After 15 years in business, Urban Harvest Organic Delivery co-founder Lisa McIntosh is proud to know her company is channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars back to Okanagan farmers. And like the fruit and vegetables her company delivers, demand continues to crop up.
“This spring has been our busiest yet, and for several weeks we actually capped deliveries to avoid overshooting our storage and delivery capacity,” Lisa tells Okanagan Changemakers.
Lisa and her business partner David Nelson started the organic food delivery service with the goal of addressing a missing link in the food system – providing a convenient way for to customers to purchase local, organic food.
Customers can order fresh produce and other grocery items online, which Urban Harvest delivers directly to their door on a weekly, biweekly or flex basis. Starting with 30-40 home deliveries per week, Urban Harvest now delivers to more than 600 customers weekly and has an active customer base of more than 1,300.
The company employs 9 part-time team members and has developed strong ties with local farmers. More than 50% of all of Urban Harvest’s food is purchased locally. Local food purchases peak at nearly 90% in the harvest season, and the company works with more than 50 regional suppliers on an annual basis.
Lisa defines Urban Harvest as a values-based business. Values drive Urban Harvest’s decision-making even when it means less goes to the bottom line. For example, Lisa says they could buy certain foods from more distant locations and pay less. However, supporting local is a key goal for Urban Harvest, and as a result they’ll purchase from a local farmer knowing that this will ensure the farmer can continue to grow in the Valley.
When asked what the challenges are to building a values-based business, Lisa says it can be the expectation from the community to do more. For example, stakeholders have suggested expanding to other communities, wholesaling to restaurants, or embracing a more aggressive marketing and growth strategy for the business. While many of the ideas could be interesting areas for expansion, Lisa credits Urban Harvest’s growth and longevity (and her own personal sustainability) to focusing on their core business and doing it well.
Meanwhile, Lisa says it’s inspiring to see the local food movement continue to blossom in the Okanagan as many new and young people add their unique contribution. Lisa cites examples like Farm Bound, a new organic food delivery service serving the North Okanagan and parts of Northern B.C., to innovative models like Green City Acres, which does small plot intensive farming on multiple backyard urban plots, to Soil Mate, an online resource for consumers to connect directly with local food and drink producers.
“We are very excited to be part of this growing food web,” she says.
Urban Harvest is a member of Okanagan Changemakers