Highlands Bioproduce offers a one-stop shop – recipes included – for whatever’s in season at area farms. For $26 per week, customers can pick up a half-bushel basket of farm-fresh food every Wednesday.
The baskets, which are distributed through Good Food Grocery, located inside Mac’s Medicine Mart on Center Street, are assembled with vegetables, fruits and cheese from typically five local producers.
Highlands Bioproduce is Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA), a popular local food concept that gives an economic boost to farmers while providing customers with food straight from the farm. It’s a co-operative of several growers.
Jack Woodworth, coordinator of Highlands Bioproduce, said all of the food is grown in an all-natural manner - meaning it’s grown organically, though not all of the growers are certified organic. They all were at one time, he said, but the process of remaining certified has become too costly and time-consuming for many small farmers to afford.
“The produce is exceptional,” said Liz Blakely, a customer from Rock Springs who’s been getting produce from the co-op for about 12 years.
“There are a lot of things people wouldn’t necessarily choose to purchase in the grocery store, but when it’s placed in your basket, it’s kind of like the chef’s challenge: try to figure out what it is and how to cook it.”
Blakely said she loves fresh vegetables but doesn’t want to do battle with the “varmints” in her own garden.
Woodworth said Highlands Bioproduce was started in the 1990s by Abingdon, Va.-based nonprofit Appalachian Sustainable Development; it used to deliver in Abingdon and Bristol also, but is now only available in Kingsport.
“They get fresh local produce, which helps support local farmers,” he said, “and they don’t have to get up early to go to the farmers market before everything’s sold out.”
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Woodworth and fellow producer Tom Peterson unloaded boxes of produce and distributed it among 30 baskets: Squash, cucumbers, cabbage, peppers, zucchini, salad and herbs.
The co-op typically delivers about 25 baskets each week, Woodworth said; it can serve up to 40. Customers can sign up to receive baskets every week, every other week, or for a three-week trial.
Blakely said the co-op is also like a family of like-minded folks.
“It’s a great community,” she said. “It’s definitely a community that people who want to invest in good food and good health should get involved in.”
For more information or to sign up for a three-week trial, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jack Woodworth at 276-386-2419.