FarmMatch might sound like a dating app, but it’s actually a really cool and user-friendly way to find local regenerative farms in your area! Today, Max Kane, CEO of FarmMatch, explains the mission behind the idea to connect consumers to farms that are doing it right—providing local, nutrient-dense food to the public.
Max discusses the idea behind FarmMatch and how to get started with it. He talks about the importance of real food (now more than ever). He shares his own story of ill health as a kid that led to his interest in a diet for healing and why he now considers food more vital for our bodies than even oxygen.
Listen to the podcast here
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda.
Welcome to the show, Max.
Thanks for having me.
FarmMatch is a genius idea. When I first heard of it, I signed on right away and I felt like, “This is like Tinder for farmers and consumers.” Is that true? Is that a good way to describe it?
When we originally launched many years back, we had a lot of people asking us, “Is this a dating site? Can I date a farmer?” It’s not a dating site. We match you up with farmers who produce the food you want. It could be called Tinder for farmers. If you’re looking for food instead of a date, then that would be an accurate description.
It was cool because I was clicking around. I was saying, “I want these vegetables, meat, eggs, and these products.” It showed me all the drop-off points in my area. I was shocked. I live in a city by how many drop-off points there were. You got rolling strong out of the gate.
When we originally launched back in 2012, we were built over the Google maps API. We were trying to put the food system on a map to give everyone this visual idea, to let them know how close the food is to them. Even though farmers may be out in the country, a lot of them are delivering into the metropolitan areas because they want to be able to sell direct and have that relationship with the end food eater. A lot of people are unaware of how much food is being delivered right in their backyard.
Most of us are aware of where the farmer’s markets are because we drive past them. We see there are lots of farms, traffic, and people. People congregate on the weekends, but there’s a lot of food being delivered right into people’s neighborhoods, Monday through Sunday, around seven days a week that people are unaware of. That was something we wanted to help bring to people’s attention to help gain greater awareness and drive more food orders and more money to the farms that need to be able to turn a profit to stay in business to help provide this healthy food that we need.
Are you a farmer yourself?
Farmers have all these products that they want to sell, but finding their customers isn’t always easy.
I’ve done some light farming. I’ve never gone full-time farming myself. I had a beef herd of Scottish Highlanders at one point. If anyone reading has never had the meat from Scottish Highlanders, and you are carnivorous, I recommend experiencing that meat. It’s delicious. Scottish Highlanders are one of the two oldest breeds in recorded history of the Scottish Highlander in the Galloway. I bought a herd of nine Scottish Highlanders and the meat was so delicious that my family ate the herd down to zero before it could even reproduce. That was at the end of my farming career.
The most famous Scottish cattle breed is Angus. What I always see on the menu is 100% Angus beef. Is that Scottish?
I don’t know the heritage of Angus beef. It is a popular breed because they grow to a good size. Highlanders take about 30 months to finish, whereas Angus, you could probably finish around 24 months. You have a shorter turnaround time in terms of being able to deliver meat to the food eater. That’s one of the reasons. Highlanders are also much smaller animals. They’re amazing for the quality. They’re not great from yield.
There’s nothing wrong with Angus or whatsoever, if your animal is out on good, healthy, fresh pasture, being rotationally grazed, also with mobile shade. Mobile shade is one of the new standards in animal welfare that’s important. We got to one point where we lacked the animals in the barn all day and now we are lacking them out in the pasture all day, which is fine. That’s where they need to be. If we’re going to fence them in, we need to give them the ability to have some shade so they’re not exposed to the sun all day.
Somebody in my band once told me, “Don’t ever put the guitar where you wouldn’t want to be because it’s going to overheat. Don’t leave it in a cold car or hot car.” It’s the same with animals. Think about how you would want it to be. You would want to have water nearby, probably some shade, but you would like to be outside. Let’s go back to FarmMatch. You have explained the vision of it. How does it work? We’ve alluded to it a little bit, but talk to the newbie out there who’s like, “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know how it works.”
We talked about what FarmMatch was like when it first launched. With any software company, you’re always iterating, developing, rolling out, and changing things. We ended up leaving the mapping because we found that we wanted to make it a little bit easier and faster for the newbie. When you come to our homepage, you’ve got a simple ZIP code mark as you might find on Zillow.
You punch in your ZIP code and we start showing you different food providers, small-scale buying clubs, and small-scale to midsize farms. All that is regenerative. We only work with regenerative farmers that are non-genetically modified and aren’t using chemicals. It shows you all the different locations in your area in a list form instead of a map form. It does have the ability on any of those locations to click a map.
If you want, you can still engage in a mapping experience, but we don’t make the map the default. You click on the location that’s nearest you. It is usually what the behavior would be. It brings you to a farm and shows you their whole catalog of different food items that you can order. It tells you the frequency of delivery some farmers deliver every week, every two weeks, or every month. It allows you to go from there, start putting food in your cart and placing an order.
it’s user-friendly. At least on the farm that I get a lot of my food from, there are pictures also that are posted so I can see what the frozen blueberries might look like or a certain cut of meat. That’s fantastic. Was it when you ran low on the Highlander bread that you decided, “We need real food. Where can we find it?” Is that how the idea came to you for it or where did it come from?
I was running a buying club in Chicago some years back. I still run it, but the idea came years back. It was at a different point in technology. I was taking a lot of orders on paper napkins and through the phone. Eventually, I upgraded to orders through email and kept a spreadsheet. Websites were becoming popular for businesses.
I thought, “I need a website to be able to manage the orders and the payments so I can leverage my time and not have all this administrative work.” I have a neighbor who was into web development and build out a website for my buying club. We eventually parted ways, but I had this vision of, “If I had this problem, all these other people who run buying clubs have this problem, all these other farmers have this problem who want to sell direct.”
I set out with some friends of mine to solve this problem for not just my own buying club, but for all of the farmers and buying club managers in the entire country. The software could be accessible to them at a reasonable price, so they could leverage their time. When I had that first website built, my administrative time went down from 30 hours a week to 1 hour a week. It was a 30 to 1 reduction. It was like the fountain of youth with regard to time management. I knew if I could solve that problem for myself, it would be such a value add for all the other farmers and buying club managers.
I can imagine because I was talking to John Moody and he was saying, “Farmers have all this product that they want to sell, but finding their customers isn’t always easy. You can go to a farmer’s market, but it could be someone’s on vacation and they don’t pop around. You never know. It’s hit or miss.” What a gift to the farmers who are producing this wonderful food to find people that are ready to buy it and to know exactly how many want whatever product it is.
Not only finding, but having a forecast of the future. One of the challenges with the farmer’s market model, in general, is that the farmers going there on a huge gamble because if it’s raining or maybe there’s some special event on that weekend. There’s no commitment from the food eater. The farmer is growing, harvesting, delivering, packaging, showing up, and if the food eater wants to show up that day, depending on what’s going on in their life, they can. That creates this luxury experience. Not that we don’t want luxury, but we need to balance the liability a little bit more so we can help these farmers sustain themselves financially because a lot of times some of them come back from the farmer’s market, losing money.
If you’re vending at a farmer’s market like the one in Madison, Wisconsin, you always make money because the market there is filled with tens of thousands of people. Most markets aren’t like that. When you have an online system that allows you to take pre-orders, you’re taking this pre-commitment. It’s like ordering a pizza. The pizza just doesn’t show up and say, “Do you want a pizza?” You order it, then it shows up.
When the farmer makes these deliveries to their drop locations and takes pre-orders, they have that reassurance that all the food spoken in many times it’s already paid for. Even if they’re going to collect money on the spot, it reduces the liability of the farmer tremendously and allows them to run more of a profitable business.
One of the big things we could do with farmers is pre-order online and help give them the security they need to run their businesses.
They can stay in business for the long one because ultimately we want these farmers who are producing this amazing food to stay in business forever because we have to continue to eat. We have this selfish interest of like, “We want healthy food so we can stay healthy. We need you to produce it, so what can we do to help you stay in business?” One of the big things we could do with farmers is pre-order online and help give them the security they need to run their businesses.
Another big issue is marketing and driving traffic to farms. Any farm that sells direct to the end food eater needs three things. One of those is software. They need to be able to automate so they can scale up and service enough customers without that time investment. They need software and automation. Number 2) They need payment processing. Number 3) They need marketing. These are the three important needs every farmer is going to sell direct as these need payment processing software marketing.
The most important one of those needs is marketing because if you don’t have any customers, you don’t need a website, payment processing, or anything like that. Interestingly enough, we already drive traffic to farmers, but what we’re doing is we are unleashing this affiliate marketing program. If people aren’t aware of affiliate marketing, it’s over a $15 billion annual revenue industry.
Amazon uses it successfully, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, and any online retailer that successfully uses affiliate marketing. We’re the first company that’s bringing affiliate marketing to the local food space and it’s going to be exciting. Affiliates can join, get their affiliate link, and help drive traffic to these small farms, which is what small farms need most.
Let’s say, I love my little farm and I want more people to know about it because I want to help them stay in business. By promoting it, I could get a small commission or kickback. Is that how it works?
The farmers love this idea by the way. They’re ecstatic about it. There is a one-time fee to join the network. It is $47. Once you become an affiliate, you’re in for life. You can stop it, but I don’t know why you would, and you get a custom affiliate handle. It would be FarmMatch.com/HolisticHilda. You can design it. There would be no profanity or derogatory language, but other than that, you have the freedom to design your handle. You can take that handle and put it on social media or wherever you want. Any of the traffic that comes through that handle goes into your customer portfolio. You’re going to earn a commission. They’re good commissions. The farmers are excited about it as well.
Isn’t there a disincentive here? For example, if I find this cool watering hole somewhere near my home and I’m like, “I love it so much that I don’t want other people to start trampling around there and leaving their trash.” What if my farmer’s farm gets too popular and they run out of the Highlander beef that I so love? There’s a disincentive in there, too. Isn’t there?
Yes and no. The farm has the ability to reject customers. We did see this during the Coronavirus pandemic, but most farmers out there aren’t even a capacity and they don’t run a capacity. They could double production and be doing a lot better financially. I’ve visited hundreds of farms over the last several years in the US. In my experience, 99% of them have an off-farm job to subsidize the farm, even the ones that sell direct. It’s rare that you find a farm that is 100%, “We sell food and that’s what we do.”
Even some of the farms that sell food, maybe they’re also publishing books or putting together seminars on how to sell food or something like that. As far as farms that say, “We’re going to make a full-time selling food,” that’s a rare situation. I hear what you’re saying, but it’s not necessarily a matter of not having food. It’s a matter of having more customers.
To be able to get the farms to not have enough food, you have to have some world crisis. Farms can scale up and produce a lot more food than we think they can. They don’t have to do it in a non-ethical chemical way either. If we get the farms to that point where there’s no food left for you, then it would be unlikely. Farmers also have the ability to say, “We’re full. We’re not taking any new customers.”
You’ve been at this for a while. You visited tons of farms and have been doing this for many years. What has surprised you along the way?
There are many things that surprised me. I keep discovering new stuff. When you think you know something, and then you are like, “Wow.” One of the things that surprised me as I was going through this is how many farmers struggle financially. I thought you would run a farm like a business, like anything else you produce. Even some of the farmers that don’t have off-farm jobs, like the bigger farms are subsidized by the government with like corn, soybeans, and stuff like that.
If you create a business in the United State, the rule is the IRS allows you to lose money for 3 or 5 years. They say, “This is no longer a business. It’s a hobby,” then they take away your ability to have all the business perks like writing off expenses. With farms, the IRS is you can lose money infinitely, and still write things off. In our society, it’s expected that farms are going to lose money. Out of all the things that I’ve learned, that’s probably what surprised me the most. Farms aren’t even expected to be profitable ventures.
That is shocking especially considering the service they’re doing to humanity. We all need to eat. It is critical. Getting food from a regenerative farm is good for us, the farmer, the earth, and animals. It’s a win-win.
When we buy food from healthy regenerative farmers, we, the environment, and the community of planet Earth win. Maybe somehow Elon Musk would convince us that Mars wins, too, which is awesome. The universe wins. The food system’s going to go this way because it seems like a species. You’re a child, you’re testing the boundaries, breaking the rules a little bit, and expanding what you can do. You get burned here and there a little bit.
If you take that same concept and put it more on a species level, it’s almost like we’re testing the borders of technology and what we could do to the earth. We’re getting to this point we’re realizing, “We’ve got one world here and we’re destroying the thing in our behavior.” You got transportation, pollution, and all different things catching up to us. Even if it’s another in another country, the wind currents bring it over to you.
Farms can scale up and produce a lot more food than we think they can.
Someone told me having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a pool. Pollution, poor farming practices, and all these things that pollute the environment catch up to us whether we like it or not. Not a lot of us are aware how the role that nutrition and food play in our own health. Auto-immune disease, cancer, and all these things continue to increase. Some of us are like dashboards with our heads on the ground and in total denial. Some of us aren’t even informed. We haven’t even been given the information that, “Food is important.” Some of us start giving the information.
Everyone’s on their own life journey, but at some point, everyone’s journey leads to the same place. At least that’s what I would hope to think because the truth is the truth. You can debate or argue about it. Everyone has their opinion, but the truth is that the food we eat has probably one of the biggest impacts on our health overall. The future of the future food system will be small regenerative farms because we all have an interest in that. We want to survive as a species and that’s the best model for the food system.
I love your goal of generating $1 billion of revenue for small farms. That is FarmMatch’s stated goal. Why is that? You’ve alluded to it, but what’s the drive behind it?
We want to build a better world. I have four children. I realized I’m going to die at some point. I think, “What kind of a world am I going to leave to my children? Not just my children, but the next generation?” I’ve heard the idea, “Wherever you go, a hotel room or wherever, leave it in a better state than you got it.” That’s a good way to live as a human being. If you take that idea and put it on a global view and you start asking, “What’s the meaning of my life? I’m going to die at some point. What’s what am I going to do while I’m here? What positive impact can I make? What am I going to be remembered by?” You start thinking about these things.
When I went through that process, seeing that I had these health challenges when I was younger that were solved with food, diet, and lifestyle, I arrived at the conclusion that for me, my mission why I’m here in life is to get people to make better, healthier decisions in their life, particularly with food, but all health decisions, whether it’s exercise, diet, or sleeping. You have to set a goal. If you’re going to set a goal, you have to be specific about it. Otherwise, it is vague. I’m somewhere in the $40 million to $50 million range for money that we’ve driven to small-scale farms. Before I die, my goal is I want to drive over $1 billion dollars on small-scale farms.
We spent $1.8 trillion on food in the US alone. Every year it’s ongoing. We don’t have to go see the new latest Hollywood movie, but we have to eat. This is a mandated thing by the forces of the universe. If you take $1.8 trillion and you stack up $1 bills, that stack is going to measure seventeen times the diameter of planet Earth. We spend close to $30 billion a year to encourage people like you, me, and the children of the earth to make unhealthy decisions for ourselves, particularly on dietary decisions.
We need to combat this situation with education. We also have to put money behind it. We have to walk with our money. Every dollar is a ballot and you can look at what food system you’re voting for. If you’re unclear, you can check your credit card statement or your check register and see what food system you’re voting for.
The food system that is going to help planet Earth sustain itself in the long run generation after generation is going to be a localized and decentralized regenerative food system. At the base of that are going to be small to mid-size independent regenerative farms. In the food system of the future, the farmers are going to be celebrities and be very well off financially. They’re not going to be driving the beater vehicles that you’re not sure if they’re going to start or not.
The medical system is going to go in the direction where they’re going to not have as much money, which is good. Isn’t our goal to not have the medical system at all? That means we’re not sick. Emergencies happen. You fall, get hurt, and break your bone. With regards to degenerative illness or lifestyle-created disease, we can all agree that the goal would be to have a medical system that caters to our emergencies and not that we need it to enable the unhealthy decisions we’re making that are creating disease through lifestyle.
You brought up so many good points. Every dollar we spend and invest in food that nourishes us well is a dollar that’s not going to the snack companies, Dorito, Pringles, all that stuff. It’s also an investment in our health, the health of the planet, and future generations. I love it so much, but I want to go back to one thing you were saying. You said that as a child or a young person, you had health issues that were reversed or perhaps even cured by real food. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I’m 45 years old. I grew up in Chicago. At the age of ten, I started experiencing these terrible abdominal pain. My whole abdominal cavity was inflamed with pain. It felt like there was a fire inside of me. There were some points where I was hunched over, clutched in the fetal position sometimes for three days straight with unbearable pain.
At the time, my parents were divorced. The doctors who I went to see thought it was some emotional stress from coming up in a challenging family situation. They scoped me. They went up and down me with cameras. They found over 33 ulcers in my small intestines. The upper portion of my small intestine’s duodenum was ulcerated all the way through.
They diagnosed me with degenerative Crohn’s disease. I was also extremely emaciated. I had anemic pale skin because I had low iron in my blood. I was borderline psoriasis. I had dry scaly skin and borderline arthritis as well, but I was never diagnosed with either of those autoimmune problems. This was when I was about ten years old.
I went through the allopathic medical paradigm of drugs and surgery for ten years and nothing helped. They propped me up and kept me alive. I’m respectful and thankful for that, but there was never much encouragement toward my lifestyle and what action I could take toward changing lifestyle behaviors. I could be contributing to the problem.
In my early twenties, I had this crazy moment where a friend of mine was a committed heroin user. I was telling him, “You don’t have to use this heroin. You could turn your life around, take responsibility, and take control.” This was in Brookfield, Illinois, outside of Chicago on Plainfield Road. I was going through the drive-through at Walgreens to fill my prescription. I go there every month and something went through my head like, “Walgreens is like my dope dealer. I’m the drug user here.”
All of a sudden, all these sound bites of all the advice that I was given to my friend came right back at me like this man in the mirror moment. I was like, “I needed to take responsibility. I’m going to the doctor’s saying, ‘What can you do for me?’ I’m not asking what can I do for myself?” It was like this total empowering moment, this a-ha moment. Tony Robbins would call it a breakthrough or something like that.
The food system that will help planet Earth sustain itself in the long run, generation after generation, will be a localized, decentralized, regenerative food system.
I started reading books and attending lectures. If you’re interested in what you can do for your health, there’s a whole world out there waiting to want to teach you and cater to you and stuff. I remember walking into Whole Foods for the first time, learning about organic food, looking at their community board, going to natural health food stores, and attending seminars and workshops.
I remember the first Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions Conference I went to. I changed my diet. I revamped my lifestyle. I ended up leaving Chicago to get into a smaller community where there’s less pollution. That isn’t always the case when you move into the country. You got to be aware of where you’re going. In the country, if they’re using a lot of pesticides, sometimes that’s often worse than in the city. You get sick from that.
I found a small organic-minded community where I can get fresher air, be closer to my food source, exercise regularly, and get good sleep. I overhauled my lifestyle to make all these decisions that promote and cause health. Often we talk about the cause of disease, but what’s the of health? I wanted to cause health. That’s what I did. It’s been several years. I’ve been off the medication. At my heaviest point, I put on over 80 pounds of athletic weight. I trimmed down a little bit and I’m in excellent physical shape, living medication-free and supplement-free. I just eat food. I don’t even take supplements either.
It works. There are all these miracle cures and pills out there. I grind out these fundamentals of health, sleeping, sunshine, exercise, and diet. Anyone who gets into that realizes that in itself is a full-time job. There’s not even time left over to be researching some of these miracle cures. I take what’s been proven since the beginning of recorded history, “Early to bed, early to rise.” We have all these old sayings, “Let your food be your medicine.” There’s wisdom behind that. I go with what’s been working in the past. One of those things is diet and it’s important.
You’re talking to somebody who appreciates the wisdom of what has worked for millennia, people who’ve been thriving, who didn’t have a lot of allopathic prescribed pills or supplements. They were just eating and living in such a way that it was nurturing or causing health, which I love. I want to ask you the question I like to pose at the end here. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health or to cause health, what would you recommend that they do?
You got to revamp your diet. Diet is so important. I would debate onstage with anyone on planet Earth that diet is the number one greatest influence on our health. Even more than oxygen. One guy said, “You can go without eating for a few days, but you can’t go without air.” That’s true, but oxygen fuel our body constantly, but it doesn’t build our body. “Mr. Olympia doesn’t do breathing exercises to get all these muscles.” It’s not an actual building block, but oxygen is important. Food is the most important.
If you want to do one thing to better your health, connect with local regenerative farms in your area and make a commitment to continue eating that way. I eat bananas and they’re not local. If we could at least take at least 50% of our diet and localize it or even more, what an amazing world we would have. There was one point when we were tracking our budgeting and 75% of the money that we had for our family went toward our food budget.
We were buying clothes secondhand. We had a $3,000 vehicle at the time. If you looked into our refrigerator, you would be like, “These guys got to be making $500,000 a year to be able to afford all this food.” Healthy food is more expensive, but it’s worth it. It’s worth the investment. Think about it as an investment in your life, well-being, and longevity. It is reducing the likelihood that you’re going to get a disease. Healthy food isn’t just health now. It’s time with your grandchildren so you can keep up with them and run without joint pain when you’re in your 70s and 80s. That would be it. Overhaul your diet. Eat as healthy as possible from regenerative farms in your own community.
Those are beautiful words of advice. We would all do well. This is how I want to live. The future I want to see is good health for me, the generations to come, the planet, and the whole shebang. Thank you for the work you’re doing at FarmMatch.
You are welcome. Thanks for having me and for the awesome work that you guys do as well.
Our guest was Max Kane. Visit his website FarmMatch.com to find local food near you from farms that are doing it right. Now, for a review from Apple Podcasts. Middle Path Please Relax says, “It’s sadly misinforming. I approached this show open-minded knowing that I could pull good info from it, even if I didn’t agree with some of the host’s and guests’ viewpoints. I tried this, but the misinformation was sadly too prevalent to filter through.”
“I’m sure many who share some of these conspiratorial beliefs will look past the lack of science and information provided, given that their bias is already being confirmed and validated by opinions. I do hope that the people new to this show and ways of thinking will take it all in with a grain of salt and think critically, etc. Yes to raw milk and nutrient-dense food. No to losing your mind over EMF fear and vaccine conspiracy theories.”
Middle Path Please Relax, I agree with you. We definitely don’t want to give into fear over EMS or vaccine conspiracies. We want everyone reading to come with an open mind, but to think critically and to take everything with a grain of salt. Thank you for your review. If you, too, would like to leave us a review, go to Apple Podcasts, click on Ratings and Reviews, and give us as many or as few stars as you’d like. Tell us what you think honestly, and openly like Middle Path Please Relax did. Thank you so much in advance. Thank you for reading. Stay well. Remember all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
About Max Kane
Max is a survivor of degenerative Crohn’s disease. He is the CEO of FarmMatch.com. Partner in Shad Haven. Author of 3 books on Food & Health. Marketing Experience $40M In Revenue To Small Farms(Personal Goal of $1 Billion). First & Only Person on Planet Earth To Bring Affiliate Marketing To Local Food.
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