When Ashley Tyrner’s marriage fell apart, the then 27-year-old found herself in a tough spot. She was pregnant, on food stamps, and trying, mightily, to fill up on nourishing, organic foods. “I wanted to eat the best for my daughter,” says Tyrner. “But it’s such a challenge doing that on a limited income.”
That struggle would become the roots for Farmbox Direct, the delivery service that ships USDA certified organic fruits and veggies throughout New York City—at non-cringeworthy prices. And this summer, Tyrner’s other baby will take its first steps toward becoming a nationally-known name.
A city girl, with farming roots
Though Tyrner, 30, now lives with her three-year-old daughter on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, farming is in her blood. Both of the native Midwesterner’s parents were into agriculture—her dad had a big time soybean farm—and she remembers doing things like canning vegetables as a young girl.
But after Tyrner’s marriage ended, she moved to New York City to work as a business manager for a fashion company, where she regularly put in 16 hour days. Finding time to buy fresh, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables for herself and her daughter was hard, and an exhausted Tyrner recognized a need to make it easier for city dwellers. She sold her percentage of the fashion biz and, with the proceeds, launched Farmbox in late 2013.
An organic obsession
While buzzwords like “sustainable” and “local” are important to Tyrner, her top priority with Farmbox is the big O: “Everything I do is USDA certified organic,” she says. “That’s what makes me stand out from other boxes.”
Customers select from small, medium, and large produce boxes of just fruits, vegetables, or both, and get five substitutions per week. (She also has boxes for those who just want produce for juicing.) She sources locally as often as she can, but for things like avocados and bananas, it’s not possible. “New Yorkers really like their bananas and they’re not afraid to tell you about it!” Tyrner laughs.
Farmbox also sells organic groceries like yogurt and eggs, and makes an effort to keep prices on all of its products relatively low. A small box, for example, starts at $32.95.
A bigger stage
In July, Farmbox will make its first moves on the national stage, releasing a monthly subscription box stocked with seven to 12 packaged goods—everything from popcorn and cookies to rice—that will ship out on the 15th of the month. Prices will range from $20 to $30, and you can elect to continue ordering any of the products you need in every delivery.
“It’s designed around the idea of transitioning to make your house USDA organic,” Tyrner says. “For people, say, in Kansas, who want to be organic but don’t have access to a ton of different health food places, I think the subscription box will be very helpful,” she adds.
This summer, Farmbox Direct is also launching its fruit-and-veggie box in Los Angeles—something Tyrner hopes to take national one day. “I can definitely see me moving to the Chicago area, or the St. Louis area,” Tyrner says. “I would love for this to be in every major city, so it’s feasible for everyone in the next five to ten years.”
But her top priority will always be to keep organic in reach for all budgets, which she does through cultivating relationships with farms, buying in bulk, and not worrying too much about her profit margins. “My main thing is to make this affordable for everyone,” she says. “I don’t think that just because of your bank account, you shouldn’t be able to eat healthy.”
For more information, visit www.farmboxdirect.com
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