Are you committed to buying local but don’t want to give up fruits from far away, such as bananas or mangoes? Danny Turner, co-owner of the Organic Box, has an answer for those in Edmonton who feel that they face a dilemma between buying local food and enjoying goods grown elsewhere. Turner’s perspective on what makes a product local may come as a surprise to those who have heard about the 50-mile diet, but he offers a sound idea worth thinking about.
Danny Turner’s local philosophy
In a speech to MacEwan business students last month, Turner defined local as anything locally owned and operated. Buying local means purchasing goods from a business where the proceeds from the business stay in the community. So how do people in Edmonton who want to buy locally get access to fruits such as bananas or to berries during the winter? By purchasing bananas and berries from a business in the Okanagan or in South America, but where the proceeds from the sale of fruit stay in the community to which that business belongs.
Turner suggests buying local food can mean buying produce directly from the family farm located 250 miles away instead of getting produce that came from the conventional large-scale industrial farm located within 50 miles. Buying local is an interaction in which the purchaser has the closest, most direct possible relationship with the seller. In other words, Turner believes buying local has more to do with economics than geography: it is “about money not miles.”
The Organic Box
Turner applies his beliefs about local food to his business, The Organic Box, which he and his wife Miranda began in February 2010. If he cannot supply goods from the Edmonton area (it is difficult to find fruit during Edmonton’s winters, for example), he seeks businesses from other regions whose profits stay within the local area as much as possible. He then builds relationships with these businesses, purchases their goods and distributes them in Edmonton.
As part of his relationship-building with his suppliers, Turner makes sure his values align with theirs; he also coaches them on various aspects of the business including creating production plans, producing certified organic goods, and managing distribution and sales logistics, such as product labels and barcodes. Currently, Turner has relationships with over 100 producers in western Canada.
All produce distributed by The Organic Box is certified organic, and product choices range from fruits and vegetables to dry goods such as grains, flours and nuts. The Organic Box distributes these goods to retail and food service locations, farmers’ markets and directly to people’s homes through a home delivery program.
The Turner family also operates a 14-acre fruit and vegetable farm in Creston, B.C.
They operate their farm using “people with hoes,” and greenhouses that are no more than “plastic things with hoops.” Doing so allows them to know the food production business from the ground up and gives them greater ability to advise other food producers.
When he’s not occupied with growing and distributing food, Turner talks about organic food on social media, and lobbies the provincial government to adopt the Canadian Organic Regime, a system that provides regulation of organic food.
How to order from the Organic Box
Anyone wishing to receive The Organic Box’s produce can sign up for home delivery. The Organic Box offers a 13-delivery full membership, and a three-delivery trial membership. Turner explains that trial membership includes three orders because it allows The Organic Box the opportunity to build relationships with their customers and to educate them about The Organic Box’s values. Box types include the Organic Box (feeds an “average-sized family”), the Organic Singles Box (feeds a one-to-two-person household), and the Organic Office Box (for on-the-job snacking.) Subscribers can sign up to receive a box every week, or every two weeks.
Buying food from local producers in the Edmonton area is the first choice for those committed to supporting a local food economy. But, if you can’t get your fruit fix during our long Edmonton winters, or want the convenience of home grocery delivery, the Organic Box has found local growers from Edmonton and other regions, and can distribute their goods to you.