This week in our Women in Agriculture series we get to know a business owner who connects local farms with customers throughout the region. Andrea DuVall, co-owner of Mother Earth Produce, is an important link in the local food chain, so we stopped at her warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina to see how food gets from farmers’ hands to customers’ plates.
As she opens the doors of her walk-in coolers, she explains how her local food home-delivery service works. “We work with over 30 different local farms and bring local food to consumers’ front doors. Customers can go online and customize their bins; they can add on meat and dairy, all from humane sustainable farms, and then we deliver it to their door each week. So we make it super easy and convenient to eat local,” she says. “That is our passion.”
It was a local farmer who inspired Andrea DuVall and her partner Graham DuVall to create Mother Earth Produce. “We were driving down the road in West Asheville and we saw a guy selling vegetables out of the back of his truck and we pulled over. At that time we had just moved here and we were really into local food, but we were really busy working all the time, and that was before kids so we didn’t want to get up on Saturday mornings to go to the farmer’s market and we thought that there must be a better way to get local food in Asheville,” she says.
They found a mentor in Washington, D.C. who had a similar business and took a leap of faith that Asheville could support a local food delivery service. Now they deliver local produce, meat, and dairy throughout Asheville, Greenville, and Charlotte each week.
“As we are expanding to these cities, our vision is to create an entirely alternative local food ecosystem,” she says. “So we’re thinking big and we’re thinking broad and we want to be a leader in creating these hubs and connecting local farms in each community with customers in the community and really providing an alternative to the grocery store and Amazon mentality and bringing awareness back to our our food”
In addition to providing customers with local food, Duvall also aims to help farmers find a profitable outlet for their products.
“Our farmers are working all the time in their fields and we want them to have different avenues of income and different streams of revenue. We can have them grow two hundred pounds of peppers this week and we can take it all. We also pay them 50 cents on the dollar versus most grocery store chains that they pay 15 to 35 cents on the dollar, so it’s really important to us that every single person in our chain is taken care of since we are the middleman. There aren’t a ton of middlemen, so we can go directly to the farms, make it easy for them to grow 200 pounds of something, pick it up in one week, and move it for them,” she says. “We like to set up a collaborative, co-creator, beneficial relationship.”
As DuVall steps outside the warehouse, she reflects on what it’s like to connect so many people in the local food system.
“It is a deep honor. It has been seven years of really learning everything we can about the local food system and figuring out easy ways and easy systems to connect us to local food. So it’s just an honor to continuously try to brainstorm and mastermind and figure out the best ways to help our farmers and our community,” she says. “We just want to show up and create this with everyone.”
Stay tuned to our Women in Agriculture series to meet more leaders in the local food movement. Learn more about Mother Earth Produce and other connectors in the food system in ASAP’s Local Food Guide – www.appalachiangrown.org