Berkshire Organics: Fresh Produce Plus, Delivered to Your Door
All photographs by Sean McLaughlin
Fresh-picked, organic vegetables year ‘round, from as nearby as the weather will allow, delivered to your door once a week.
No, this is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy; this is Berkshire Organics, a business founded in May 2008 by Aleisha Gibbons, now 30.
Gibbons, who grew up in Berkshire County and now lives and works in Dalton, sensed a need. “I looked on-line and saw that there’s a ton of these businesses out west. Boston Organics does a similar thing, and they’ve been going since 2001,” she says. “Still, I thought it would a part-time thing. But within the first month, I had left my full-time job, and, by summer, I had to hire additional help.”
Berkshire Organics customers receive an e-mail on Tuesdays with a list of what’s going to be in their baskets that Friday. A typical basket at this time of year might include acorn squash, carrots, potatoes, onions, apples, pears, cauliflower, braising mix—chard, kale, mustard greens, “wonderful for sauteeing,” according to Gibbons—and a head of lettuce, all from local farms. Then from farther afield, there might be a Florida avocado, some oranges and bananas, all certified organic. There is also a list of alternatives. By reply e-mail, the customer makes as many substitutions as he/she likes. A minimum order is $25 and includes delivery to your door.
“At first, I didn’t think it would be able to go year ‘round, but, in fact, we’re just getting into our busy season now. In summer, there are lots of other options—farm stands and farmers’ markets every few miles.” To meet the wintertime demand, quite a number of Berkshire Organics’ farmers are experimenting with greenhouse produce for the first time this year. Until local supply meets demand, however, Gibbons will continue to work with Enterprise Produce in Whatley, MA, 45 minutes east of Dalton. ” They have a winter CSA program,” she says. “They work with small, organic farms all along the east coast—Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia—that ship to them overnight. They are trying to change the food distribution system.”
Berkshire Organics now has over 400 home-delivery customers in three states—Berkshire County and the western Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, southern Vermont, and, just recently, they expanded to eastern Columbia County in New York State. Aleisha’s husband Brian Gibbons has come on board; he and his twin brother Brendan do most of the deliveries. “And I have 4 part-time employees,” Aleisha says. Delivery subscriptions are flexible, with frequencies ranging from once, to once in a while, to once a week.
Gibbons recently opened a retail store in Dalton, where walk-in customers may get the same produce basket that Berkshire Organics delivers for 10% less. “Fifty of our subscribers come in to pick up their baskets,” she says. Others just drop by to buy some produce, possibly at deep discounts, depending on the day. On Sundays, prices are reduced by 25%; by Monday and Tuesday, they’re 40% off. “Those sale days are very busy in our store,” says Gibbons. “It’s an affordable way to buy organic produce.”
In addition to vegetables, Gibbons has recently added fresh bread, eggs, meat, granola, cheese, yogurt, maple syrup, mushrooms, homemade soups, and fresh-cut flowers to her list of weekly offerings. She also does gift baskets, in wicker, instead of Berkshire Organics’ standard green plastic, that include heirloom fruit and locally made jams, syrups, cheeses, breads and baked goods from The Sweetish Baker in Great Barrington, who, Gibbons says, “works with local and organic ingredients, and also offers a lot of vegan baked goods. We even have a gluten-free baker.”
Asked (pleadingly) if she has any plans to extend her delivery area deeper into Columbia County and perhaps farther south into Litchfield and Dutchess, she replies, “We would love to find drop-off points—other businesses that would want to work with us.”
Dalton, MA; 413.442.0888