PACIFIC PALISADES — Santa Monica may be home to countless Farmers’ Markets, but some residents have found another way to get their farm-fresh produce.

They’re utilizing community supported agriculture organizations such as Abundant Harvest Organics to have boxes of fruits, vegetables — even milk and meats — delivered to their area direct from local farmers.

“It’s a great organization,” Melissa Keane, a Santa Monica resident and Abundant Harvest subscriber said. “The food is so good and everything we get from there is so fresh.”

Keane has been receiving produce from Abundant Harvest for over a year. Every Saturday, she drives to Pacific Palisades to pick up her box of guaranteed organic items. All of the produce, which comes from an alliance of about 30 farmers, has been picked on either Thursday or Friday and transported in refrigerated trucks to ensure the utmost freshness and quality.

“You do definitely know exactly where it comes from,” Keane said.

Connecting farmers with consumers was Vernon Peterson’s goal when he started Abundant Harvest back in 2007. Peterson, whose family has been farming in Kingsburg — a city just southeast of Fresno — for over 115 years, wanted to make organic produce both affordable and accessible to the average consumer, while putting a face on the farmers involved.

“There are only two things that are important. That’s the family that grew it and the family that’s going to eat it,” Peterson said. “We want to bring it together as simply as possible.”

To do this, Peterson eliminated the need for storage, excess packaging and a vendor between his product and the consumer. By harvesting the products when they were ripe and hurrying them off to the distribution points in recyclable bins rather than disposable packaging, the process became both expedited and sustainable.

“We thought, ‘Well, shucks, if we can bypass this packing shed and go straight to and from the farm to the consumer, we could get fresh organic for [less than] what they’re paying now,’” Peterson said.

Subscribers pay a $22 box fee for the use of their two reusable delivery boxes and then either $33.80 or $19.80 a week, depending on whether they would like a large or small box. Beyond that, the program offers add-ons in the form of meat, butter, seasonings and soup mixes, to name a few.

At inception, Abundant Harvest delivered produce boxes to what Peterson describes as “50 intrepid families,” but word spread fast.

“It’s been a 100 percent word of mouth deal,” Peterson said. “We want to get the best value for the people … If we’re spending money on advertising, we would spend less on broccoli.”

By the end of its first year, Peterson’s alliance was distributing to over 1,300 people, a number that has now grown to just shy of 2,400 subscribers.

“We just have one system, and that revolves around the host,” Peterson said. “If you’d like to have it in your community, you get together enough people to make it worthwhile, and we start delivering.”

The hosts that Peterson is referring to are volunteers like Leslie Oliver. Oliver helps to distribute boxes at the Pacific Palisades delivery location where Keane and about 40 other subscribers receive their produce. If there are extra boxes, hosts donate them to local charity organizations.

“Most people that come in tend to team up with two or three other families,” Oliver, who lives in Pacific Palisades, said. “That’s another way of just kind of supporting each other.”

Oliver’s whole family often comes along to help out, with her 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons helping to hand out apples and milk. Aside from add-ons, the produce in the boxes is always seasonal.

“Eating in season is really important to me,” Keane, who occasionally hosts, said.

Even Keane’s 3-year-old daughter looks forward to the produce box, which gives her mom an opportunity to get her to try new things that she wouldn’t normally consider cooking. Keane especially remembers the turnips, delicious fruit in the summertime and popcorn straight off the cob.

“It’s kind of fun to get to explore new things and new recipes,” Keane said.

About two-thirds of what goes into the boxes is predetermined before the farmers even plant the seeds, eliminating over-harvesting and waste. Some farmers contribute hundreds of vegetables weekly, while others contribute just 30 persimmons per year. Regardless, all of the farmers are paid top dollar for their contributions. People can look online ( to get a general idea of what will be in that week’s box, as well as to get to know the farmers themselves.

“We’re trying to figure out how to fill that farm-shaped hole that’s in the heart of the urbanites in an efficient manner a la 2009,” Peterson said of the Web site, adding how gratifying it is to hear back from consumers.

If interest continues to grow, Santa Monica may soon be home to its own delivery location, making community supported agriculture even more convenient for residents. Either way, Peterson says he’s happy.

“What I’ve wanted to do all my life is create a company where everybody wins, and this is it,” Peterson said. “It’s fresh organic at a great price, and we’re just loving it.”

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