The Denver wholesaler is selling CSA-style variety packs—including a box featuring “ugly” fruits and veggies—straight to consumers.
The Pretty Ugly Gobox sells for $17, and $1 of the sale is donated to Denver nonprofit We Don't Waste. —Photo by Haley Gray
Grower’s Organic, a Denver produce wholesale distributor, connects organic farmers with the companies that want to buy their food. But now, Grower’s Organic is reaching out to the public to sell boxes of organic bounty—picture a CSA-style veggie variety pack—straight to individual shoppers. The catch? The produce might not look as good as it tastes—but in this case, that's a good thing.
“We work in the world of perishables,” Grower’s Organic sales and marketing manager Emily Kutosky says. “I think people really take for granted that...you have your fruits and vegetables that have been harvested, and we are the people who do the best job that we can of keeping them alive and nice and pretty for consumption. But in that world of perishables, it’s very quick-moving.”
So, while Kutosky says that Grower’s Organic does its darndest to move as much produce as possible in the brief window the food is at its peak, some fruits and vegetables are still tossed in the compost bin. It’s a nation-wide problem: The National Resources Defense Council estimates that 40 percent of food produced in the United States is wasted.
Grower’s Organic created its new Gobox program to make a dent in solving the food waste problem. Customers can preview the proffered veggies and sign up for a box four days in advance via Facebook (or, once it launches, the new Grower’s Organic website). The Goboxes, available for pickup on Fridays and Saturdays, are packed with perfectly viable produce that’s in excess of what the Grower’s Organic’s wholesale buyers purchased. Small boxes ($22) are filled with enough veggies to outfit one to two individuals for one week, while large boxes ($32) are designed to feed three to four individuals. Options include the Native box, stuffed with all Colorado-grown items; the Chef’s box, intended for the home chef interested in high-end items; and the jewel of the lineup, the Pretty Ugly box, which goes even further to curb food waste. Offered only in the small size, the Pretty Ugly sells for $17. $1 from the sale goes to Denver anti-food waste nonprofit We Don't Waste.
Pretty Ugly options might include (as mine did) bruised-but-mostly-fine zucchini, an oversized and nicked bell pepper, (hardly) battered sweet potatoes or scarred—but still succulent—citrus fruits. As I prepped my not-that-ugly produce for a week of roasted veggie lunches (seasoned with a smoky spice blend of my own and the zest and fresh juice of the barely scarred limes), I found myself chopping off a few inedible bits of the damaged produce for my compost bin. As I did so, I thought to myself that I, too, would have picked over a bruised zucchini at the grocery store in favor of a more perfect specimen. And yet here I was, with a week’s worth of lunches, made from produce that might have gone to waste had it not been packaged at a discount for waste-wise consumers.
Boxes can be picked up at the Grower’s Organic Denver headquarters, 6400 Broadway, Unit 11, on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.