Local produce company SLO Veg brings the bounty to the table

Food is an extremely intimate subject; it provides comfort just as much as it provides energy for living. What you eat matters to your health, and there can hardly be a more satisfying feeling than picking a fruit from a tree, or pulling a vegetable up from the chocolate-brown soil, dusting it off, and taking a bite – but just a small taste! – one, first tiny little nibble, and letting nature’s nectars delight my taste buds. It’s important not to overwhelm your tasters with an enthusiastic chomp. Take a small bite, chew slowly and gently, and feel the food.

The “locavore diet” (eating regionally grown, in-season foods) has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. Farmers markets offer produce that is not only local, but also fresher, tastier, and leaves you feeling better when you eat it, than will the grocer’s selection. And while you’re scoring great eats, you can take pride in knowing that you’re helping to support local farmers.  The only drawback to farmers markets is that your schedule might not allow for a trip, or you eat all your delicious fruits and veggies within a few days and have to go to the grocery store for sub-par “will-do” produce until the next week. Rejoice; one local produce company solves that issue with home delivery of some of the most delicious fruits and veggies you’ll ever munch.

SLO Veg is a locally owned and operated produce company. They purchase produce from local farmers, divide the goods among boxes, and then deliver those boxes to their customers’ homes. Deliveries are weekly or bi-weekly, and SLO Veg offers a number of different options to how much you can receive. Deliveries comprise of locally grown, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Most of the food is less than 48-hours picked, meaning it’s fresh, fresh, fresh; especially compared to anything you’re going to find at a “fancy” chain-grocery store.

SLO Veg owner Dan Melton got the idea for the business after he learned of a similar project in northern California. Melton recognized that the SLO area had psychographic that would lend to the success of such a project: a community with a customer base that was both health and environmentally conscious. He recruited a Cal Poly Senior Project committee to conduct feasibility research on a similar business model. The results indicated the project would be profitable; so with a small business loan Melton and his business partner Rachael Hill launched SLO Veg in June 2009 with 28 customers. Melton wouldn’t share how many customers SLO Veg has now, but he did boast that the company has grown 1000% percent in three years.

Melton says that the home delivery is really what makes his business work. Obviously, his product is well-worth the price you pay for it, but the fact that it’s brought to the home is what makes SLO Veg a home-run. With fruits and veggies delivered to the back stoop, you’ll save significant time grocery shopping, which gives you that much more time to do the things you actually enjoy doing (or at least, gives you more time to do all the other stuff on your to-do list). Melton used to work for UPS, so he understands how to streamline delivery routes for the most efficient result.

“Agriculture is like the oil industry,” said Melton, “There are a few powerful players.” Those large, corporate farms might ship their produce as far as 1500 miles to your local market before you put it into your shopping cart. Over the course of those 1500 miles, produce loses significant amounts of nutrition. That’s what happens to food; it begins to lose nutrients (in effect, it starts “rotting”) the moment you pluck it from the vine. Chances are, the food purchased at a grocery store was picked days (if not a week) ago, packed in ice, and shipped. So, not only is the food lacking in nutrients, it is part of a large carbon footprint. Local produce doesn’t have these issues. Food from SLO Veg is less-than 48 hours old, and is from a farm much closer than 1500 miles away; the food is packed-full of vitamins and minerals and low in carbon footprint impact.

Local fare is critical for good health. Seasonal foods offer the nutrients needed in particular regions for that particular season; meaning that the foods that grow in summer offer your body what you need to survive the summer elements. Out of season foods – tomatoes in January, for example – are low in nutritional value. What is unfortunate is that we’re grown accustomed to being able to have whatever foods we want, whenever we want them; instead, we should be excited for the bounties of the season. Since SLO Veg offers only the season’s bounty, recipes are included with each delivery that feature the contents of that week’s harvest; in case you find yourself in a stare-down with an unfamiliar vegetable.

SLO Veg serves San Luis Obispo, the Five Cities, and Los Osos, and in July Melton will launch Farm2Fork, which will serve the North County and North Coast.
“It’s been a blast,” said Melton of the last three years, “the best part: everybody benefits.” The customer benefits from a high-quality product; local farmers benefit by selling their crops, and in turn help stimulate the economy; and since delivery is kept local, there is a low environmental impact.
A balanced diet will give way to more energy, better moods, and less illness. Embrace the gifts the beautiful Central Coast has to offer, and integrate local produce into your diet.
To learn more or sign up for SLO Veg, visit sloveg.com or call (805) 709-2780.
-Ana Korgan is a local writer, photographer, and food lover.
SLO Veg provides weekly or bi-weekly deliveries, and offers different box-size options
Small: $27.82 / Feeds 1-2 people
Medium: $34.24 / Feeds 2-3 people
Large: $40.66 / Feeds 3-4 people