December is a special time of year for us here at Daily Harvest Express, and it’s a time when we feel especially grateful for customers like you.
It just so happens that December is the month when we celebrate our business’s anniversary. Yes, seven years ago on December 1st, 2011, my husband, Rafael, and I decided to pursue a crazy dream and open “Daily Harvest Market.”
We started as a popup farm stand inside of Sunshine Gardens, a nursery in Encinitas. The idea was to be a small farmers market that was open all week long instead of just one day per week.
Even then, our goal was to make it easier for local organic farmers to sell their produce and for busy people in San Diego to get truly farm-fresh foods throughout the week, not just when the farmers market was open.
We rented a shed from Sunshine Gardens inside their nursery and began working with a handful of local, organic farmers — many of whom we’re still partners with today, such as Dassi Family Farms, Sundial Farms, Smit Farms, and others.
We didn’t have any plans to be a home and office delivery service at that point; rather the hope was that people would come to us to get our farm-fresh produce all week long.
A year of challenges
After a year in business, it became clear we had a problem: our farm stand could only be open when Sunshine Gardens was open, so we had to close before people got off work.
Our business was losing money, and a path forward wasn’t clear. To make matters worse, I was diagnosed with melanoma and had to undergo treatment.
After a lot of soul searching, Rafael and I decided to close the business. However, one of our best customers – Ivonne – who just happens to be our daughter – had other ideas and begged us to stay open.
Moving Forward (and Locations) Together
The feedback we’d gotten from customers up to that point was “we want to buy from you, but you’re closed when I am off,” since we had to close at 5 pm along with Sunshine Gardens.
At the same time, an HR director at a large local company asked us if we could deliver fresh produce to their break room as part of their employee wellness program. “Sure, we can do that,” I said. Soon, other companies started asking us to deliver fresh produce and artisanal foods to their break rooms as well.
As part of our service offerings, we also delivered personal farm boxes to employees’ desks, so they could take farm-fresh produce home to share with their families.
A new door had opened…
We soon realized we couldn’t afford to run our business out of our current location. We needed something affordable and we also needed dedicated cooler space.
We found an old greenhouse that had previously been occupied by my old employer, Go Green Agriculture. I asked them if we could rent a corner of the greenhouse for $0.13/square feet, and they agreed.
Thus, we moved our illustrious company headquarters into a 20′ x 13′ section of an abandoned greenhouse. We splurged on astro turf floors (over the dirt), faux bamboo wall partitions, a small produce cooler, and our first GoDaddy website!
Daily Harvest Market was starting over as a delivery service and Ivonne came on as our lead salesperson.
Within the first month operating under our new business model offering “Fresh to Break Room” packages for offices, we did more sales than we’d done in all of 2012!
We soon had 70-80 regular customers. We asked Frank Inglis (who’d worked with Rafael for years) to come aboard to help with order processing and deliveries, which we were still doing using the family van.
Our big break
As our reputation spread among local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, new opportunities emerged.
In 2014, we met with the wellness coordinator at one of San Diego’s top-3 employers. We were soon asked to start a pilot program to bring a mobile farmers market to their employees at their office.
This was a daunting task, but we knew we could pull it off — and we knew that once we did it would be a massive benefit for all involved:
- Farmers – Our farmers would be able to sell more of their food without having to put on their marketing and sales hats.
- Us – We would be able to reinvest profits into more hires and equipment.
- Customers – Our customers would get to offer their employees the convenience and health benefits of farm-fresh food made easy and affordable.
Once the pilot program went even better than we’d all hoped, we were beyond excited about the opportunities ahead!
New name: “Daily Harvest Express”
At some point during 2015, Frank said, “we’re really not a market anymore, we’re a farm stand on the go… we’re Daily Harvest Express now, not Daily Harvest Market.”
Thus, Daily Harvest Express, LLC was born.
2015 was a huge year for our newly named company! Rafael designed our first mobile farm stand truck and Ivonne’s husband built it for us from a used truck we bought.
We now had a unique, customized mobile farm stand that could truly bring a farmers market experience anywhere, any time.
We won a $100,000 grant from the USDA to expand our mobile farm truck concept. The additional funding also allowed us to move to our current Carlsbad Gateway warehouse office location.
We soon had two new retrofitted mobile farm trucks, commercial delivery trucks, expanded cooler space, and REAL floors (no more astroturf!)!
We also hired two new part-time employees and also started a home delivery service with no delivery fee.
2016: Daily Harvest Express buys Naturally To Your Door
In 2016, we continued to expand our personal FarmBox, corporate breakroom, and mobile farm stand services.
As we grew, we were determined to never sacrifice the quality of our products or customer service. We were determined to maintain our 5-star Yelp customer reviews.
We were friends with a family-run “competitor” named Naturally To Your Door. The family who owned it needed to move out of state and sell their business, so we acquired their business and took on their two remaining employees and client base, further expanding our business.
San Diego County officially honors our efforts
In 2017, we were incredibly honored to receive official recognition from our client/partner, San Diego County and LiveWell San Diego.
That’s when San Diego County named November 2nd Daily Harvest Express Day, due to our “outstanding commitment to the enrichment and wellbeing of area residents.” Woohoo!
As our reputation and business grows, we’ll never lose sight of what matters: the growing network of local farmers and artisans we support and the people we serve with healthy, farm-fresh food throughout San Diego County.
Thanks to your incredible support, we’ve just been able to:
- double our office space
- double our cooler space
- bring more great people on to the Daily Harvest Express team
In 2019, we’ll be able to deliver record amounts of farm-fresh, organic produce and local artisanal foods to residents of San Diego County. We also look forward to getting more farm trucks, expanding our deliveries, working with more local farmers, and hiring additional people to keep things moving forward.
Two additional initiatives that we’ve started but want to improve on:
- Making good, farm-fresh food convenient and affordable for under-served communities.
- Expanding our donation services. We don’t want any food that’s left over after our mobile farm stand events to go to waist, so we work with a local pastor who picks up the excess every Tuesday and delivers it to local organizations who put it to good use (senior center, animal sanctuary, and others).
We can’t wait to see how the Daily Harvest Express story unfolds in years ahead, and we’re so thankful for your support over the years!
We love being a part of the San Diego community and working hard each and every day to make it a healthier, more vibrant place to call home.
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