Having homegrown veggies and fruit delivered to your house seems like a luxury, but for 6,000 Cincinnatians/Northern Kentuckians, receiving a green bin filled with a mixture of both locally and nationally grown produce actually supports the community, reduces carbon footprints and advances environmental initiatives for future generations.
Green B.E.A.N. (Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture and Nutrition) Delivery started in Indianapolis in 2007 and came to Cincinnati in 2009. Two years ago, they leased 50 acres of land from the Cincinnati Zoo, which owns 500 acres of sprawling and bucolic land in Mason called EcOhio that was willed to it 10 years ago. The zoo accepted the land on two stipulations: It can’t be sold and it has to remain in an agricultural state forever.
“For us to be partnered with someone like [Cincinnati Zoo] in the community was the first piece to this,” says John Freeland, vice president of Green B.E.A.N. Delivery. “And then to have an opportunity where we know that the land really can’t be taken away, it’s going to be here for a long time, we look at it as a really good chance to build what we coined the ‘last farm standing.’”
Freeland met Green B.E.A.N. co-founder Matt Ewer at Indiana University, and when Ewer and his wife Beth Blessing moved from the West Coast back to the Midwest, Ewer asked Freeland to head up business development and logistics for Green B.E.A.N. The company has expanded into Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, parts of Kentucky and recently St. Louis.
At EcOhio, Green B.E.A.N. harvests vegetables such as delicata squash for humans, but they also grow romaine lettuce for the zoo’s manatees and a variety of hay for the other zoo animals.
In the spring, EcOhio will complete their organic certification and Carriage House Farm recently introduced eight beehives to the property in order to increase pollination and make honey; so far, the bees are thriving. Eventually, Freeland would like to see an adjunct educational center so school kids and young farmers can learn about all the stages of agriculture.
The organic and locavore movements have gained a lot of traction in the past few years but for Green B.E.A.N. it’s not a trend — it’s a permanent fixture in our community.
“At this point for us, the proof’s in the pudding,” Freeland says about sourcing locally. “I don’t think it’s so much a cutesy thing to do as it is that consumers are just changing the way they think. … By building a network of farmers and artisans, we’re really looking at it from the factor that local food security for us equals regional food security which ultimately equals national food security.”
Green B.E.A.N.’s food warehouse is located in Arlington Heights, Ohio, which is where farmers drop off their goods; the green bins are packaged there the morning of delivery and are shipped out that afternoon. With 2,700 deliveries a week, things can get a little tricky.
“We think of ourselves behind the scenes as really a logistics company,” Freeland says. “We move and shuffle product in so many different ways and ultimately it shows up in this nice, clean little package at our customers’ house, but there’s so much that goes into how we route deliveries, how we get the food from A to B.”
For home or office delivery, customers go online and decide whether they want a weekly or bi-weekly delivery, then they pick their “standing order,” which is a small to large-sized produce bin filled with an array of veggies and fruits. For a per item fee they can add groceries like Pomery, Ohio’s Snowville Creamery products, local meats and snacks. A small bin can easily feed a household of two, who are encouraged to stay home and cook.
“When I know I’ve got that head of broccoli in my fridge, I’m much more apt to consider just thawing out some chicken breast and making a quick meal as opposed to stopping by and getting a pizza,” Freeland says.
Basically, what Green B.E.A.N. and EcOhio are cultivating now will provide sustainability for the future. They want to be looked upon as leaders, and with charitable programs like Childhood Food Solutions and their recent partnership to provide food to under-resourced Northern Kentucky University students, they’re also teaching the community how they can subsist on healthier options.
“With this farm, our end goal is to build an ecosystem that will be here long past you and I standing here having this conversation,” Freeland says. “That’s kind of our goal is to keep working our butts off and continuing to try and make a difference and set things up for the future in the right way.”
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