Fresh Harvest, Atlanta’s source for local, organic produce and grocery home deliveries, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
Headquartered in Clarkston, Georgia, Fresh Harvest was first launched in 2012 by Zac Harrison and a small group of friends to reconnect Georgia to its food and farmers. In the years that followed, the organization doubled down on this mission and has since invested over $4.2 million dollars in Georgia’s local food movement.
“For me, it did all start with one meal,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s path to launching Fresh Harvest included a few big pivots and lots of miles on the road. As a young adult, he decided to tour the country as a musician rather than attend Georgia Tech as planned.
Five years later, craving a new direction, he took a cross-country motorcycle trip that landed him on a small organic farm on the California coast. In the days that followed, Harrison learned how to work and harvest the land and experienced firsthand the power of eating and sharing what you grow. The farm’s community would often host large meals where everyone would gather to pass the harvest down the table.
In time, Harrison knew that he had to head back east. He explained that there’s no music, podcasts or small-talk on a motorcycle. As he cruised the long ride back to Georgia, Harrison hatched a plan to replicate his powerful experience on that California farm for Georgians back home.
The vision was simple enough: provide Atlantans with quality baskets of local produce delivered at their doorstep with the ease of modern technology. But how to fill it? And how to deliver it?
Harrsion borrowed half of a warehouse from his father and financed Fresh Harvest’s first refrigerated truck from a family friend. He began touring every farmer’s market to introduce the idea to local farmers until they secured the Veggie Patch, their first participating local organic farm.
“We had 43 baskets in our first week of deliveries,” Harrison said. “They were all over the whole city; in fact, it was the same delivery map we deliver to now.”
Fresh Harvest’s success is contingent upon fostering a resilient community of local growers and buyers. There must be a vibrant array of local organic farmers to fill each week’s baskets, as well as a rich foundation of customers to purchase them.
“We are all dependent on each other,” Harrison noted. “That’s what makes the term ‘community-supported agriculture’ an action, not a noun.”
Fresh Harvest now partners with over 100 vendors across Georgia and the Southeast, with farmers regularly incorporating Fresh Harvest as an integral part of their annual business plans. While Fresh Harvest maintains the same delivery map as that first week, they have grown from their original 43 orders to over 5,500 Atlanta households receiving a basket (or more!) each week.
But it was not until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Fresh Harvest team realized the critical role they play in maintaining Atlanta’s local food system.
“During the pandemic, our farmers were worried because their restaurant and market sales dropped to just about nothing. [Simultaneously] our customers were legitimately concerned that they wouldn’t be able to access food for their families,” reflected Joe Spiccia, Fresh Harvest’s Content Director and six-year team member. “All we did was provide a platform for our growers to reallocate more of their produce to our customers who were demanding more than ever.”
Word spread quickly across Atlanta about Fresh Harvest’s solution, and in 2020 their customer base swelled. This growth gave farmers critical financial stability and customers a safe way to access local, healthy groceries.
Fresh Harvest has since cemented itself as a champion of Georgia’s local food community – a role they take seriously and approach holistically.
Their impact goes beyond supporting farmers to embracing sustainability across their operations. For example, all Fresh Harvest bins, foil and ice blankets are washed and reused each week, meaning a single customer’s bin has been in circulation for 7 years and reused at least 364 times.
Fresh Harvest is also committed to supporting their community of Clarkston, GA, touted as the most diverse square mile in the United States. Refugees make up 75% of the Fresh Harvest team, and Fresh Harvest established a subsidized market for the community, called Share the Harvest Market, that makes their local, organic produce more accessible for those in need. Fresh Harvest customers have the opportunity to contribute, and in 2021, customers donated over $130,000 in produce, equating to over 11,640 free produce baskets delivered to 320 families.
Why Buy Local
All it takes is seeing the bright orange yolk of a local egg sizzle on the pan to understand the power of local food. It just tastes better. And in this case, tasting better also means it’s better for you. All of Fresh Harvest’s produce is pesticide-free and nutrient-dense.
Beyond pleasing taste buds, buying local has an incredible economic impact on local communities. Each dollar spent means more local jobs for Georgia farmers, more investment in expanding organic farms, and, Spiccia notes, “maybe most importantly,…increasing access for all Georgians to enjoy quality organic produce.”
Lastly, buying local is an investment in our environment’s future. “Rather than purchasing conventionally-grown, chemically ‘enhanced’ food that destroys our topsoil and degrades the planet, we’re investing in the growth of regenerative farming practices that work with natural systems to rebuild our precious soil,” Spiccia said.
Sharing the Table
Harrison always looks forward to staff meals. Long tables are set up and decorated in the Fresh Harvest warehouse and the entire team gathers to feast on worldly dishes from employees’ home countries sourced with local ingredients. It is in these moments, as meals are passed and stories shared, that Harrison feels comfort that he’s meeting his mission.
“It’s so easy for me to connect that first meal in California to a staff meal today,” he said. “That diversity in vegetables, in crop planting, and in people sitting around a table together is something we’re so proud to have welcomed in.”
Fresh Harvest currently delivers weekly basket subscriptions to the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. Baskets range from small to extra-large, and always offer the opportunity for customization and add-ons like snacks, prepared foods, bakery items, dairy products, health and home products, and other food and pantry items.
To learn more or register with Fresh Harvest, visit www.freshharvest.com.