Every week, the contents of your box are carefully constructed by our incredible produce purchasing team: Jay, Miles, and Matt. As a company, we want to offer our customers something more than the produce that sits on the shelves of national supermarket chains. We strive to provide our customers with a variety of fresh, organic produce through a thoughtful and sustainable process that respects the environment, local farms, local businesses, and fair-trade practices.
The priorities that we consider when selecting the produce to go into your box are a core component of our company’s mission and values. As you might expect from our name, we believe there’s something special about organic produce. That's why every week, every piece of produce in your box will meet the organic standard.
We proudly promote the organic label because it upholds a clearly defined and transparent standard that our growers and customers can agree on. You can read more about why we believe so strongly in the organic standard on our website, but in short, we believe that organic produce is healthier for our bodies, our children, our farm workers, our soil, our water, and our planet.
How many "Footprints" in a "Mile"?
When we were founded in 2002, the organic produce industry was still in its infancy.* But over the last 12 years we’ve learned that not all organic produce is the same. It takes time and a special understanding of the industry to provide our customers with the best produce at an affordable price. When our purchasing team builds your box, they evaluate what’s in season, which high quality items are available in appropriate quantities, whether or not you received something similar last week, and which items are on your “no-list.” But with each pound of produce we purchase, we also try to consider the environmental impact.
Eating organically and locally through a New England winter is difficult, especially if you want weekly variety without giving up an arm and a leg. For those who are up to the challenge, we offer the $29 Dogma Box year-round. With the Dogma Box, our purchasing team emphasizes curtailing food miles while working hard to keep each week’s box exciting.
Last week's dogma box: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes
But for the rest of us who can’t live without some fresh salad greens in January, our purchasing team works diligently to find the best sources for organic produce while minimizing our carbon footprint.
We know that calculating carbon footprints is terribly complicated—it’s a step beyond simply counting food miles. The food system accounts for 19% of our country’s fossil fuel consumption, but only about a quarter of that is spent on distribution. A majority of the fossil fuel that goes into food production is expended before the crops leave the farm.
Fuel is burned to create fertilizers, pesticides, and other agricultural inputs that are then transported (often long distances) to the farm. Fossil fuels are required for on-farm mechanization, processing, and packaging. In other words, it doesn’t just matter where something is grown and how far it has to travel—you also have to consider how it’s grown, stored, shipped, distributed, and prepared.
As autumn winds down and the temperatures begin to drop below freezing, we continue to source as many crops as possible from our local suppliers. But in order to provide our customers with more variety, we also slowly look down the Eastern seaboard; getting organic produce from trustworthy sources in warmer climates. Sometimes, a terrible storm (or polar vortex) will ruin entire fields of crops and we’re forced to source some produce from much farther away; like California, the capital of organic agriculture.
When this is the case, we try to use the most environmentally friendly transportation methods possible. Last year, when the only organic citrus available was in California, we chose to have our tangelos and mandarins transported by train because it is much more fuel efficient than large trucks.
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In 2008, our founder and CEO, Jeff Barry, wrote in his first post on this blog:
We’re just as frustrated as you that we don’t have access to an abundant variety of local organic vegetables as well as winter friendly roots like beets, potatoes, parsnips, etc year round. We know you want them, we want to get them for you, and we feel we should be able to get them for you. The problem is that there is only a very limited supply available right now. As small of a company we are, our demand for local organic produce exceeds what our network of growers can provide us.
A lot has changed in six years. Even in the dead of winter, many of our vegetables come from New England farms. Local produce is fresher and tastes better. But most importantly, it means that we can develop real relationships with our farmers.
Our purchasing team maintains communication with our New England farmers year-round. We’re talking to them when the ground starts to thaw, while they sow their seeds, in the sweltering heat and when the first freeze hits. Our customers' collective support for our company creates an environment where our farmers can trust that we’ll be there to purchase their crops come harvest time.
As our demand for wintertime local, organic produce grows, the farms grow with us. In 2009, our friends at Red Fire Farm purchased new land. Last year they finished the process of rejuvenating the soil and received organic certification for their new fields. They also built greenhouses and high tunnels to extend the growing season. Atlas Farm, one of our primary suppliers, has expanded from a small piece of land into an 85 acre operation. But they remain true to their roots—producing almost 75% of the energy they use on the farm and heating their greenhouses with shelled corn, a locally grown and carbon-neutral heat source.
We love working with farmers like Michael Docter at Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, Massachusetts. He almost exclusively grows root vegetables and his stunning produce comes in bags with a label that reads “All local, All organic, All winter.” Not only are his crops organic; his storage system runs on solar energy and doesn’t use refrigerants. He also brings a lot of his harvest to market on a cargo bike (pictured above). Our purchasing team is constantly looking for farmers, like Michael, who share our priorities, and we proudly share information about our growers and their produce with our customers.
When you snack on a sweet rainbow carrot from Winter Moon Farm, you know you’re eating organically, seasonally, locally, environmentally, and hopefully also quite happily!
You won’t find that at your typical supermarket chain. And you won't find this:
Michael Docter (left) bringing Jeff (right) and the purchasing team a pallet of local, organic beets
*Since our founding in 2002, the organic food industry has grown faster than a well-watered bamboo shoot, but it remains only a fraction of the total agricultural production in the United States. Between 2000 and 2011, the USDA reports a 110% growth in the number of acres devoted to organic apple production and a 206% growth in the acreage devoted to organic lettuce. Still, only 2.52% of tomato production and 2.29% of citrus production in the US is certified organic. (Table 3: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/organic-production.aspx#.UtbsfbQggpE)