Alabama couple grow produce delivery service from the ground up
With summer in full swing, it’s the prime season for fresh fruits and vegetables. But who wants to get up at dawn on Saturday morning to make the trip to the local farmers market to buy produce?
That’s no longer necessary in the Birmingham area. In April, Will and Hayley DeShazo launched till, the city’s first-ever service that delivers produce fresh from the farm directly to your doorstep.
The DeShazos said their idea for an online market grew out of “selfish motives.” While they were dating, they loved to cook together and eat locally grown, healthy foods, but getting to the market became a hassle.
“We love fresh produce, but we don’t necessarily love the challenges of getting fresh produce,” Will said. “We had been spending every Saturday for the past several years at the farmers market, but it was always difficult to work our schedules around it. In January, we were having brunch, and we looked at each other and said, ‘Why is buying local food so difficult?’”
Now married, Will and Hayley began their search for a better way.
The Cahaba Heights couple have a background in marketing. Will also had learned a lot about the use of local ingredients while working as a waiter’s assistant after college at Hot and Hot Fish Club, one of Birmingham’s most exclusive restaurants.
With experience guiding them, the DeShazos began using Facebook and email to canvass people who enjoy eating healthy foods and to develop partnerships with local farmers. The response was overwhelming.
“We found that people not only wanted something like till in the Birmingham area, they needed it,” Hayley said. “There are stories of people who literally don’t have transportation to the farmers market, or who are disabled and can’t drive a vehicle to the market. There are people who work on Saturday mornings and can’t get to the market. We found everybody wants it, so we decided we’re doing it.”
Till offers a wide selection of produce, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, along with meats and pantry items, such as breads and baked goods.
The selection of available products is ever-changing, depending on the season, Will said.
“We update our website regularly,” he said. “We don’t want people to think they can only eat local in June, July or August. That’s so not true. Some of the best fruits and vegetables are found in the wintertime.”
Customers can order online for $12 a month or $99 a year. The delivery service is currently available to 10 Birmingham-area ZIP codes.
Free pickup is also available at the DeShazos’ drive-through location next to Doodles Italian ice in Cahaba Heights.
Ordering produce is easy. Customers can order online anytime between Sunday and Wednesday. When they sign up for the service, customers will receive an insulated bag, which they will fill with ice packs and leave on their porch on delivery days. On Saturday mornings, the till team delivers the goods and notifies you when they have arrived.
“Till is a metaphor for all of the options that the food industry in America gives us,” Hayley noted, explaining the premise behind the business’s colorful name. “We’ve been accustomed to getting the food we want, when we want it, without knowing where it comes from or what nutrients it has in it. Till is a metaphor for searching for all the options that are in the ground right beneath you, which is locally sourced food.”
Hayley added that spreading the word about the importance of eating nutritious food is a large part of the job.
“Teaching people to eat seasonally and change their lifestyle can be a challenge,” Hayley said. “We are used to having a wide variety of items available at the grocery store. But we have to realize that processed foods are lacking in nutrients and have been treated with pesticides that can cause health issues. But when you sacrifice these items and choose local produce, your life is changed.”
Realizing that thousands of Alabamians are going hungry every day, Will and Hayley are also giving back through their farm-to-door delivery service. They are donating a portion of the local produce to Grace Klein Community, a nonprofit that provides food to those in need. Customers can donate to Grace Klein directly through the till website.
The DeShazos said their favorite part of the business has been meeting their customers – many of whom have become friends.
“It’s fun starting at the grassroots level and getting to know our customers,” Will said. “We know that food is the one thing that connects everyone. Some of our best moments as families have been eating food around the table. Getting to know our customers while we’re still small is allowing us to create, pivot and tweak our service based upon our till members’ needs.”
Hayley said although Will is the entrepreneur in the family, she is thrilled that they took the plunge.
“I’ve never considered myself a risk-taker and probably would not have started the business without Will,” Hayley said. “But I’ve always been super-passionate about local produce and supporting Alabama farmers. Alabama is an amazing place, and you can grow amazing foods in Alabama because of our soil. I’m proud of the resources we have in our state, and I’m proud of our farmers and want to help people learn about the foods available to them.”
To learn more about till or sign up for the delivery service, click https://usetill.com. Along with ordering food, customers can check out the DeShazos’ recipe blog, which offers tasty ways to turn local produce into memorable dishes.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)