“People want to know their food better these days,” Bill Taylor says.
“About six months ago, a tipping point seemed to occur,” says Taylor, co-founder of local food distribution company Eat Local Eat Natural. That’s when people started calling them instead of the other way around.
“We get one or two new customers calling us a week now, which is kind of amazing because we don’t really do any sales,” says Taylor. And many of those callers seem more concerned about how local, organic, or humane their food is than how much it costs.
Taylor–who runs the company with Scott Aikens and Tim Redmond–describes its products as “beyond organic.” Most of the farms that produce its meat, dairy, and eggs are located within sixty miles of Ann Arbor, and none is farther than 150 miles. And its standards go beyond the requirements of certified organic food to include a range of sustainable practices: giving animals access to the outdoors, pasturing cattle, and using nearby processing facilities.
Taylor started the company in 2008 because “commercial distribution of local natural food was an area that was not being served.” Chefs and grocers could buy directly from farms, but the time commitment and local knowledge required was “too complex and daunting for a lot of [them],” Taylor says. Eat Local Eat Natural swooped in to close that gap.
Now, Taylor says, ELEN is adding a new supplier every month, and delivers to fifty restaurants, grocers, and other food retailers a week. For example, some of the chicken and pork raised and processed at Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, Indiana, gets cooked up at Grange and eve restaurants. Free-range eggs from Sunrise Poultry in Homer, Michigan, are sold at Arbor Farms, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, and Plum Market.
Taylor estimates that sales have increased around 70 percent in the last year–enough that he’s had to buy a second refrigerated delivery truck.