Real Time Farms, Food52 Explore Merger

Real Time Farms, the Ann Arbor, MI-based online guide to local and organic food, has entered into a partnership with Food52, a popular cooking website based in New York City, to develop “a shared vision of community building and sustainable eating,” says co-founder Cara Rosean.

Real Time Farms is part of a fledgling food tech movement in Michigan, which is second only to California in agricultural diversity, producing more than 200 commodities commercially. As part of Real Time Farms’ mission to crowd-source how we eat,  Rosean sends groups out to different areas of the country and gives them 12 weeks to try to document the local food network. Every three months, she chooses five new cities. So far, more than 20 cities have been documented.

Rosean describes the crew behind Food52 as “food rock stars” and says she’s excited to help home cooks find high-quality food in innovative ways. “It’s been nuts—we haven’t been able to tell anybody,” she adds. “We have all kinds of ideas on how to merge our databases.”

Under the terms of the partnership, the Real Time Farms team now works for Food52, with Rosean’s husband and co-founder Karl named as Food52’s vice president of technology. Rosean thinks it’s pretty cool that the Web’s first crowd-sourced food guide has drawn the attention of the first crowd-sourced cooking website. If all goes well and the two teams enjoy working together, in a few months Food52 will officially acquire Real Time Farms. “It’s an opportunity for us to get to a bigger audience than we ever would have reached,” she says, noting that Food52 has 750,000 unique visitors each month.

Rosean says Real Time Farms will continue to operate as a “repository to organize information about farms, food artisans, and farmers markets.” However, she has stopped accepting new customers for the restaurant portion of the site, which allows chefs to share where their food is coming from. The focus now is making the site’s data as useful as possible to those who want to track farm information.

Food52 started out as a project to see if its creators, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, could create a crowd-sourced cookbook in 52 weeks (hence the name). Since then, Food52 has grown into a thriving online community that hosts recipe contests and has a deal with Whole Foods. The site’s manifesto is that cooking doesn’t have to be “complicated or precious,” and it’s in everybody’s best interests to eat sustainable, whole foods. “The goal is to help change behavior on a daily basis, and help people find food they can feel good about,” Rosean explains.

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