By Anna Musselman
Remember the days when milk was delivered to the doorstep, when the man who had actually milked the cows and funneled the rich liquid into glass bottles left a cozy crate of them on the doorstep? Way beyond just milk, Boston Organics is taking the idea of doorstep service and fusing it with earth-friendly, body-friendly foods.
Founder Jeff Barry came by the idea while living in San Francisco and subscribing to a similar service, Planet Organics. But the story goes back a little further: In the early 90s, Jeff served two years with the Peace Corps in the Comoros Islands where he helped build a central marketplace for local farmers, artisans and fisherman. So fair and local trade isn’t just a hobby for Jeff, it’s a lifestyle. Returning to the East Coast in 2002, Jeff began building his own organic delivery service.
“I was basically running it out of the back of my van,” Jeff recalls. “One supplier I worked with, Red Tomato, allowed me to use his loading dock as a staging area for picking the orders.”
Today, Boston Organics is a vital company that garners organic foods from farms and distributers as close to home as possible then delivers them to your doorstep. Here’s how it works: you choose a weekly or bi-weekly delivery, select a box based on size and type of produce, and Boston Organics fulfills your order with organic foods as locally as possible. Think of it as a target: they shoot for the gold center—Massachusetts’ farms and food providers– but if they can’t find your carrots in Mass., they’ll spread the search outward until they do.
“Throughout the year we offer 30-40 different varieties of fruit and vegetables each week,” Jeff said. And that’s not all. Customers can select from add-ons including dairy, bread, beverage, and specialty items such as honey, chocolate and baking goods. And if there’s something you definitely don’t want, just mark it on your NO list, and they’ll make sure to replace that item with something equally fresh, local and delicious.
Boxes range from $29 – $57 and are comprised of your choice of all fruit, all veggie, or varied combinations of both. Special boxes include the office box (all easy to eat hand fruit), the family box (half fruit, half veggie and lots of easily prepared, kid-friendly options), and the dogma box, with “produce sourced as close to Boston as possible.” This box is intended for customers that believe it is of the utmost importance to purchase organic produce that is grown as close to home as possible. According to Boston Organics Web site, “We’ll source produce close to home and move further out until we can provide at least eight unique items.” Once you’ve made your selections, Boston Organics delivers to your home or office doorstep. And if you’re lucky enough to live or work in the Charlestown area, you may even receive your fresh goodies from the cargo tricycle, yet another environment friendly practice and frankly, loads of fun.
Providing fresh, organic and consistent produce has its challenges, particularly during the winter season and with finding as many local sources as possible. Since producing organic food is already riskier than pouring on chemical aids, organic farmers are hesitant to take on delicate crops without guarantee of survival, much less sales. In the past, the dogma box has consisted mainly of root plants, and not too wide a variety. But Jeff and his staff have discovered that building relationships and consistently purchasing available crops builds local providers’ confidence to invest in hot houses or other means of producing varied winter crops.
Jeff notes, “Compared to last year, when we first started offering it [the dogma box], there should be a little more diversity from Massachusetts and regional growers. For example, a new grower, Winter Moon Farm, just built a root cellar in Western Mass. We now have access to some excellent carrots that we previously did not. We just connected with a new grower from New York State that is providing us with onions now; we should have them into the spring. Last year at this time, we were purchasing onions from Mexico and California. Little by little, access to local/regional is improving.”
And what about leftover food? Community conscious food is great, but are there crates of it being tossed at day’s end to maintain customer dependency? Nope. Boston Organics donates any salvageable leftovers to Food for Free, a non-profit that gathers salvageable food and makes it available to sick and low-income families or shelters.
Boston Organics is not just a food stop, it’s a community member. Kind of like that old milk man our parents remember so fondly, except more innovative, more varied and more eco-friendly.