For fresh, seasonal produce, it used to be that a trip to the local farmers market or roadside stand was necessary. But now, thanks to the growth of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, consumers can receive a wide variety of produce, meats, cheeses and more delivered straight to their doorsteps.
The Produce Box
Courtney Tellefsen is a wife and mom of two children, and about a decade ago, she began paying closer attention to where her food came from.
“I wanted my family to be healthy but also to do what I could to support local farmers,” Tellefsen says.
She joined a local crop-share program, but with life’s busy schedule getting in the way, she found that she couldn’t always find the time to pick up her food.
“At the end of the season, that $600 investment didn’t really feel worth it,” she says.
Still wanting fresh, in-season produce, she came up with the idea to order produce online and have it delivered to your front door. The Produce Box was born.
The company started with just 25 boxes and Tellefsen filling up her minivan with two toddlers in tow to deliver fresh farmers market fare. Now, The Produce Box delivers to more than 11,000 families across North Carolina with the help of more than 200 stay-at-home parents and grandparents.
Since Tellefsen is not a farmer herself, she works with local farm partners to determine what goes into each box.
“Most of the decisions about what goes into the boxes is determined by Mother Nature,” she says. “We can make all the plans we want, but it all depends on what the weather allows.”
Customers can order produce every other week, so Tellefsen works with farmers beginning in December and January to determine new varieties of vegetables and fruits for the upcoming year.
“We want to be able to give them something ‘new’ to try every few weeks,” she says.
She says the company visits every farm during the busy harvest season to talk about what’s currently growing and what they can expect to come soon.
“It’s almost always touch and go, but we have some of the best, most-experienced farmers out there, and in general, they do a great job of sending us what they say they will,” Tellefsen says. “When they don’t, we’re lucky to have patient, understanding and accommodating members who understand that Mother Nature is in charge.”
Coon Rock Farm
Jamie DeMent of Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough says starting a CSA on her family farm just made sense. Going into its 13th year of business, the farm has been providing seasonal produce and more through their CSA for nine years.
“We started small at first and only did vegetables. We’ve gradually grown and now have a spring/summer and fall/winter CSA,” she says. “You can also add a weekly egg CSA and monthly meat CSA.”
The farm sets a $25 limit on each box, filling it with whatever is overflowing their fields each week.
“We have three greenhouses for the winter so you’re still getting lots of veggies like okra, fall squash, sweet potatoes, lots of greens, broccoli, radishes and more in the colder months,” DeMent says. The farm also offers a fresh flower CSA.
DeMent adds that the extra income and security of knowing there are loyal customers who want what they grow is a huge benefit of a CSA.
And while both operations say that running a CSA is hard work, they readily agree it’s worth it.
“Seeing the excitement of kids when we drop off a box at a family’s house, or giving fresh, local produce to community organizations around the state that serve families who otherwise wouldn’t have access, is what motivates us to keep working and growing,” Tellefsen says.