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If you haven’t had much luck at the grocery store, Naked Farmer is temporarily remixing its concept to help you find fresh produce.
The fast-casual spot was scheduled to open in downtown St. Petersburg on April 1. In light of the coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, however, Naked Farmer founder Jordan Johnson has instead launched a digital farmers market focusing on the delivery and pickup of locally sourced vegetables.
Johnson, who was previously the COO of SoFresh, said this pivot is a way for Naked Farmer to fulfill a need in Tampa Bay and still accomplish what it has set out to do.
“As you can imagine, it was pretty stressful watching the virus really pick up speed and intensity, and our grand opening was getting closer,” Johnson said. “Once we got over that, the team had an evolution of our thought process.
“We started Naked Farmer because we knew the food system was broken and too many people couldn’t get access to healthy, local fresh veggies at a reasonable price, so that’s been our mission all along. … We realized that even in this moment, while the moment has changed, our mission is still the same. We’re still increasing access to farm-fresh foods grown nearby.”
According to Johnson, his role at SoFresh allowed him to learn about the food system — how we think about food, how it’s supplied, how we eat it, food and materials waste.
He said he and the Naked Farmer crew have built relationships with local farmers over the last several months to create a sustainable supply chain that can support the community, and its forthcoming restaurants in St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Harvest boxes ranging from $37 to $96 that showcase what’s growing drive the digital farmers market lineup. Individual raw ingredients, including meat and fruit, are available a la carte as well.
A typical box is a half bushel’s worth of veggies designed to fit in your fridge. It may contain a head of lettuce, a bunch of carrots, two tomatoes, a bunch of kale, two zucchini squash, a bunch of scallions, a pack of green beans and a bunch of basil.
Among other partners, Johnson said he’s sourcing from a Dover farm for Naked Farmer’s heritage offerings and Worden Farm in Punta Gorda.
“We’re coming up to the end of our growing season here in the next couple of months, and at that same time farms in the Northeast will be coming up to the start of theirs. So what we hope to do is provide a model for other restaurants and other farmers, because we don’t want our farmers to go out of business, and that could happen,” Johnson said.
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The digital farmers market went live March 20. Customers can order through eatnakedfarmer.com or Uber Eats.
Uber Eats provides free delivery within a three-mile radius of 200 Central Ave., where Naked Farmer will eventually debut in downtown St. Pete, and 302 E Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa. Holy Hog Barbecue has let the restaurant use its back entrance and storage for distribution.
Pickup is also offered at both locations.
The silver lining during this time, Johnson said, is how restaurateurs, like Danny Hernandez and Dave Burton of Holy Hog, are coming together to help each other and the public.
Johnson couldn’t yet announce Naked Farmer’s permanent location in Tampa. But once the concept opens as a restaurant, expect a seasonal menu of dishes built upon mostly veggies that changes every two months.
The nutrient-dense meals will be served in a refined atmosphere he calls “fine fresh.”
“We believe that eating local fresh food is the best thing we can do for our bodies, and the earth by the way,” Johnson said, “and that feels more important now than ever.”
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