I love ordering stuff on the internet. I like the feeling I get when the package arrives; it's like receiving a present that I'd almost forgotten was coming.
So when I received my first delivery from Greenling, the "farmer's market at your front door" grocery delivery service, I was pretty excited. There it was, a gleaming green box full of presents for me. And these presents were edible.
I opened the container, which held that week's Local Box full of Greenling-picked local foods in season, and the Farmstead Box with artisan products like cheese and sweets. The gorgeous food was nestled inside: tomatoes, peppers, nectarines, basil, blueberries, eggplant, milk, tomato jam and...was that an individual size homemade peach pie from Tiny Pies? The box even came with recipes for using the week's Local Box ingredients. I was in heaven.
Greenling is a unique concept, a twist on the early-internet days of supermarket delivery that fell by the wayside. (Does anyone remember Webvan?) But Greenling matches today's food consumer better, with its focus on sustainability and organic products from local farms such as you would find at farmer's markets. I had looked at some of the CSA farm delivery boxes, which are great if you just want the produce. What I liked about Greenling was the added selection of dairy, meats, prepared food and other grocery items. They even have wine and beer...sold!
Greenling was started in 2005 by Mason Arnold, after his work at an environmental consulting firm showed him first-hand what was happening to the world around us.
"As I dug into sustainability and how to help the movement I saw three big issues—energy, water, and food," Arnold says. "But food turned out to have a dramatic effect on the other two—it consumes more potable water than all other human consumption combined, more fossil fuels than anything other than driving cars. If we fix the food system, so many other things take care of themselves."
So Arnold got together with a few college buddies and designed a direct farm-to-door distribution model for getting fresh food to people, in a way that didn't damage the environment. Greenling was born, with Arnold appointing himself as "Cookie Monster." Yes, that's his official title, and might just give you an idea of the philosophy of fun that this company operates on. Arnold is hard to miss around town—if you ever spot a Prius with a five-foot banana on top of it, that's him.
Greenling is also interactive and holistic, trying to tie together all facets of the food/eating/healthy/sustainability puzzle. Recipes come with the local boxes, and they are also on the Greenling Blog, along with a lot of other resources. Recipe kits are another way Arnold and his team are trying to help people rediscover the joy of cooking and eating at home with fresh, healthy ingredients.
"Eating a variety of foods with minimal processing is best achieved by getting back into the kitchen. But the lure of convenience has pulled us out of the kitchen," Arnold says." Our recipe kits include everything you need for a meal—veggies washed and chopped and all ingredients portioned for the meal. They feature all organic ingredients with seasonal, local veggies in most; an easy way to start cooking locally."
He believes that our current food system has broken down. "There still seems to be large groups of people who don’t know what has happened to our food. We’ve got to get the word out! Once you know, it’s really hard to continue in the same path."
Back in February of this year, Greenling got a huge boost when they partnered with Whole Foods Market, allowing customers to sign up for Greenling at electronic kiosks in the Whole Foods stores. Both companies look at the partnership as a way to strengthen the local food supply, a shared mission.
And what's a typical day at Greenling like? Arnold says every day is an adventure. "It’s always wacky and unusual! From narrowly avoiding farmer fist fights (they don’t all get along) to incredible and unique vegetables to quirky customers, there’s never a dull moment around here."
Check out the boxes currently available at Greenling.com