As part of this effort, Veritable Vegetable believed it was important to promote sustainable agriculture and to extend the community’s understanding about organic food and agricultural issues. The company’s founding principles, proudly proclaimed on its website, include collaboration, cooperation and interconnectedness, and it remains committed to the original unifying principle of the People’s Food System, “food for people, not for profit.”
Guided by Evans and fellow co-owners Bu Nygrens and Karen Salinger, VV takes pride in its values-based approach as a model for all business decisions. “We’re fundamentally focused on how we interact with the environment,” Evans says. This is apparent throughout the company. VV operates three warehouses in the San Francisco area, one of which is equipped with 570 solar panels on its roof that offset 70% of the electricity used at the company. Veritable Vegetable also sends only 1% of its waste to landfills, recycling or reusing the remainder.
According to David Benson, produce manager at Briar Patch Community Market, a natural food market in Grass Valley, CA, what Evans describes is truly the way Veritable Vegetable operates. “It’s about farmers, it’s about customers,” Benson says, adding that VV delivers four times a week to the market. “We support them with the lion’s share of our business. When I train new produce clerks, I tell them [Veritable Vegetable] is responsible for family organic agriculture in California because they’ve been with the family farms since the beginning.”
Benson, who worked as an order picker for Veritable Vegetable, says one of the keys to their success is with whom Veritable Vegetable chooses to do business. “One of the things I noticed when I was pulling [orders] for Briar Patch was Veritable always picked the best growers,” Benson points out. In addition, VV also genuinely cares about those growers, according to Kerri Williams, produce manager at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. “I really enjoy working with them rather than other companies because it’s about the farms with them,” Williams says. “They facilitate the farms to make sure we get the product we need. ”
The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, which first opened its doors in 1973, expanded through the years, including a major relocation and expansion effort in 1989 that placed a renewed focus on organic produce. In fact, Williams points out that the co-op has the largest organic produce department in the U.S., and almost all of that produce is delivered by Veritable Vegetable six times a week.
“They were very instrumental in the growth we’ve had here at the co-op,” Williams says. “At the time we started, we weren’t that into organic produce, but then we doubled our size [and they were right there to help us.] They have bent over backwards in every way to help us.”
To help further its sustainable mantra, if you will, Veritable Vegetable looks for environmental opportunities where they best fit. And that even extends to the packaging it uses to secure product to pallets. The company is currently testing a reusable wrap from Pallet Wrapz, which would eliminate a large amount of plastic waste. “Basically, it wraps straps around the pallet and you Velcro it down,” says Chris Adams, transportation manager. According to Pallet Wrapz, the product can be wrapped around a skid and tied down and then unwrapped in less than a minute, saving labor time. The company goes on to say that the product, which can be used up to 1,000 times before it needs to be replaced, can save a company up to $300,000 a year in labor and materials if it wraps 500 six-foot pallets a day.