One of my goals this Summer was to eat more locally-grown, organic produce. I feel it’s important to support the farm community and to move away from the ready-made garbage that’s clogging my arteries. Bret Ebel from Door to Door Organics was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about his company and to inspire me to stay on the local-organic-sustainable bandwagon. Read through our email exchange to learn more, or skip to the end to find out how to win your own box from Door to Door Organics.
I love the box of veggies, but was curious why there was no corn on the cob. How are the weekly items chosen? Our buyers always strive to find the best, freshest produce each week – but they like to mix it up. We’ve had sweet corn for 3 of the last 4 weeks – you just happened to have our one “off” week in August. Of course, we also have to make sure there is enough supply to meet all our demand; and the Midwest weather has been a challenge for farmers this year.
Your items are organic, are they also local? To my last point, we try to find as much local produce as possible – but demand for local has been high and we’re still establishing long-term partnerships with many local farms to ensure consistent supply long into the future. Our goal is to increase certified organic acres in the Midwest and help impact the current food system in a positive manner. To that end, I believe the box your received was our “Local Farm Box” – meaning all items are from our local food shed and from farms that we trust.
What’s the carbon footprint of your service versus getting the same produce from a grocery store or farmer’s market? One of my favorite subjects! Our carbon footprint is often much better than the typical food system. We try to look at our environmental impact from every angle and constantly strive to get even better. First, we are committed to organic agriculture because of its decreased impact on our planet. We also encourage co-operative buying through community and fund-raising co-ops to help cut down on mileage. Next, we utilize a variety of delivery vehicles – always assessing the most efficient ones. For example, we can deliver 80+ boxes of produce in one Ford Transit with Flex Fuel by driving just over 100 miles. When you think about the distance some of our city and suburban families would have to drive to find local, organic produce, we think that equates to a lot of SUVs off the road. All of this is due to the most efficient routing software available and some strict company policies about environmental impacts like no-idling policies, etc. One day, we dream of electric vehicles, bike deliveries and other non-carbon methods to get food from our partner farms to our customers’ tables.
Do you have the option to exclude items from your boxes based on allergies? Absolutely! All customers are allowed to set personal preferences. Don’t like beets, but love carrots? No problem. You can set as many preferences as you want. Beyond that, we also allow customers to substitute up to five items per week to ensure the variety and customization that each family deserves. Every Friday, customers get an email letting them know what’s coming in their next box. Then they have until 8 a.m. the day before their delivery to make any subs, additions or changes.
How much of a premium do people pay for the organic items? We keep a close eye on the market to ensure a great value. We start by giving our farmers a fair price. Then we find the highest quality we can get our hands on. Though other stores and sourcing often have a different selection or different specials/sales that make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult, we find that we consistently match or beat other organic suppliers – with many value-added features like convenience and guarantees.
My produce arrived in prime shape, but how do you handle when things go bad? All of our produce and other items are backed up by a 100% guarantee. Our produce packers are told that if they wouldn’t put it in their own box, they should not put it in any other customers’ box. Of course, things sneak through from time to time; but a quick call or email to our customer service team will ensure that you’re taken care of. We’ll either credit or replace any items that are not up to your standards.
Do you have an option for bulk purchases? I’m considering pickling items and would like to buy by the bushel. We do not currently offer many bulk options, but we are always open to suggestions. For now, we find that it is not the most sought-after or efficient option for our system.
What do you feel sets Door to Door apart from CSAs or services like Irv & Shelly’s? We differ from CSA’s in a variety of ways, including customized orders, sourcing from multiple farms, no commitment, home delivery, pay-as-you-go, option to add fruit and other produce from outside of our growing region, web interface, shop by recipe, etc. We are similar to Irv & Shelly’s – but have a much larger delivery area, more customization options, only certified organic produce and a more interactive web interface, among others.
And finally, do you recycle the boxes that customers receive? Could I save mine for next time and send it back with the driver? Yes, we reduce, reuse and recycle anything and everything that we use. We encourage our customers to leave their boxes, ice packs, packaging materials, etc. and we will pick it up with the next delivery. We reuse any items that the USDA allows us to reuse, and recycle everything else that we can.
Special for readers of this site, you can try Door to Door Organics for a $10* discount. Type in “chicagobites” on check-out.
Door to Door Organics supplied me with a box of produce for free, and is giving me an opportunity to do the same for one of my readers. Just leave a comment here or on Twitter about what fabulous recipe you’d produce with a box of seasonal veggies + some way to contact you. I’ll run a random number generator on Monday to determine the winner.
*Had previously written 10%. $10 off is actually a better deal. 🙂