LIMA — Do you know where your food comes from?
This question was the starting point for a Mount Vernon company that was looking to bring fresh, quality food from Ohio farms to local residents each week. And now the service is available in Allen County.
Yellowbird Foodshed is a subscription service that delivers boxes of locally sourced produce, meat and cheese to consumers each week at local grocery stores. Today, the service operates at Chief on Lima’s South Cable Road, Community Markets in Bluffton and Chief in Delphos. It is also available at both Community Markets stores in Findlay.
Based on the company’s belief that everyone should know where their food comes from, Yellowbird partnered with small farms within 150 miles of Columbus to provide the products they pack into their boxes each week. The online service allows customers to choose their pickup location and share size, which varies from a base food box to a full food box. A base food box contains eight to 10 local varieties of fresh products, and a full box features 12 to 14 varieties of food.
“The old school term for this is ‘community supported agriculture,’” said Benji Ballmer, director of business operations for Yellowbird. “It’s a membership service, so somebody would pay for a season. The season could be eight to 16 weeks long, and we’ll bring all the food each week based on what season it is.”
Each box contains a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables, but customers may also order add-on subscriptions for meats and cheeses. The catch is that consumers never really know what types of food will be in their box each week.
“We like to frame it as an adventure,” Ballmer said. “Sometimes it’s a normal type of product like a cheddar or mozzarella on the cheese side, but sometimes it’s like a goat curd or something that is a little more exotic. Sometimes it’s items you might not even be able to find at your local grocery store.”
Along with fresh food, each box contains a newsletter that tells customers where their products came from, as well as storage tips and recipes. Ballmer said this is especially helpful for consumers who want to know exactly where their food was produced, and for those who may be unfamiliar with some of the items in their box.
“It’s meant to help the consumer along,” he said. “If they’re getting something they’ve never heard of before or something they’ve never had the guts to try, we want it to be easy for them and not intimidating. We try to give them as many aides as possible to make it a pleasurable experience.”
Ballmer openly admits that using the service is more expensive than buying similar products directly from grocery stores or farmers markets, but he said the quality and freshness of the food makes up for the cost difference. He said that, instead of buying vegetables that have been picked weeks in advance, Yellowbird allows customers to purchase items that were picked just days or even hours before they are shipped out.
“That’s really the key,” he said. “We can take them ripe, and so they have everything they’re supposed to have: the flavor, the nutrition, the integrity and all that kind of stuff. When the product gets to the customer they are just blown away.”
For more details about Yellowbird or to sign up for a subscription, visit yellowbirdfs.com.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.