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Meet Sandra Thomas & Nick Martinelli

Marty’s Local’s founders started by selling carrots and freshly milled flour, picked up and delivered via personal station wagon. Today, eight refrigerated Marty’s Local trucks traverse Western Massachusetts, New York’s Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Connecticut, delivering food from more than 75 farms and food businesses to more than 300 customers.

Launched in 2016, Marty’s Local’s customers include restaurants, colleges, schools, grocery stores, caterers, farm stores, retreat centers, and more. In turn, these customers sustain their own communities, while strengthening local food supply chains at the same time.

That has always been the goal for Nick Martinelli, founder of Marty’s Local: Scale up with a focus on sourcing, so farm partners can grow their businesses, too.

Entrepreneur Stories

Meet Sandra Thomas & Nick Martinelli

Marty’s Local’s founders started by selling carrots and freshly milled flour, picked up and delivered via personal station wagon. Today, eight refrigerated Marty’s Local trucks traverse Western Massachusetts, New York’s Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Connecticut, delivering food from more than 75 farms and food businesses to more than 300 customers.

Launched in 2016, Marty’s Local’s customers include restaurants, colleges, schools, grocery stores, caterers, farm stores, retreat centers, and more. In turn, these customers sustain their own communities, while strengthening local food supply chains at the same time.

That has always been the goal for Nick Martinelli, founder of Marty’s Local: Scale up with a focus on sourcing, so farm partners can grow their businesses, too.

Martinelli is trained as an environmental lawyer who worked for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. After completing his work as an advisor to the Governor, he stepped away from law to become a student at The Farm School in Orange, Mass. 

“It was a terrific program, and I came out wanting to start a farm or support the agricultural economy in some way,” he said. His research took him to farms across the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley, where he observed the challenges for farmers not only growing and making food but also doing deliveries, working local markets, and connecting with customers in other ways.

“It seemed clear that a business dedicated to logistics, marketing, and trucking on behalf of our region’s small and midsize farms could play an important role in expanding markets. The goal was to professionalize the local food supply chain and help increase consumption of the delicious, nutritious foods that are made and grown all around us,” he said. 

Large food distributors often see a logistical headache in working with lots of small farms. But with Marty’s Local, “a small or midsize producer can take some of these pieces off their plate and focus more on production and quality control.”

Martinelli found his first customers in Wild Oats Co-Op and Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., as well as the River Valley Co-Op Market in Northampton. MX Morningstar Farm in Hudson, N.Y., and Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Mass., supplied those inaugural carrots. Eventually, the station wagon was parked in favor of a refrigerated van. Then Marty’s needed a truck. Then it needed two trucks. Then a solar-powered warehouse and more trucks. 

Sandra Thomas, now director of marketing and customer support, signed on to do bookkeeping for Marty’s in 2016, and spent two summers doing pickups and deliveries before the company hired more drivers (it now has a staff of 17). Thomas has a background in communications, organizational management, and grant writing; she met Martinelli in his research phase, as she was working on a USDA grant application for another client. 

“It was quite an adventure,” she said of her “lady truck driver” days. “Cultivating those relationships and having those experiences firsthand helped the growth of the business. Understanding what happens on the road is really important in informing decisions overall; our drivers are a key component because they’re the ones interacting with our customers and suppliers on a daily basis.”

Martinelli met Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas through former Massachusetts State Senator Benjamin Downing. “Jeffrey was immediately helpful and excited about what we were doing,” Martinelli said. Lever invested in Marty’s directly, but the Lever team also helped in other ways, from connecting the company with investors to advising on potential mergers to providing Martinelli an opportunity to pitch at Lever’s Demo Day. 

“Lever has been helpful and supportive in multiple ways from the start,” Martinelli said. “Those were great opportunities—you prep your pitch deck, and you’re thinking in a different way than you do in the day-to-day about your business. It’s helpful to step back and look at things from 30,000 feet. You also end up meeting people and building relationships from there.” 

COVID-19 has further cemented the importance of local food. “We’ve seen that a shorter supply chain is more durable,” said Martinelli. “Our farm partners continued to operate in a safe way, and those foods made it safely and consistently to customers—through nearby farms and producers, and through us.” People started frequenting their local farm stands more often—and Marty’s was able to supply those farm stands with new products from other regional suppliers. Business boomed.

“I think it was in some ways a proof of concept,” said Thomas. “It’s clear that our local food economy can support our local community, and we feel we’re just scratching the surface.”

Martinelli is trained as an environmental lawyer who worked for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. After completing his work as an advisor to the Governor, he stepped away from law to become a student at The Farm School in Orange, Mass. 

“It was a terrific program, and I came out wanting to start a farm or support the agricultural economy in some way,” he said. His research took him to farms across the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley, where he observed the challenges for farmers not only growing and making food but also doing deliveries, working local markets, and connecting with customers in other ways.

“It seemed clear that a business dedicated to logistics, marketing, and trucking on behalf of our region’s small and midsize farms could play an important role in expanding markets. The goal was to professionalize the local food supply chain and help increase consumption of the delicious, nutritious foods that are made and grown all around us,” he said. 

Large food distributors often see a logistical headache in working with lots of small farms. But with Marty’s Local, “a small or midsize producer can take some of these pieces off their plate and focus more on production and quality control.”

Martinelli found his first customers in Wild Oats Co-Op and Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., as well as the River Valley Co-Op Market in Northampton. MX Morningstar Farm in Hudson, N.Y., and Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Mass., supplied those inaugural carrots. Eventually, the station wagon was parked in favor of a refrigerated van. Then Marty’s needed a truck. Then it needed two trucks. Then a solar-powered warehouse and more trucks. 

Sandra Thomas, now director of marketing and customer support, signed on to do bookkeeping for Marty’s in 2016, and spent two summers doing pickups and deliveries before the company hired more drivers (it now has a staff of 17). Thomas has a background in communications, organizational management, and grant writing; she met Martinelli in his research phase, as she was working on a USDA grant application for another client. 

“It was quite an adventure,” she said of her “lady truck driver” days. “Cultivating those relationships and having those experiences firsthand helped the growth of the business. Understanding what happens on the road is really important in informing decisions overall; our drivers are a key component because they’re the ones interacting with our customers and suppliers on a daily basis.”

Martinelli met Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas through former Massachusetts State Senator Benjamin Downing. “Jeffrey was immediately helpful and excited about what we were doing,” Martinelli said. Lever invested in Marty’s directly, but the Lever team also helped in other ways, from connecting the company with investors to advising on potential mergers to providing Martinelli an opportunity to pitch at Lever’s Demo Day. 

“Lever has been helpful and supportive in multiple ways from the start,” Martinelli said. “Those were great opportunities—you prep your pitch deck, and you’re thinking in a different way than you do in the day-to-day about your business. It’s helpful to step back and look at things from 30,000 feet. You also end up meeting people and building relationships from there.” 

COVID-19 has further cemented the importance of local food. “We’ve seen that a shorter supply chain is more durable,” said Martinelli. “Our farm partners continued to operate in a safe way, and those foods made it safely and consistently to customers—through nearby farms and producers, and through us.” People started frequenting their local farm stands more often—and Marty’s was able to supply those farm stands with new products from other regional suppliers. Business boomed.

“I think it was in some ways a proof of concept,” said Thomas. “It’s clear that our local food economy can support our local community, and we feel we’re just scratching the surface.”

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