Alumnus developing fresh take on urban grocery stores

March 11, 2014
By Bill Krueger

Getting fresh, local produce can be a hassle in big cities. Ben Greene, who earned a master’s in industrial design at NC State in 2009, is trying to change that with something called the Farmery.

Greene first had the concept when he was studying for a master’s degree in industrial design at NC State that he received in 2009. He wanted to solve the problem of being able to buy local food in an urban area without having to drive to two different places for grocery shopping.

“I wanted to choose a field that hadn’t really been touched, and that was agriculture,” says Greene.

Greene brought together the farm and the retail grocery store to create a unique shopping experience that he calls the Farmery. The Farmery has three main parts: the farm, the grocery and the café. Some of the produce sold at the Farmery is grown within the facility, reducing packaging and transportation costs while providing the freshest possible produce to customers.

“Growing the produce right there in the shipment containers reduces spoilage and allows for more consistent crops,” says Greene.

One of the main crops grown at the Farmery are gourmet mushrooms, which can be expensive in retail stores and have a short shelf-life. Other crops grown at the Farmery include lettuce, strawberries and other greens.

Along with its unique concept, the Farmery had a unique way of raising money to get started. Greene used Kickstarter to raise $25,000 to fund the initial building, called the Mini-Farmery. Originally built in Clayton, N.C., and moved to Durham, N.C., to open in July of 2013, the Mini-Farmery can now be visited at Raleigh City Farm.

“We’re talking to people about getting the full-scale model,” says Greene. “We plan to start construction this fall and finish it in winter 2015.”

Greene’s main goal with the Farmery is to redefine what a grocery store is in urban areas. With an increased focus on local foods in cities, the Farmery provides a new standard for what a grocery store focused on local food should look like.

“Especially in the South, people are moving to bigger cities, and we want to be the retailer that takes advantage of that by providing local food for these urban markets,” says Greene. “The food is healthy, it’s good, and it’s all in one place.”

—Sam O’Brien


Rendering by: The Farmery and Insitu Studio


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