A Q&A with Mother Earth Food Co-Founder Andrea Duvall and CEO Janelle Tatum
Edible Asheville: What can a customer expect to get in their Mother Earth Food boxes right now? And what about when the season really ramps up in summer?
Andrea Duvall: With the beginning of spring, we start to see local strawberries, asparagus, and sugar snap peas grace the bounty of our bins. Our lettuce mixes ramp up along with other leafy greens from Greenshine Farm [in Marshall] and Ivy Creek Family Farm [in Barnardsville]. I look forward to local salads and spring frittatas made with our local, pastured eggs from Darby Farms [in Union Mills] and goat cheese from Three Graces Dairy [in Marshall].
Throughout the entire summer, we will see things like summer squash, sungold cherry tomatoes, crisp green beans, and sweet corn. When we eat directly from the field, we remember how our food should taste; we are nourished all the way through. One of my favorite produce experiences in the summer is eating sweet corn, raw and straight off the cob. It is so sweet and juicy, and it reminds me of the feeling of smelling fresh-cut grass!
EA: Do you get just as excited as we do when we see our weekly box on the front porch and open it for the first time?
AD: When I open my bin each week, it feels like Christmas morning! I can literally feel the living essence flowing from the products, and I love the sensory experience of smelling all of the greens, berries, cheeses, and herbs. It feels like the best of the farmer’s market—all included in one package. I especially like receiving items that I wouldn’t normally buy, or that I’m unfamiliar with. It makes me feel like I’m learning about the bounty of our region and expanding my culinary skills.
EA: How do you incorporate your weekly Mother Earth Food delivery in your meal planning or prep?
AD: As a busy mom of a six-year-old, I am always looking for quick and healthy meal options for the week! Once I see what is coming in the bin [which is sent by email a few days before the delivery], I can create my weekly meal plan around the seasonal offerings from our local community. Mother Earth always offers staples such as carrots and hummus, celery and almond butter, blueberries and yogurt for the best snacks for all ages! Some of my favorite dishes to make are very simple. I love our wild-caught salmon from Alaska, with spices from [Asheville-based] Spicewalla, alongside roasted broccoli or a veggie medley mix.
EA: What’s the most memorable thing you’ve heard from your customers?
AD: We love hearing the excitement from our customers about getting products that are grown, raised, baked, cooked, or brewed so close to home! We put so much love and attention into gathering the best of the best from local vendors and farms, and our customers love having a “one-stop-shop” that they can trust. Instead of driving around to five to six different places, our customers can shop from one place, online, and have it delivered to their door!
EA: Janelle, this question is for you. You became CEO of Mother Earth Food just two years ago. What is your background and how did you come to Mother Earth Food?
Janelle Tatum: I came to Asheville after living and farming in Virginia for over 20 years. My ex-husband and I had a 140-acre farm in southwest Virginia and were raising pastured cows, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep. We developed a Certified Humane USDA processing facility, marketing, and distribution business. We eventually got to the point where we were contracting with other similarly modeled, small farms to aggregate supply and meet the demand of restaurants and farmers markets in DC, New York, and Charleston.
All this to say, I am very familiar with the struggles of farming. The weather can be fickle, the land can demand a lot from our bodies, and there’s no shortage of work to be done. But it’s a labor of love, and most farmers are unbelievably passionate about what they do—especially in our community in Western North Carolina.
One of the primary goals at Mother Earth is to provide our local farmers with a consistent source of revenue to help stabilize their businesses. A lot of farmers enjoy going to farmers markets and interacting directly with customers, which is awesome! But even that can be inconsistent, particularly if it’s rainy or cold. We try to be one thing in their business model that stays constant.
When I came to Asheville and found Mother Earth Food, I felt an alignment of mission and values. I believed I could lend a hand and contribute some good business skills I had painstakingly acquired.
EA: Andrea, you serve as the Produce Procurement Manager, which means you get to interact with local farms and vendors. Any memorable experiences you can share?
AD: I absolutely love working with our local community of epic farmers. I love to feel the consistent passion for local food systems flowing through them. Most of our local farmers are devoted to new ways of health and seasonal nutrition, and I feel so blessed to be a part of their dream. Our goal is to have small, local farms grow with our growth. We want to connect as many people in our community as possible with our local farms through the convenience of online ordering and home delivery. I see this bridge between farmers and customers as the ultimate win-win in this community.
EA: Mother Earth Food grew pretty quickly during the pandemic, when people were looking for ways to eat fresh, local food without leaving their homes. How do you sustain that growth?
JT: In 2020, we grew over 450% to accommodate the need for linking local supply and demand. Now with the pandemic waning and all of us opening our lives back up, Mother Earth Food is dedicated to helping folks not go back to anything that was considered “normal” before. I’m happy to say our subscribers are renewing with us, which means they value nutrient-dense food that is produced regionally and grown in sustainable ways.
By choosing to use our dollars to support our community, we are making a small decision which has huge ripple effects. We are not a single entity, but are made up of over 300 small farms and food vendors that we proudly honor. And we are not in competition with our local farmers markets; we are simply yet another viable outlet for all our vendors. Come rain or shine, we are delivering their goods to the front doors of our customers. Our current plans are to continue to expand our delivery areas, deepen our producer networks and product offerings, create superb customer experiences and promote the intrinsic value of local food systems.
Sign up today to start your weekly deliveries at motherearthfood.com!
Janelle Tatum and Andrea Duvall of Mother Earth Food