Monday, 03 July 2017 15:51

Sherrills Ford couple serves up farm-to-door delivery

Written by  Susan Nitka
The planting rows from Jennifer Andrews of Avaline’s Farm in Newton, a provider of goods for Practical Produce Provisions. The certified natural growing farm does not use pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers, and offers only non-GMO plants and seeds.  The planting rows from Jennifer Andrews of Avaline’s Farm in Newton, a provider of goods for Practical Produce Provisions. The certified natural growing farm does not use pesticides or synthetic chemical fertilizers, and offers only non-GMO plants and seeds.  Courtesy Practical Produce Provisions

Commitment to live and eat better leads to new business venture.

SHERRILLS FORD, N.C. -- Practical Produce Provisions co-owners Deby and Eric Thornburg are on a mission, and their motto says it all: “Skip the Store and Let Us Bring it to Your Door.”

They want to connect real people to real food through education and accessibility. Their new company aims to do this by supporting local farming communities and creating meaningful relationships with those around them. Practical Produce Provisions will offer personalized delivery of fresh from the farm produce, or real food, right to the door of subscribers.

Deby Thornburg has been studying nutrition and food as medicine as a hobby for about 12 years. During this time, she has seen concern grow around gluten and lactose sensitivities. She has also researched cases of diabetes and other health issues that cause people to examine exactly what types of food they are putting into their bodies, and the subsequent results on metabolic, digestive and immune systems.

Aside from the desire or need to eat healthier because of dietary restrictions, “Realize, too, that it’s important for us all to know our food sources since they have a direct effect on how we feel,” says Deby. “A lot of the food supply is a science experiment right now, with genetically modified ingredients, and that’s scary. It’s important for my husband and I to feature farmers who offer organic or naturally grown products through Practical Produce Provisions.”

She added that they were, and still are, interested in working with smaller farms, where often they are already growing organic, but lack the financial resources to put “organic” on the label. That distinction can be an expensive hurdle for small businesses that simply cannot absorb the costs involved — costs much easier for large companies to cover.

The company has reached out to partner with local farmers and producers from Catawba, Lincoln and Iredell counties, getting to know them personally.

“The North Carolina producers partnering with us are either certified organic or willing to follow natural (non-harmful pesticides) growing procedures to meet our standards,” says Deby, who together with Eric have visited the farmers during the application process to ensure that quality control is in place.

“We’ve visited the farms and done the footwork for you,” says Eric. “If we won’t eat it, we don’t expect you to eat it.”

The decision for Practical Produce Provisions to partner exclusively with farmers from Iredell, Catawba and Lincoln Counties, and not farmers from Tennessee, Virginia, Florida or even other North Carolina locations was intentional.

“We want to offer the freshest picked, seasonal produce possible. This means that not all items may be offered year-round, but it also means that all items we do offer will be picked that morning and delivered that afternoon,” says Deby. “This makes a big difference in taste and quality, and ensures that your selection has never sat in transport waiting for delivery from the farm.”

Currently, the couple uses the Hickory Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings to gather the goods. All Practical Produce Provisions selections made by the consumer are bagged there and distributed immediately. Consumers can sign up for the program and either select a half- or full-share payment. As a commitment to the farmers behind this project, payment is requested up front. During enrollment, customers will be asked to state any dietary restrictions, food allergies, preferences and whether they are willing to try new produce.

“We tailor each produce bag to individual tastes, so that no one ends up paying for something they don’t like or want,” the couple says, adding that they’re also providing people with recipes in the bag on how to best prepare some of the produce. Customers may even add on custom selections, when the farmer creates other goods for sale, like candles, soaps and fresh roasted coffees.

Eventually, the couple wants the company to evolve and sell meats as well, likely produced by this same group of farmers.

Practical Produce Provisions has already received enthusiastic interest just from word of mouth.

The Thornburgs have shared their passion for this way of life via educational classes at local libraries, and with neighbors, friends, schools and others in the community, who have since spread the word.

“The Catawba County Cooperative Extension has been 100 percent supportive of our mission,” the couple says. “They’ve helped us find and connect with farmers, given us speaking engagements with co-ops and a platform from which we can be heard.”

The couple also reached out to local schools with agricultural departments such as Bandys High School in Catawba, to speak directly with children, piquing their interest and potentially, eventually getting them on board, noting “after all, these are our future farmers.”

“Thanks to local, organic farmers right in our backyard, my husband and I have enjoyed and benefitted from this approach to eating and want everyone else to be able to as well,” says Deby. “I’m a firm believer that we need more farm and less pharmacy,” adds Eric. “Processed foods may be tasty but they’re not good for you. With Practical Produce Provisions, you’ll find good food that’s good for you.”

Deby Thornburg is available to answer any program related questions from customers or farmers at 704-400-1833. For more information, visit the Practical Produce Provisions website at buylocalproducenc.com.

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