Carolyn McGovern has grown to love Wednesdays. Not because it’s hump day, but because she loves coming home to the box of locally grown fruits and vegetables delivered to her doorstep each week.
“I enjoy the surprise, the fun of what’s going to be in there,” McGovern says. “It’s kind of like an Easter egg hunt. We really look forward to it.”
She’s one of 300 customers of Veggie Bin, a farm fresh food delivery service that’s helping Jacksonville people eat healthier, expand their repertoire of fruits and vegetables, save shopping time and support local farmers and businesses.
Health issues and the encouragement of a dozen friends and neighbors prompted Amie Kesler to start the business at her Riverside home in May 2010. She had pledged to eat healthy after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, but was frustrated by the lack of options for locally grown fruits and vegetables. She and her husband, Al DiPaolo, combed the Starke and Gainesville areas for farms.
“We searched the countryside and the farmers markets each week for new farmers,” Kesler says. “Al would go to the farms and pack and deliver the bins with me. We were so small we were able to do all of it on a Saturday.”
Now Veggie Bin works with more than a dozen farmers, most of them in Northeast Florida, and several part-time employees who pack customer orders and deliver the bins.
“What I really like is that everything I get is always so fresh and the quality is terrific,” says customer, Olga Wells. “It’s so convenient. I don’t have to think too much about what I’m going to do for produce.”
Veggie Bin is part of a growing farm-to-table movement that emphasizes better flavor, freshness and nutrition through locally grown food and supporting small farms and local businesses. Its main priority is local farmers. But to supply customers with a good variety of fruits – some of which aren’t available locally – Veggie Bin reaches into South Georgia and South Florida. A few years ago she began collaborating with Front Porch Pickings, a similar company based in Daytona that serves St. Johns County, to sharpen business decisions and expand farm contacts.
“This way the farmer does what they do best, which is growing things, and we do what we do best, which is the marketing and distribution,” says Kesler.
For customers like McGovern, the food delivery service is also about discovery. She learned she wasn’t as adventuresome as she thought when she found collard greens and turnip greens in the box.
“I considered myself an adventurous person when it comes to my palate,” she says. “But I wasn’t. I had really limited the things I would pick up in the grocery store.”
Aside from produce, boxes can include local artisan breads, honey from a local apiary, and grits, tea, rice, lentils and quinoa. Customers can choose from a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly schedule. Based at 1268 S. McDuff Ave., Veggie Bin delivers to a vast stretch of Jacksonville homes from the Beaches and Southside area to San Marco, Riverside and Ortega. It also hosts farmers markets for local employers and offers pick-up sites in Clay County.
For more information visit theveggiebin.com or call Amie Kesler at 904.314.9437.