Saturday, November 8, 2008

Farm Food Deliveries

"The Bus" (Delivery Vehicle)
On Thursday of this week, I spent the day making deliveries with Richard (our full-time delivery driver).  We delivered to several restaurants and stores, and did two buying club drops.  Needless to say it was a long day.  (Wake-up time = 5 AM... Start Work = 5:15AM... Arrive back on farm = 8PM)

RESTAURANT DELIVERIES

As I said before, Polyface delivers to several restaurants in Virginia.  One of the more popular ones is Chipotle (big mexican-style burritos and such).  They focus on getting meat that is  naturally raised, no antibiotics, etc.  Polyface sells them about 250 lbs of pork a week.  If you haven't had a Chipotle burrito, I highly recommend you go and try one soon.  Anyway... I had lots of great experiences on the delivery run while going to restaurants, but I'm going to stick to one story that remains the most memorable for me, the Rev Soup Beef Drop.

Revolutionary Soup Beef Delivery

That morning we loaded up a half of a beef into coolers that were headed to Rev Soup.  The half beef was only cut into 4 pieces, so none of the coolers shut all the way (imagine beef legs sticking out the top).  I wasn't sure what kind of place Rev Soup was but I figured that they would have a back door that we could bring in these HUGE pieces of meat.  We arrived to the drop location and Richard had never delivered to this particular Rev Soup (there are two), so he went in to ask where the service/delivery door was located.  Turns out there wasn't one.  Only the main entrance.

So there we were pushing this cart loaded with coolers with beef sticking out the top for all the world to see.  Though I shouldn't have, I felt as though I was wearing a dress and the world had a free shot to look up it.  We got to the front door and Richard took the first cooler in while I held the door and the cooler cart.  When he got back I picked up the largest and heaviest of the coolers (96 lbs of grass-fed beef!) and asked him where to take it.  He said to go straight back to the kitchen and they'll be waiting for me.  I hadn't noticed till now that the place was PACKED full of customers.  It was a little after noon, so you can imagine the lunch rush this place had going.  As I walked in the door carrying this huge leg of beef I looked toward the kitchen and realized that I had to walk right through the long line of patrons studying the menu.  I thought immediately, "What are they going to do when they see this huge piece of meat, sticking out of the cooler, headed into the kitchen."  I pressed on through the line and into the kitchen and when I got inside the owner was there and SUPER excited to see the giant piece of meat I was carrying.  That ease my anxiety a little.

This happened a total of four time between Richard and I, and it gave me kind of an adrenaline rush.  I was thinking about it afterward and it dawned on me that, to my knowledge, not a single patron realized what we brought into the restaurant.  The restaurant was located next to the University of Virginia so most of the customers where college-age young-adults.  This lead me to ponder this, "Is my generation so removed from our food that we don't even recognized what it looks like before its soup?"  I hope not, but I think we are.

RETAIL STORES

As far as retail stories go, most of them sell Polyface eggs and pork products.  Some of the places were awesome little hole-in-the-wall places but there were a couple large, unfriendly places on the route.  It seems to me that the larger any store of any kind gets, the harder it is to keep employee moral up (no just food stores).  Maybe a thought to ponder in my other blog.

Anyway... at one of the retail stores, they returned several packs of bacon that they couldn't sell.  Why were they having trouble selling Polyface bacon you might ask?  Was it the taste?  Was it old? NO!!  It was because of the USDA blue edible ink that they stamp everything with at the USDA inspected abattoir.  "Our customers won't buy the bacon if it has the ink on it." says the man at the store.  WHAT A JOKE!  Thanks again USDA.  

So now what?  We can't sell our product in retail stores because in order for it to be "Safe" the USDA must have an inspector on site using his stamp at will.  But because he deems it "Safe" with his stamp, no one will eat it because of fear of the ink.  So were stuck having to sort through bacon each time we send it to this store and forced to explain to customers this ridiculous reasoning and the fact that the ink is soy based.  Awesome... more petroleum being used for a totally natural product.

BUYING CLUB DROPS

In the middle of all this we made two buying club drops in Richmond.  I love doing buying club drops.  Every six weeks customers order online and we delivery their product(s) to them at several drop sites.  (You can learn more at www.polyfacefarms.com)  The day before the drop (or a couple days... whatever works) we put together orders in coolers and store them in the walk-in freezer until the morning of the drop day.  On the day of, we load the coolers in the bus and head to the drop.  Once there we unload the coolers for each specific drop and customers arrive with coolers of their own (or sack, boxes, etc.) and we hand over the order as they hand over the money.  It works out really awesome and in 30 mins to an hour we've handed out between 30 and 80 orders.  Polyface has a well oiled machine and I was able to jump right in like a greased cog.  Its wonderful to know that a lot of the customers have been to the farm and most have read about the farm and are excited not only by the good food, but by the awesome stewardship on the farm.


Stay tuned... I'l try and take some pics...



2 comments:

Tracy said...

Grady,
Glad I found your blog, and I look forward to following it. (found it from a link on your comment on our fellow agrarian - Deliberate Agrarian's blog).
We've read most all of Salatin's books and use many of his ideas as inspiration. I would love for my own son (who is 23) to be able to intern there; but we are just too busy actually getting our own similar operation up and going here in Kansas. So we will have to suffice with the books. The blogs, like yours, will be an extra treat though!

Grady Phelan "The Progressively Tenacious Fellow" said...

Good to here that people in what I call "Middle-America" are producing real food. I plan on doing the same in Oklahoma once I leave here. Let me know if you have any questions.