Produce Peddlers: The farm from your phone
Flat #12 mushrooms on Chandler Street is a supplier for Produce Peddlers.
PHOTOS BY LUKE COPPING
Gary and Gina Wieczorek
50 and 41, respectively
Across Western New York
Years of industry experience:
40 years combined
Over fifty-two billion pounds of food from manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants end up in landfills. The majority of the food grown doesn’t meet the stringent quality control measures set by retail outlets, or it has simply been overstocked. Every year, an estimated $160 billion of fresh produce is thrown out. Gary and Gina Wieczorek are working to change this harsh reality by offering an alternative for farmers and growers who lose precious dollars while also providing a service to restaurateurs and others in need of specific products.
In a world where we can shop for anything we want from our mobile devices and have it delivered to our door, the Wieczoreks knew an app would be the perfect vehicle to make Produce Peddlers come to life. Produce Peddlers allows sellers and buyers to connect anytime, anywhere. The passion this duo has for their work is obvious. Here’s how the business got its start and where it’s going:
What was the main inspiration for starting Produce Peddlers?
Gary worked on the wholesale level in the produce industry for twenty-five years and saw a tremendous amount of food waste. Having grown up in a food-insecure household at points in his life, seeing so much waste inspired him to try and come up with a solution.
Why did you feel there was a need for Produce Peddlers?
Fresh produce is a highly perishable commodity. As soon as it is harvested, the clock starts ticking on freshness. The industry as a whole is primitive in its methods of moving fresh produce in an efficient manner. By using technology, we can help connect the dots between sellers and buyers more efficiently and conveniently. We also live in a society with Amazon Prime and DoorDash—instant gratification—where goods are delivered to your door without hassle. We feel that there is a need for these consumer-based services within the restaurant/hospitality industry as a whole. We want to be consistent with the changing economic and technological trends around us.
Who are you working with?
Our sellers consist primarily of local farms/small family-owned and -operated businesses within a fifty-mile city center radius of Buffalo. Our buyers range from local schools to restaurants, meal prep companies, food processers, and caterers. Our first sellers were Goodman Farms from Ransomville, Draudt Farms from Hamburg, Flat #12 Mushrooms, and Vertical Farm Fresh in Buffalo, and Ellicottville Greens in Ellicottville. Our earliest buyers include Green Eats Kitchen & Juice Bar in Orchard Park; 716 Fresh, Barrel + Brine, and The Grove in Buffalo; The Park School and Classics V Banquet Center in Amherst; Butera’s Craft Beer and Craft Pizza in Hamburg; and Dina’s in Ellicottville. This shows the span of the area we cover.
How have you connected folks that needed to use Produce Peddlers to solve a problem?
Seabert Farms in Lockport texted us and said he needed to move three cases of freshly harvested broccoli quickly. We told him to list it on the site. Within an hour, he had sold all three cases to three different buyers. One of those buyers was 716 Fresh: he didn’t have enough broccoli for the soup he was making and needed an emergency delivery. Chef Jessica Arends of Butera’s ran out of the heirloom tomatoes and lemon cucumbers from Crown Hill Farms for the caprese salad she ran as a special during the lunch rush on a Saturday. She knew the very busy dinner rush was coming and also knew that she could count on Produce Peddlers to get her ingredients to her in a pinch so that she could continue to run her special for the duration of the weekend.
What happens if produce doesn’t sell ultimately?
If it doesn’t sell, let us connect you to a food bank, soup kitchen, etc. Let us feed the hungry. The last step would be composting instead of going to a landfill. Food scraps can go back to farms.
What is the best part about what you’re doing?
It’s awesome seeing the app do exactly what it was intended to do, but the smiles on our satisfied sellers’ and buyers’ faces are priceless! We had one seller gush to us the other day, “Anytime I post something it sells!” Another seller talked about having an increase in revenue since using PP. We “sold the farm” to launch this business because we strongly believe in what we are doing. We also believe in ourselves and our ability to be successful in this venture. We are surrounded by a strong team of advisors who also help when things get hectic. We are having fun and meeting so many amazing people along the way, and the good far outweighs the bad!
What are your favorite Buffalo area restaurants?
It is so hard to choose because there are so many! We pride ourselves on being foodies who support the local restaurant scene. We love that so many new places are opening in the area and that Buffalo has really established itself as culinary hub.
It depends on our mood. Sometimes you gotta have the Buffalo staples (pizza, wings, beef on ’weck). Sometimes we are in the mood for a more ethnic or spicy dish (Indian, Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern), or we choose from one of the many wonderful Italian restaurants in the area. We crave a really good steak, or the more adventurous options like beef or tuna tartare, octopus, pâté, charcuterie, oysters, etc. And you can find any and all of those options in Buffalo!
Where do you see Produce Peddlers in five to ten years?
We hope to have a successful launch here in our hometown of Buffalo, but see Produce Peddlers as a national brand in the years to come.