious, especially considering Swarts is still working his day job. “I’ve been in the banking industry for ten years and it’s all about profit,” he tells us. “And to be honest, it’s miserable. But when I’m on the veggie van driving around with the Holtons Farms logo blazing and reggae music on the stereo, I’m happy.”
As well he should be! Now, between the Farm Truck and the Truck Farm, can we say two’s a trend?