How It All Started
Several years ago I noticed an abandoned apple orchard just outside the village of Crozet. I couldn’t let all of those apples go to waste, so despite a thick understory of briars and brush (and no idea what I was gonna do with all those apples), I began picking.
I soon learned of an old family apple cider mill in the Shenandoah Valley that let me bring in my apples for a big pressing. The result was a crisp, delicious, and tart cider completely unlike the super-sweet stuff found on most grocery shelves. After first sharing the bounty with friends and family, I began selling cider at farmer’s markets and soon found that I couldn’t keep up with demand.
A little while later, I decided to grow pesticide-free tomatoes for local chefs. Like the cider, tomatoes began as a hobby but soon became so popular that, once again, I couldn’t keep up with all the demand.
I started asking some local farmers if they knew anyone who was growing spray-free tomatoes. Finally, one said he’d heard about a community of Old Order Mennonites living in the Valley who had just started an auction to offer up their surplus fruits and vegetables.
The next week I arrived at an old equipment shed in the middle of a corn field. The Mennonite men, women, and children were all attired in traditional dress, and many had arrived with horses and buggies. While I felt like I’d stepped backward in time, I realized I was stepping forward in taste.
I bought so much produce that day I could barely fit it all in my car. The next week I borrowed a pickup truck, and within a month I went from servicing about five restaurants to about twenty-five.
One day, in 2005, while making my deliveries a Charlottesville mom happened to see the bumper crop in the pickup truck. A member of a CSA, she revealed that she found herself disappointed with the CSA’s lack of variety and volume– and that she knew forty other mothers who would love to get great produce every week. And so a seed was planted.
I realized I could select from over 100 family gardens and orchards to bring back a huge array of wonderfully fresh food. And thus began Horse & Buggy Produce. In 2010, we began delivering to Richmond. We’ve gotten requests to come to Northern Virginia; and while the notion is tempting, we want to make sure that we pace our growth so that no matter how big we get, we maintain the commitment to bringing folks produce that’s fresh-fresh-fresh (12 to 48 hours young) and local-local-local (grown no more than 100 miles from Charlottesville).
I hope you join me in celebrating the amazing variety, great health, and joyful flavors of eating locally.~Brett Wilson, Founder