Luann Schwall discovered a great way to get her 12-year-old daughter to eat more vegetables. She signed up for Seasonal Roots, a Richmond-based company that delivers local vegetables to her front door in Bon Air.
“It’s a win/win,” she says. “I’m supporting local farmers and it limits me from having to go to the grocery store.”
Schwall loves the variety and quality of the products she’s been getting since March. She orders everything from blueberries and strawberries to greens and tomatoes.
“The vegetables are bigger and richer in color and the berries taste sweeter. Everything tastes fresh,” she says.
She orders the largest basket, which includes eleven items, and sometimes adds extras, such as salsa. She and her family have been trying new items, like dandelion greens and lemon balm. “I’ll Google how to use it in recipes so we don’t get bored with what we are eating,” she says.
Her daughter has been enjoying the new variety on her plate, her mom says. “She has turned the corner with her palate.”
Veggies and More
Duane Slyder, founded Seasonal Roots as a way to help the local economy and local farmers. Growing up on a farm, he learned firsthand how fresh vegetables can enhance a meal.
“What we try to do is provide the most nutritious food and see how fast we can get it to you after it’s harvested,” he says.
One of Slyder’s first tasks was identifying local farmers in Virginia. “It took me three years to find carrots, because they don’t grow well in red clay. I had to find someone with sandy soil who could grow them,” he says. “Most of our farmers are true farmers. They are usually doing farmers’ markets or growing for restaurants.”
The company delivers to homes in the greater Richmond area, the Virginia Beach area, Northern Virginia, including the Fredericksburg area, and Montgomery County, Maryland. “The eventual plan is to be everywhere in Maryland,” Slyder says.
Seasonal Roots operates on a weekly schedule. Menus of available items go out to the company’s members at 2 p.m. on Fridays. Items can be ordered until Sunday at midnight and are delivered either on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, depending on the area in which you live. Members in the Greater Richmond area receive their boxes on Thursdays.
“We tell the farmers what we need on Monday. They pick it and bring it in on Monday,” Slyder says. “We pack it and deliver it. On Friday, if you went to our hub, we wouldn’t have any food left.”
Members can choose five, eight, or eleven choices of veggies and fruits. They can also order other items such as meats, dairy, honey, salsas, and nuts.
“We have a full farmers market,” Slyder says. “We even have seafood. We have our crab cakes from North Carolina.”
The company also provides a full ingredient list so customers know exactly what’s in prepared foods. “We are all about quality,” Slyder says.
The freshness of the food speaks for itself, he adds. “You can get sweet potatoes that if you bake them, will leak as they cook because they are so full of nutrients. We get different varieties of vegetables and fruits. For instance, we have nine different kinds of sweet potatoes. We have quite a few varieties you don’t see in the grocery store.”
Bringing Veggies to Your Front Porch
Market managers, people who live in and around the neighborhoods where they deliver, bring the weekly boxes of goodies. “Our market managers are mostly moms that do this as something on the side. They look at everything before they deliver it to you. If something has gone bad, they will fix it before they bring it to you,” Slyder says.
Jamila Talbot, director of teams at Seasonal Roots, started as a market manager in 2014.
Market managers are the face and heart of Seasonal Roots so Talbot looks for managers that display genuine kindness. “I can teach a person how to pull a report and pack a cooler, but I can’t teach them to care about other people,” she says. “If they are deeply kind, they will take ownership of the experiences of their members. If they take ownership of the member experience, they will provide top-notch, personal service.”
By doing that, they create connections and build relationships with members. “Being mindful about strengthening those relationships is critical to the future success of Seasonal Roots,” Talbot says.
Growing the Business
Companies that deliver food of all kinds have seen business increase since the start of the pandemic. “We have more and more people that want to join,” Slyder says. “Some people have had to wait two weeks to join because we have had more people than we can take.”
Seasonal Roots business is up 250 percent from three months ago. “We have leaped 10 years in home delivery because of the pandemic,” Slyder says. “People that join are appreciative. I thought we would get a lot of grocery shoppers that join and would leave, but they are staying with us.”
Part of the goal from the beginning was to help support local farmers. “We are part of their solution but not the solution,” Slyder says. “We pay everyone net two – two days after we get the invoice.”
Slyder has one farmer whose family had owned the farm for 100 years but they hadn’t been actively farming it for 20 years. After talking with Slyder they added greenhouses and are now farming sweet potatoes. “We work with farmers and give them ideas. We tell them what we are looking for,” Slyder says.
Looking toward the future, Slyder hopes to have Seasonal Roots cover Maryland. Then he’s eyeing states like Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. “We are looking for places with huge suburbias. We do better in the suburbs,” he says.
Slyder is very grateful that he has seen his dream become a reality and to know that it’s making a difference for farmers and the company’s members.
“I feel fortunate to be here,” he says.
For more information about Seasonal Roots, go here.