How 4P Foods is rebuilding a climate-positive food system one bag of veggies at a time
It turns out our entire food system — how we grow, pack, ship, store, and deliver food – contributes nearly 34% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every part of the literal food chain, from the chemicals used on crops to fuel used for food transportation, adds more carbon to the air than it currently absorbs.
Decades of big food producers gobbling up small farms and optimizing for crop yields has resulted in Frankenstein food system that prioritizes scale-at-all-cost. This has incredible negative impacts including climate impact, poor animal and human welfare, dead soil, and soil run off to name a few.
70% of organic food in the U.S. is grown in California.
In addition, the average meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to fork. With 70% of U.S. organic food produced in California, an organic tomato at Whole Foods in Baltimore, Md. most likely traveled more than 2,000 miles to get there. And yet farms can minimize their footprint by transitioning to regenerative farm methods which “could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions” as reported by the Rodale Institute. Agriculture could go from one of the worst climate offenders to our white knight in the battle against climate change.
The vast majority of U.S. farmers use conventional farming techniques. While conventional farming produces 20% more crops, regenerative farms are up to 50% more profitable. Transitioning from conventional farming to regenerative is difficult and expensive: farmers need to learn new techniques, purchase new equipment, and revamp their entire operation. And with farmers barely scraping by on notoriously small margins, investing in new farming methods is a hard decision to make, especially if it impacts the cost of the food produced.
While conventional farming produces 20% more crops, regenerative farms are up to 50% more profitable.
Enter: 4P Foods
Tom McDougall started 4P Foods to build a more regenerative and equitable food system with a long-term vision to make our food climate-positive and available from farms within a `100-mile radius. They want to connect local farmers to local marketplaces – increasing consumer reach for the farmer and increasing access to nutrient-dense, local food to people who want it.
4P Foods operates two businesses: a direct-to-consumer online subscription grocery shop and a wholesale business selling large quantities of locally-grown regenerative food to universities, school systems, restaurants, grocery stores, and other retailers and markets. Their online subscription business delivers local food directly to people’s doorsteps every week. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 4P Foods experienced a 300% increase in weekly veggies subscriptions in 2020. The direct-to-consumer business creates an accessible and growing customer base willing to pay a premium for local regenerative food. It also means that people who didn’t always have direct access to freshly farmed produce, now do. One of 4P Foods’ most important tenants is to ensure that everyone – regardless of income, race, or zip code – can get access to nutrient-dense, locally grown food. In 2021, 4P Foods donated nearly $90,000 worth of fresh food to local food access organizations.
4P Foods is creating the necessary infrastructure and customer pipeline to make a local, regenerative farm system worth a farmer’s investment. They source, store, and distribute directly from farmer to resident or business. Cutting out the layers of middlemen also means that farmers working with 4P Foods make nearly 80% more on their margins. Now, 4P Foods is expanding its local farmer’s market to meet the growing real demand for local, ethically grown, and raised food. Farmers are more willing to start the transition to regenerative farming knowing they have an eager customer base eager and ready and the margins to justify the investment. As more farmers transition to regenerative practices, more carbon gets pulled from the atmosphere and more people realize they can make a difference by ordering through 4P Foods. Win-win-win for all.
Ultimately, 4P Foods aims to build a national network of partnerships with CSAs, food hubs, and local farmers that can plug into their national food supply web of warehouses and drivers so people and businesses anywhere can easily buy local regenerative food. This means more nutrient-dense food that’s fresher Tom McDougall sees a not too distant future where people get the quality of a farmers market with the ease of online ordering and peace of mind that their carrots are fighting climate change for them. Those are the type of carrots we want to invest in, too.