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Real Time Farms

PO Box 3856
Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Cara Rosaen

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Funny, this question is a bit hard to answer. As a crowd-sourced, wiki-like nationwide food guide, consumers can share information they know on any farm (sustainable or otherwise) across the country. Not quite sure who our first user was, but we are very thankful for them.

The site is free for consumers, and farmers.

We earn revenue through our software we offer to restaurants. They use our tools to farm-link every ingredient on their menu into this growing guide. See tomatoes on a restaurant menu, click on "tomato", learn how they were grown, see pics of them growing in the field, and read about the story of the farm. See this farm-linked menu on their  own website, on their Facebook page, and on Real Time Farms. The first restaurant we started working with was Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery in Ann Arbor.

Where did you find your first employee?
We were lucky, she found us. Lindsay-Jean Hard wanted to help people know where their food comes from, and was excited by Karl's idea to use technology to bring transparency to our food system. Having just returned from almost two years abroad in Japan, she knew food transparency needed to be tackled worldwide. Lindsay-Jean is a woman of many talents - managing user testing, customer feedback, data management, and is editor in chief of the Real Time Farms blog.
Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Yes, once. Lindsay Partridge was volunteering with us. At the time, my dad came up with idea to launch a nationwide Food Warrior Internship Program. Food Warrior interns would learn about and document the farms and food artisans in their area in images, photos, and video - setting an example to others for how they could participate in growing the guide. Though young, we knew Lindsay was the perfect one for the job: organized, energetic, and passionate, she now runs the Food Warrior Internship Program nationwide.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We did an initial angel round with $100,000 in investment. Our model has been bootstrapping a lean-startup.

Name an idea, policy or mindset from elsewhere that you would like to see this region adopt?
Food transparency. As Brandon Johns of executive chef of Grange Kitchen and Bar in Ann Arbor said to me, "You spend so much time researching a TV, but you'll go and buy a chicken anywhere." To date, it has been too hard to know where our food comes from, and so researching our chicken becomes and onerous and often boring process. But what if we could make it engaging, and easy? This is our goal. I would encourage everyone to take one thing that they eat daily, if not weekly, research the farm or farms it comes from, and report what they learn on Real Time Farms. As we begin to do this, we'll build the most comprehensive food guide available.  

What could local leaders do to help attract and retain more entrepreneurial young people to Metro Detroit?
I see a lot of young people particularly interested in the social for-profit space (as evidenced by growing programs like the University of Michigan's ERB Program). Young people who want to change the world with an economically viable company - a very powerful concept. The space could benefit from more social venture capital and coaching.

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