Huron Farms to Tables: Deliveries connecting customers with producers
BY DENNY SCOTT
George Zoethout’s job delivering groceries through Eat Local Huron has been a unique experience offering him the chance to meet new people and spread the word about the company.
Zoethout started with the company in December, just after it had reopened following a devastating fire last summer, which he felt was the right time to start as he had to face the worst of the travel conditions right away.
“I work Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” he said, explaining he picks up a work van from Firmly Rooted Farm, just north of Blyth, which is one of the suppliers for the grocery service. “I pick up the van, and the farm is also a drop-off place for the northern producers. I pick up whatever the local producers have and start deliveries.”
He says that half the food is frozen and the rest is produce, so loading up the van includes coolers. With people having unique shopping schedules, and even having different schedules depending on the time of year, Zoethout said he visits between 28 and 50 homes over a day or two.
“If the travel is too long, I break it up into two days,” he said. “Tuesdays is the south part of the county and Wednesday is the north part.”
He said he travels over 200 kilometres a day, stretching from Wingham to Amberley Beach to Grand Bend and to Wroxeter, covering the whole county.
“It’s a joy to go through all the different parts of Huron County,” he said. “It’s beautiful, and I haven’t experienced all of it before.”
Zoethout got involved through a friend of his who was a part of the organization. He said it fit well because he was already working a couple days a week at Firmly Rooted. He didn’t start until December, however, as when Eat Local Huron initially opened he was working at another location.
“When they started operations, after the warehouse fire, I was available and said I’d do the deliveries,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”
He said the business seems to be growing, adding it’s very encouraging to see one or two new clients every week.
“In the summertime, we’re not as busy, as people have other sources to shop local,” he said. “But when it comes to the fall, that’s when we’re definitely going to see more people ordering…. It’s very encouraging to see new people added even in the summer.”
He said that, after garden season comes to an end and farmers’ markets close, people will be looking for the grocery delivery service featuring local produce more than ever.
While he has had fun meeting new people and enjoying the scenic routes of Huron County, the job hasn’t been without challenges, Zoethout said, primarily those caused by driving in the winter.
“I got stuck about four times in people’s laneways,” he said laughing. “I started to figure out where to park and what the van could handle.”