All it took was for one guy to believe in the power of fruits and vegetables. Well, that, a used van and $1,500. Out of these few things, Rick Segal created Los Angeles Organic Vegetable Express in 1999. The company, also known as LOVE, is the longest-running vegetable and fruit delivery service local to Los Angeles.
Segal moved to Southern California from San Francisco and knew that with a lot of work and a little bit of money, he could build a business that he believed in. He scoured a bunch of local suppliers and farms. One of the first things he ever did on a PC was put together a four-page, double-sided brochure that he took to farmers markets in LA.
"I was going and standing and yelling, 'Do you want produce delivered?'" Segal says. "About four weeks after I started doing this, hitting up two different farmers markets and yelling at people, I wound up with 20 customers."
At first, it was hard to convince people that buying organic was better for them, better for the community and better in general. "Back then, they believed the old gas-station example that produce was the same as regular (gas), and that organic produce had a different label and you paid more for it," Segal explains. The organic produce movement was in its infancy around this time, and Segal had to show that paying a bit more for organically grown food was worth it.
Slowly, mostly through word of mouth, Segal was able to build a sustainable business, one where his customers choose what produce they want delivered to their doorsteps every week, fresh from the producers and farms that Segal worked with.
"It was reasonably difficult for the normal person to find a good supply of organic produce," Segal says. "(The business) was really out of providing convenience for people."
Those who have busy lifestyles and value the organic and local market are the people Segal believed would be obvious customers for his business. Now, more than 10 years after Segal started LOVE, he services more than 300 families per week in a growing market where convenience and doorstep delivery (for almost everything) is commonplace.
For Karen Lee, a fitness coach and stay-at-home mom with four kids younger than 5, the convenience factor is one of the main reasons she started ordering from Farm Fresh To You, a community-supported agriculture group. Through CSA programs, consumers pay a fee before the season, and then, when farms start to harvest, their consumers get that produce. While they are considered a CSA, Farm Fresh To You also offers doorstep-delivery for clients.
This comes in handy for Lee, who cannot get to the store as often as she'd like, and who realized that the veggies that Farm Fresh To You were delivering were much fresher than the ones she could buy at the store.
Lee and her family have also started eating "clean," which means that they try to eat as much whole, natural and unprocessed foods as they can. Getting fresh produce makes this transition a little easier.
"I love that they put in different veggies that I normally would not ever try, and include recipe ideas and ways to store your produce," says Lee. "I didn't even know what fennel was and this week I'll be making fennel salad."
According to Barbara Archer, the communications manager for Farm Fresh To You, the company delivers to 40,000 people across much of California, including the Bay Area, Sacramento and many of the large counties in Southern California. Like LOVE, they offer different boxes of produce, with varying combinations of fruits and vegetables. Both companies also create more specialized boxes. LOVE has a juicing box (fruits and veggies that work well as juices), and Farm Fresh To You sells a fast fruit and veggies box, which are no cook, less prep options.
Whether you like kale, nectarines, tomatoes or peppers, these types of produce delivery companies offer an easy way to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies while not having to take a step into a crowded grocery.