[By Khristine Thomas]
But we can’t miss the kale!,” is the simple phrase that would be the beginning of a dream come true. Florida natives, Cathy and Robby Clay have been in business nearly three years and they take great pride in their store, The Farmacy, nestled inside the city of Winter Garden, Florida. The Farmacy is best described as a small, local and organic grocery store.
However, it is not your typical grocer carrying organic fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and a few basic kitchen pantry essentials. The Farmacy distinguishes itself by carrying only organic products, and more importantly, it carries a great deal of local products by partnering with over twenty-four farmers throughout Central Florida. These local farms range in size from small micro and specialty farms, to public farms such as Lake Meadows Natural (familiar to many Central Floridians), as well as, lesser known mom and pop businesses including a raw dairy farmer.
“It’s pretty surprising how much community support for The Farmacy has grown over the last two and a half years, and even more surprising to find out how much work you can accomplish in that same amount of time,” says Cathy Clay. Cathy began her foodpreneur journey by exploring healthy food which led to the idea of food farming, and soon after, she and Robby dreamed of having a small ten-acre farm all their own.
Going with the Flow or is it the Grow?
The couple frequented the Winter Garden Farmers Market, always certain to arrive early so as not to miss out on Cathy’s favorite organic kale. It was on one of these outings that Robby and Cathy drove past a yard sale in an old barn. Stopping for a garage sale was not Cathy’s highest priority at the moment and she reminded Robby, “we can’t miss the kale.” However, it took very little time for Cathy to change her mind. The couple decided, “You don’t pass up a garage sale in an old barn.”
The barn belonged to an older couple that the Clays soon befriended. Cathy began working at the local ‘farm to table’ farm in order to gain experience for her own dream of having a future farm. The farmers Cathy essentially interned with, had a surplus of kale that was not going to be sold and like true foodpreneurs, Robby and Cathy popped up a tent of their own at the Winter Garden Farmers Market. “We sold lots of kale, and it snowballed from there. We started with one farm, added another, then another, and now we are up to twenty-four local farms and several other makers who supply goods to our store. We didn’t start out with plans to be at a farmer’s market, much less a store, but people were asking us for it, so we went with it and kept growing!”
The Farmacy made its debut by selling produce out of a small tent in a busy farmers market and gained many loyal followers. Although The Farmacy has grown, its focus remains the same, “We want to be able to reach even more people with healthy, organic, and local (whenever possible) foods, and we also want to support our local farmers and keep them growing,” says Cathy. The Farmacy is more than a grocery store, it is a place for community.
Let Food Be Thy Medicine
What advice does this couple offer for foodpreneurs (food entrepreneurs) wanting to start a profitable business? “START SMALL!” exclaims Cathy, “the less overhead that you start out with the better, it will give you a chance to grow with the business, and will allow you the freedom to keep doing what you are doing because you love it, not because you owe on some huge startup business debt.” The Clays share that they are most proud of, “Starting something from scratch, without any startup funding, that really has been beneficial to so many people; from our customers to our farmers and our team members. We love being able to serve our community, and we hope to keep doing that well. “
The community the Clays seek to serve is the very same community that inspires them to move forward with a second location in the heart of downtown Orlando. The Farmacy will be teaming up with Downtown Credo Coffee and Pop Parlor to bring us, The North Quarter Market. Expanding is not without its challenges, “I think keeping up with the demands of a growing business and sacrificing the time and effort it takes to get something started from the ground up, it’s more work than you could ever imagine. It is also more rewarding.”
“Our mission,” says the foodpreneur couple, “is to promote health and wellness by providing natural, healthy food choices to the community. By providing locally sourced food, we reconnect people with their food sources while sustaining local, all natural farms. We encourage others to get back to the farm and away from the pharmacy, and to ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.’”◆