Veritable Vegetable is a trailblazer in many ways. The longest-running organic food distributor in the country, it was founded in 1974 as a worker collective-a part of the People's Food System, a group organized to create an alternative food system. Since then the company has helped drive demand for organic produce throughout California (and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Hawaii), influenced today’s organic certification standards, advocated for sustainable food and agriculture legislation such as an improved farm bill, and advised other organic distributors on successful business models. Veritable Vegetable’s revenues have grown from $45,000 in 1975 to close to $50 million in 2013, and it now serves a network of over 600 farms, grocers, cooperative markets, restaurants and schools.
Veritable Vegetable also led the way when it came to New Resource. Bu Nygrens, one of the company’s three co-owners, heard about the bank before it even launched. She and her partners recognized a fellow pioneer when they saw one, and jumped at the chance to partner with a financial organization that shared their values. When New Resource opened its doors in late 2006, Veritable Vegetable was its first depositor.
Building partnerships that enhance impact
“Unlike traditional banks, we feel New Resource understands us,” says Daria Colner, director of marketing communications. “That’s really important. We make business decisions based on our values and take a long-term partnership approach to our business relationships. So does New Resource. We support sustainable agriculture and environmental preservation. So does New Resource.”
New Resource has provided the company with two loans, both for investments that added to its impressive environmental credentials. A 2007 loan allowed Veritable Vegetable to expand production capability while conserving energy with state-of-the-art cooler systems, heavy-duty doors and specialized lighting. A 2008 loan funded the solar panels that now supply 70 percent of its energy. Veritable Vegetable also diverts 99 percent of its waste stream to reuse or recycling, and its net-zero-emission fleet of 32 trucks was awarded Green Fleet of the Year in 2012 by Fleet Owner magazine.
Pursuing the vision of a sustainable food system
Veritable Vegetable’s expansion plans are closely linked to its vision: sustainable food systems that give local communities greater economic autonomy. The company’s original credo, “food for people, not for profit,” is still core to its operation and translates into transparency in pricing, ethical business practices and wages, support for local food banks and wellness programs, policy reform advocacy and other sustainability initiatives.
Food distributors traditionally are seen as middlemen that offer only transportation and logistics, but as its long list of accomplishments attests, Veritable Vegetable isn’t one to stand on tradition. Co-owner Bu Nygrens says, “We want to use our creativity and imagination to reframe the role of a distributor to be a collaborator with others in support of a more equitable food system for everyone.”