All orders are placed through the Mother Earth Produce website, which is easy to navigate and informative. Within 48 hours, a van shows up to a customer’s house, carrying the best of what’s seasonal and local, handpicked by local farmers and sourced directly by the DuValls.
A typical single order costs $26, and contains about 7-9 portions of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A family-sized portion, with 14-17 servings, is $20 more. "The concept is similar to a CSA, but we get to support a network of farms, picking [each farm's] specialty, what they grow the best," says Andrea. “We're really hoping the community embraces it."
Mountain Xpress spoke to Andrea to get a better sense of how the program works.
Xpress: What is Mother Earth Produce all about?
AD: Our vision was to allow pretty much everyone in the community an option of living a local-food lifestyle, regardless of schedules or transportation issues. We wanted to make eating local produce an option for everyone through online ordering and free delivery.
How did you get started?
When we moved here [to Weaverville], we wanted to go to the farmers market one day and it was only open from 2 until 5, and we both worked full-time jobs. We thought there had to be another way to get local produce, especially with all the amazing farms around WNC. We Googled it, and we couldn't find anything [locally], but we came across a company up north that did it, and we thought it was a great idea.
It's a great idea because weekend mornings, when many markets are open, might not work for everyone — maybe you're working or want to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast.
Exactly. When we started, we realized that it was the same for farmers. They said that sometimes it was hard to prepare everything for the market so early every weekend, especially when working such long hours every week. They said, "Wouldn't it be great if someone could just come and pick up the produce from us?" When we started really thinking about it, it was a win-win for every side.
How does it work on your end? Delivery is free and there's no sign-up charge — how do you make any money?
Because we're ordering produce in bulk and picking it up directly from the farmer, we'll pay them somewhere between wholesale and retail [price]. We took our smallest [order] and compared it piece-by-piece to the organic prices at [natural foods stores]. It turned out to be maybe about $1.50 more for [our product], but [customers are] saving money in gas and convenience.
It's limited to fruits and vegetables right now — so no eggs and meat?
That's just in the first year. As we built the foundation, we wanted to keep it as basic as possible to get the system down. Our vision is to eventually offer local breads, preserves, dairy, everything.
Can you skip a week after you sign up?
Yes. You even can order only one time if you want to — that's no big deal. But, if you do set up a recurring order, just to make it easier for you, you can control your own account through our website and pause it if you're going on vacation.
What are other benefits to the farmers?
Eventually we're going to offer a la carte items, so if a farm has a ton of habeñero peppers one week that they have to get rid of, we can put them on the a la carte menu and email all of our customers. It's another way to farmers to connect with their customers, other than the farmers market.
Is this strictly a seasonal thing?
We will be year-round. In the winter, we may have to supplement local produce with food from outside the region. We've been talking to tons of farmers that say that they can grow stuff over the winter, but, if we have to out-source from another organic company in January or February, we may do that, but it will all be certified organic through smaller distributors.
Mother Earth Produce will begin delivery in April, but customers can register for delivery now.
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