Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fresh Veggies--Delivered!

By Lara Bricker
HAMPTON__Jeffrey Schick is like an old fashioned milkman with a bit of a modern twist.
Instead of jugs of milk, Schick’s customers will receive a weekly selection of fresh organic fruit and vegetables delivered to their door. The 33-year-old Hampton man is set to begin delivering on the Seacoast the week of March 16 through his new business Waithaka Organics.
Customers can chose all fruit, all vegetables or a mix of both, but the actual selection will vary each week depending on what’s in season or available. Plans will start at $30 a week, which he felt was in line with the amount people spent in a $100 per week grocery bill on fruit and vegetables. The company will offer two price plans to start, the $30 per week or the $45 per week but customers can add on items like natural honey, handmade peanut butter or maple syrup if interested.
“We’re trying to replace what you would normally buy at the store with a delivery service, where we cut out all of the handling process of regular store bought produce,” he said.
By that, Schick said, he means the number of times that fruit and vegetables are handled and repacked from the time they are harvested. Most produce spends an average of four to six days on display in a grocery store before it is purchased, he said. “It is subject to artificial light for those four days. It is touched, sneezed on, coughed on and handled,” he said. “It’s just handled so much that it starts to lose its integrity and beyond that, it’s taste.”
Schick aims to cut that handling process down considerably and said all fruit and vegetables from Waithaka Organics will be handled by employees wearing gloves. “This fruit is handled with the respect it deserves,” he said.
While the concept of organic delivery is new on the Seacoast, it is one that is growing in popularity across the country, especially on the west coast. Schick sees part of his role as educating customers about the difference between the types of organic produce available today like certified organic versus certified naturally grown.
He is still growing his network of local suppliers and hopes to find a way to buy locally while still keeping the cost affordable for his customers.
He plans to use certified naturally grown fruit and vegetables from both local farmers and a wholesale organic source in Boston. “That’s the kind of produce we’re going to be buying,” he said. “It’s produce in its most natural form that you can buy.”
That certified naturally grown designation fits with Schick’s own philosophical approach to growing fresh fruit, using natural compost. “They are all-natural approaches to make sure you are buying the most naturally, wholly nutritious piece of produce on the market,” he said. “You do that by buying off of farmers that grow with a process that doesn’t involve pesticides or bureaucratic regulations.”
Customers won’t be able to pick exactly what they would like each week as Schick plans to buy in bulk in order to keep prices affordable. But he does plan to buy with his customers taste in mind. Each customer will fill out a questionnaire when they sign up for the service in which they give an idea of their preferences. Schick plans to use that to buy with an eye toward what the group as a whole likes, while offering certain staples each week such as lettuce. “I want to know all of these families and what they like to eat and what they don’t like,” he said.
If there is a week where a more unusual fruit or vegetable is included in the reusable plastic tote each customer receives, he plans to include a recipe suggestion for the food. “We want people to get creative from a culinary standpoint,” Schick said. “We’re going to try to mix it up.”
The new venture is a huge career shift for Schick who has worked as a financial planner in Portsmouth since 2002. He became “disheartened” by the current scene on Wall Street, and knew he needed to make a lifestyle change. “I realized very quickly I was in something I didn’t feel was an honest business,” he said.
He spent last summer apprenticing under organic farmer Dick Wollmar in North Hampton and knew he’d found his calling. “The farming is really where my heart is, working on the land, working with the land,” he said, adding his long-term goal is to grow all of the food he delivers himself. “Our connection with the earth is something we should be focused on in an every day basis.”
For more information, call 800-714-4147 or e-mail jeff@waithakafarm.com. The company website http://www.waithakafarm.com/ is currently under construction and should be online in the near future.

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