Founder of Vicky’s Fresh Food Movement, Norwood, Colorado.
Recognizing the distance most food was traveling to reach her community, Vicky used the insight she gained from her Master’s in Sustainable Food Systems and made it her goal to bring regionally sourced ingredients into her community’s kitchens. She provides local, fresh, sustainable agriculture products to Telluride by personally visiting farms across Southwestern Colorado and delivering the produce in her refrigerated truck. Working together with farmers, ranchers and artisans throughout the region, Vicki is making truly amazing contributions to support a healthy, productive food system.
Vicki is a 2020 Emerging Leader in Food & Ag Award recipient and took some time recently to answer some of our questions.
Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag (EL): Tell us a little about what you’ve been up to in the last 6-12 months? How (if at all) did 2020 and all its unexpected craziness influence your work?
Vicki Renda (VR): I’ve been operating my business for over 4 years, but since March 2020, things really blossomed regarding the number of customers and size of orders. This increase in demand sent me looking for more products and enough particularly popular items, such as greens, meaning I was calling farmers to see what they had to sell, if anything. Prior to March, I sold mixed farm baskets. These came in 4 varieties to meet different dietary wants & needs, and each type came in 3 different sizes for different household sizes. When the pandemic hit, I quickly pivoted away from these baskets and began selling purely a la carte. Thankfully my website / online store built through Squarespace / Shopify allowed me to make this transition relatively easily. This was a blessing in disguise, as this change in operations really allowed the communities I serve to hand pick the local food items they wanted, avoiding waste that tends to occur with CSA baskets where you don’t know what you will get, or may not like a particular item provided to you. Since March, I have also had to continually fine tune how I do the administrative tasks, sort orders, make deliveries, and run pick up locations. Additionally, I have had to hire more help and buy more freezer, fridge, and dry storage space. It’s been a wild ride, but this growth is what I had been working hard for for the 3.5 years prior to the pandemic. I am just glad that more people want to know where their food comes from now, and I think this change in folk’s purchasing behavior will hold due to the length of time we have all been affected by this new way of life.
EL: What lessons have you learned that you are taking into 2021?
VR: The biggest lesson that I am taking with me into 2021 is to sweat the small stuff less and less. There is only forward motion, so if something went wrong, find out the root cause of the issue and fix it for moving forward. You can’t dwell on any of it. Just be better going forward.
EL: What’s next for you?
VR: I operate almost year round. I provide to a small ski / resort town, so there is some seasonality to roll with in my operations that is slightly off from the growing season surrounding us, but other than spring when the resort closes and about 2 weeks in the beginning of November, demand is relatively high. So, what’s next is to just keep going. In the winter the variety of fresh items is certainly less, but I source from farmers growing greens in greenhouses, we still have access to winter storage crops, such as winter squashes, onions, storage apples, some citrus from Arizona, plenty of eggs, meats, bread, milk, cheese, jams, etc that keep my operation going.
EL: What gives you hope for the next year? Or, alternatively, what is your greatest hope for the next year?
VR: My biggest hope for moving forward in this line of work is that demand for farm fresh, local, and sustainably raised foods from people in our region remains high. This would allow our regional farmers, ranchers, and artisans to plant more, raise more animals, hire more help and plan better for future seasons. Our communities will be healthier both individually and collectively with better nutrition and stronger regional economies.
EL: Is there anything I should have asked you and didn’t that you would like to share here?
VR: Good question…Maybe, “Are you still happy with what you are doing?” My answer would be yes. I feel like I am a part of something that is so important and so much bigger than any individual. It’s humbling and an honor.