Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking Outside the Box

The Produce Box brings fresh, local produce directly to Durham residents.

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TPB_2Durham has an abundance of local farmers, but incorporating their delicious fruits and vegetables into your diet can be hard when you don’t have time to run out to the farmers’ market every week.

In 2007, a Raleigh stay-at-home mom had the same problem. So she started The Produce Box, a service where people sign up to have farm-fresh produce, meats and specialty items delivered straight to their doorstep or workplace.

The company has expanded all across the state and came to Durham three years ago. Around the same time, Cindy Grouss and her family moved to the Horton Hills neighborhood for her husband’s job with Orange County EMS. When she found out about The Produce Box (TPB), she knew she had to get involved. She’s been an area manager for four seasons, overseeing deliveries and member needs.

We asked Cindy about her work with TPB and how the business has impacted Durham.

What was your first encounter with The Produce Box?

I had first heard of TPB through a local moms’ website/blog. I have always enjoyed shopping farmers’ markets and valued supporting local farms. We were fairly new to the area at the time and I was blown away at a service that would bring the farmers’ market to my door at such a reasonable price.

I quickly learned TPB wasn’t delivering to all of Durham at the time, so I liked them on Facebook to stay in the loop, and at the beginning of the next season they announced they were expanding to Durham!

What motivated you to get involved and become an area manager?

Initially, I was looking for a neighborhood coordinator position as a way to get involved. It’s a pretty minimal time commitment at five to seven hours a week, and I could bring my kids with me if needed.

I soon learned that they were still looking for an area manager, and when I learned more about the position in the interview, I knew it was a perfect fit!

What is your typical day as an area manager like?

Ha! I have yet to have one. Monday is a busy day. I manage any member needs such as address changes, replacements, etc. and really make sure everything is in order for the week. I look at where we are with growing our area and follow up with my neighborhood coordinators.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are delivery days, so I meet the truck and follow it to each stop, which is typically a neighborhood coordinator’s house, with a few other neighborhood coordinators meeting there are well. I help them unload and quality check their boxes and use this as a good time to touch base and talk about what’s going on that week and what’s coming up.

Why would you recommend The Produce Box to people in Durham?

One of the things I learned — and loved — about Durham from Day 1 was how much they value supporting their community and buying local. The Produce Box fits the bill. TPB takes great care in choosing the growers and artisan producers they partner with, with several in Durham County. The Produce Box is a tremendous way to support our immediate community in Durham as well as small- and medium-sized growers and producers throughout North Carolina.

Why is Durham a good place for a produce delivery service?

Durhamites love their fresh, local produce as evidenced by the aforementioned bustling farmers’ markets. I personally love going to the market, but the plain reality is that we just can’t make it every week. The delivery aspect gives you a peace of mind to start the week. You can choose the fixings for entire meals, snacks and even entertaining over the weekend and know in a few days you will receive your delicious local goodness to finish off the week!

We have some members I know order the box for their office to use for a healthy lunch or snack and other members have shared that they split it with a friend. I love the look of amazement I see when I share how The Produce Box works!

Do you have any goals for TPB’s future in Durham?

Certainly to keep growing! Our first week of deliveries in Durham three years ago, we had just over 100 members and today we are just shy of 900. I want to keep that momentum!

We also participated in Durham’s Girls on the Run race this past spring [by offering free food samples] and I would love to continue that as well as get involved in more races. As far as being involved in races and more healthy lifestyle activities, it seems like a clear connection. We are definitely exploring sponsorship opportunities.

Learn more or sign up at theproducebox.com, and stay in the loop on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rachel Herzog is an intern for Durham Magazine and Chapel Hill Magazine. She grew up in southern Maryland and is attending UNC-Chapel Hill as a journalism major. You can catch her running the trails and sidewalks of Chapel Hill or enjoying lunch at Mediterranean Deli.