In the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, food deliveries have become more commonplace for many consumers. While The Produce Box has been connecting customers with fresh produce, meat and other items since 2008, new demand for local produce and meat products has fueled a 300 percent growth rate for its service in 2020.
“From when we started delivering in 2008 to about 2017 we saw an increase in customers each year,” said Courtney Tellefsen, founder of Produce Box. The company grew to include customers in the Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wake Forest areas. “Customers had a strong interest in buying and supporting the local farmers we sourced from.
“Since 2017 we hadn’t seen the growth that we saw in the early years,” said Tellefsen. “A lot of our customers also dropped off to ordering once a month instead of weekly.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increased interest in home delivery and fresh, local produce. We are buying more from our farmers and every week selling out of many of our produce selections and all meat products.”
This renewed interest is a direct help to many of the local farmers that provide products for the Produce Box. The Produce Box works with more than 70 farmers and 90 artisan food businesses across the state. “We pay farmers weekly on receipt of their products,” Tellefsen said. “The cash flow is important to farmers right now. We have also added six more farmers to help keep up with demand.”
Like other businesses, the Produce Box has implemented safety measures to limit exposure of their warehouse workers and delivery drivers. They purchased mask for all employees and require gloves. “I have also started buying lunch for the team on days we pack boxes,” Tellefsen said. “This keeps them from leaving to get lunch, which limits their exposure to others.”
Consumers can continue to look for new produce added weekly. “Blackberries are coming to boxes around the first of May. We also have blueberries starting soon. We still have regular and purple asparagus available, too,” she said.
New customers are added weekly, orders open up for the following week each Friday and customers have until Sunday to place an order. “Even with the surge in customers and sales, we still have room to grow,” added Tellefsen.
“I hope the renewed interest in fresh local produce continues after the crisis is over. CSA’s are a great way to purchase from local farmers and feed your family delicious locally-sourced produce and meat products. “
The Produce Box is one of more than 140 CSA’s, or community supported agriculture services, in North Carolina. These businesses help connect consumers directly with commodities from local farmers.