Courtney Tellefsen, founder of the Produce Box, is a voice and force for change
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Where are you from?
I grew up in Cary, just outside Raleigh. I went to elementary school in
Charlotte for two years at Providence Elementary. My dad still talks about how the principal remembered the name of every parent and child in that school!
Tell us about your family:
I have been married to my awesome husband, Glen, for 15 years and have known him for half of my life! He shares my passion for preserving the environment and leaving the world a better place for our kids, Mick and Chloe. Our furry family includes our eight year old calico cat, Tickle, and two rescue dogs, Roxie and Cooper. We also have three donkeys, a small group of nine cows, and a bull at our farm outside of Oxford.
Tell us about The Produce Box - what inspired you to start it?
In 2007 I was a stay-at-home mom with two children under five. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and decided to join a CSA (community supported agriculture plan). All set, right? Well after missing a few of the pick-ups and getting some boxes full of daikon radishes and kale that I couldn't beg my kids to eat, I thought, "There has got to be a better way!" I emailed my neighborhood listserv (remember those?!) and asked if anyone would be interesting in a pay-as-you-go system, working with a local farmer where we would deliver the fruits and veggies to you (oh and you would get to choose what you received). Soon afterwards, my kids and I were delivering Produce Boxes to my friends and neighbors!
What are you most proud of with your company?
I'm proud that The Produce Box is so much more than just grocery delivery. We are a VOICE FOR CHANGE and a FORCE FOR CHANGE in our communities across the state - encouraging families to consciously decide to eat local and in-season, and to value and appreciate the hard work our farm-neighbors do to bring REAL FOOD to our tables. It's not some nameless, faceless group our members are supporting. It's Dave's corn, Glenn's lettuce, and berries from Cal that they are buying: local farms and families that we all are helping to keep alive!
Best of all, we've been able to give back to kids and families in need, thanks to our members. We donate all of our excess produce (100-200 lbs) each week. Our members buy "community boxes" and "HERO boxes" that are distributed to families, police officers, firefighters, and teachers throughout the year. And this year we're working on accepting SNAP and EBT, as well as targeting low-income, food desert communities with lower prices boxes. I believe that we really are creating a new local food system that benefits all.
What are you most proud of in your life?
Focusing on raising my kids to be good citizens who consider more than just their own needs: the community, the environment, etc. The Produce Box is a great extension of that. It's not just something I leave the house and do during the day; it's a visible example of my personal values. I hope that's what I'm teaching them.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People are always very surprised to hear I'm not a great cook. You'd think with 10 years of working with produce, I'd know millions of ways to cook all those delicious veggies! I just rely on creativity and trial/error...most of the time it works. And when it doesn't, I'm lucky to have a forgiving family (ha ha!).