Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurel Valchuis.
Laurel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My best friend Katie was pregnant and being a farmer and cooking enthusiast, my greatest fear Katie not eating her vegetables! Sourcing veggies from great farmers, washing, cutting, cooking can be a chore when there is so much stuff going on, so I decided there would be no excuse if I did all the work for her. Meal Kits were born!
I started selling meal kits off my tricycle at farmers’ markets in Boston and then started taking orders online and delivering the meal kits by bike, which is what we still do today with the help of our awesome crew. We also farm part-time, keeping us fully interconnected with our farmers and the available produce so we can bring our customers what’s fresh and awesome, and continue to maintain a short supply chain from farm to table to support our farmers and nourish our customers.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Literally? Biking can be rough sometimes in Boston! The first winter we were in operation was the winter of Nemo- I ended up skiing deliveries to customers one day, which was quite the adventure.
Kitchen space has been our greatest challenge. While we have great resources in Boston in terms of incubator/start-up kitchen space, such places can be prohibitively expensive when moving beyond the micro start-up stage, without having to grow to a size where good sourcing can get pushed to the back-burner. We feel really strongly about maintaining a certain scale to be able to work with farmers of similar scale to create sustainable jobs for ourselves and to offer such farmers a steady market for their sporadic supply of produce. Kitchen space to support such a scale, while being affordable, however, is the missing link in the equation. We’ve moved around a few times, and are now working on a plan for our ‘forever home’, which will hopefully also act as a steady alternative for other businesses like ours who are also interested in working primarily with local produce. Stay tuned!
al FreshCo – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
al FreshCo makes meal kits with 100% locally grown vegetables and beans; we source most of our grains and oils locally too!
Local produce is our specialty. Our priority is to provide a flexible, alternative market for small-scale farmers, which we do quite successfully: we bought over 11,000lbs of local produce from farmers who are outstanding stewards of their land, this year! This turns out to be a great way to feed people really fresh produce, our other focus! Our minimal packaging, bike delivery year-round, and commitment of our customers to what we do, and our crew for being integrated along the entire supply chain is what makes our hearts beat with pride.
As far as we can tell, no one else is providing food with such a rich, authentic story behind it.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Each time I set out on my bike to deliver meal kits and drop the produce that was just harvested the day before to our customers is a new moment of pride. Picking up the twine from the previous week that our customers leave us in their coolers- even better, we are engaging people every week with their food and connecting them with farmers and the awesome products they grow, and getting them thinking about the impact their food and the way it comes to them has; I think that’s something to be proud of!
- Sprout (1 kit per week, feeds 2 people 1 Meal) $18
- Seedling (2 kits per week, feeds 2 people 2 meals) $36
- Farmer (3 kits per week, feeds 2 people 3 meals) $54
- Homesteader (4 kits per week, feeds 2 people 4 meals) $72
- Website: www.al-freshco.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alfreshcomeals
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alfreshcomeals
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/alfreshcomeals
Eric Lewandowski, Kayana Szymczak