I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THIS IS GREAT.

On a 23 acre farm in the Black Dirt region of Upper New York State, farmer Rogelio Bautista is hitting home runs, not with a baseball bat but with a tiny purple eggplant.

fairytale-eggplant-slices_1

Bautista started growing this little beauty, early this spring and over the course of the season grew thousands of pounds of Fairy Tale Eggplants for meal-in-a-kit company Blue Apron.  Having Fairy Tale Eggplants as the main character here is appropriate since this is a little bit of a Cinderella story.  More on that later.

It’s not what you’d call a predictable living, that of a farmer, and that’s part of what makes farmers both heroes and nervous wrecks.  Too much rain and it’s a wash out, not enough rain and crops dry up and die.  Or maybe it rains which is great for the crops, but it also rains on farmer’s market day and no one shows up to buy any of the vegetables. You can see how a farmer could get a bit twitchy.

karen-with-swiss-chard

 

Just having my own little patches of garden I know what an insane amount of work it is to grow something as rudimentary as a bunch of swiss chard.  It’s not just a matter of sticking your finger in the soil and throwing in a seed.  You have to figure out what you can eek out of the earth in your climate, prep the soil, maintain it, weed it, get rid of pests and on and on and on until you value that Swiss Chard you grew to such a degree you consider bronzing it instead of eating it.

You can recognize farmers or vegetable gardeners in the grocery stores because they’re the only ones staring at an apple saying “This only costs how much???  You’re shitting me, right?“.

So now let me tell you about the Cinderella portion of this story.  It’s about how Blue Apron works.  It’s about their business model.

When I first started writing about Blue Apron I understood the basics of the company and the fact that their  produce is locally sourced.  It’s part of what I liked about them.  I figured locally sourced meant they fulfilled the vegetable orders for their meal kits from local warehouses.  So if you live in Northern California, Blue Apron would have a contract with a Northern Californian produce warehouse to supply them with ingredients.  Local.  Yay!

Boy was I wrong.

Here’s how it actually works.  In 2013 Blue Apron was founded by a dream team of 3, thirtysomething guys; Matt Wadiak, a chef,  Ilia Papas, an engineer and consultant, and Matt Saltzberg a Harvard M.B.A.  Right off the bat they started  getting their ingredients from small local farms.  But as the company grew, there just weren’t enough of the unusual ingredients they liked to use at the local farms.  The Fairy Tale eggplant for instance.

They had a recipe made up by guest chef Michael Anthony from New York City’s Gramercy Tavern to include in their meal kits but they soon discovered they couldn’t get enough Fairy Tale eggplants from local sources to include it in the recipe.  In the end they changed the recipe to include Zebra eggplants instead.  The Blue Apron team was bummed.

So they got to work on changing how they ran their business.  Blue Apron got right in the dirt.  Literally. They started creating farm partnerships with small family farms across the country.   Dr. Alison Grantham, Blue Apron’s  agroecologist, slips on her rubber boots and goes out to the farms to talk with the families about what they have grown successfully, what they’d like to grow and what could be grown factoring in things like bio-diversity and the long term health of the soil.

Rogelio Bautista is one of those farmers.  Together, he and Dr. Grantham decided his small farm would be ideal for growing the tiny Fairy Tale eggplants.  And the all female owned Ironwood Farm is growing pea shoots; thousands and thousands of pea shoots. The list of farmers is in the hundreds and not only is Blue Apron getting the produce they want, the farmers are selling their acres and acres of crops before they’re even planted.  So they’re getting a guaranteed income for the year which is almost unheard of for small family farms.  It isn’t all positive though, the farmers are losing something as well.  They no longer have their signature twitchiness.

fairytale-eggplant-slices-3-1

Blue Apron is actually working directly with local farms, trudging up and down their dirt rows, taking their suggestions and working together to come up with the menus they create for the Blue Apron customers.  Together.  Like a team.  Teamwork. Everyone getting their hands dirty.  In big business.  That’s so weird.

Why is this important?  Who cares if Blue Apron is helping out some farmers?

Consider what Brenda Schoepp says.

quote

Wanna be a part of it all?  Get Blue Apron’s meal kits delivered to your door whenever you want? Maybe even experience the magic of the Fairy Tale Eggplant??!!

The first 50 readers will get three free meals on their first Blue Apron order. Yup.

Just click here: http://34.gs/4kdv

If you want to take a look at some of their recipes you can have a look at all of them and USE them for free here.  Or you can take a look at my past Blue Apron posts where I made their Vegetarian Jamaican Chili and their Spicy Hoisin Turkey Meatballs.

Oh!  And why the name Blue Apron?  The company was originally called Part and Parsley.  But when chef Matt Wadiak joined the group in the early days he refused to create recipes for a company called Part and Parsley.  He wanted the meal-in-a-kit service to reference what French chefs in training traditionally wear.  A blue apron.

this post was sponsored by Blue Apron.

duh.

82 Comments

  1. Valerie says:

    Hope I am one of the 50 people for Blu Apron….checking in here in B.C. at 9:13 p.m.

  2. stephanie says:

    Is this available right across Canada?? If so, I’m in. If not, poop.

    • Karen says:

      It’s not Stephanie, but there are other meal services in Canada like this. I’m not sure what their business model is like in terms of local ingredients (to my knowledge Blue Apron is the only one that works directly with farmers like this) but I’ve heard other similar services in Canada are great too. ~ karen!

  3. Laura O. says:

    I bought this service for my mother, who is in her eighties, to try. She had complained that she got tired cooking, and I thought this might help her.

    She didn’t like it as much as she had hoped. Blue Apron sends the box of food stuffs and the recipe, but nothing is prepped. She said it just cut out the grocery shopping, which she does like to do as it gets her of the house. She still had to measure out and chop all the ingredients, and since all the recipes are new to her, it took even longer than just cooking her usual dishes.
    A service where everything is pre-chopped, measured and prepped is more in line with what would help my mom out. (I tried one that did all the pre-prep, but they weren’t in her area.)
    It would be nice if Blue Apron offered a pre-prepped box.

    • Karen says:

      I’ll let ’em know Laura O.! Certain things are pre-measured, like spices, but yeah you have to cut the vegetables, etc. (I personally like the prep work because that’s part of the cooking process, but I can totally see being over it by the time I’m in my 80’s, lol). ~ karen!

    • Chris says:

      Don’t know where your mother is located, but SupperWorks, if available in her area, might be work for her.

  4. Paula says:

    American only?

    • Karen says:

      Fraid so. For now anyway. 😉 ~ karen!

      • Gaeyl Kanter says:

        I live in Minnesota, U S . I ordered Blue Apron because of a previous post. I am still receiving their product . Possibly instead of complaining about your not just promoting Canadian companies they could take the food delivery business by the box and start it up in Canada. I appreciate your recommendations . Keep up the good work

  5. Melissa says:

    It’s an awesome service! But now I love it even more hearing their story! I love the whole “farm-to-table” fairytale story!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Melissa! When Blue Apron said they’d love another sponsored post from me I actually said no, that I was afraid it was getting repetitive for my readers after 2 sponsored posts already. But when they said I could write about whatever I wanted and it didn’t have to be a post about a recipe and I could talk about anything I wanted, I said yes! ~ karen!

      • Melissa says:

        I don’t see anything wrong about posting again on something you love and care about. We, as your readers, know you and what you are about, so we appreciate all the info from you!

  6. Jen says:

    Hey Karen, I love your blog so much. It always makes me laugh. One of the best things about you and your blog is that it’s Canadian. Which is also why I’m disappointed in your support of Blue Apron. I’m sure it’s a wonderful company, doing great things, but it’s not even available in Canada. I know you need to get sponsors, and get paid, but why not choose Canadian products and businesses to showcase to your American readers instead of the opposite??

    • Jo says:

      I do not mean any disrespect. I love reading your blog, but I agree. As a Canadian blogger, disappointed in tonights post for all the above reasons. I think I understand your motivation for writing it BUT …

    • Patti says:

      Hi Karen!

      I also love your blog, but I agree with Jen. I understand that you’re writing to a diverse set of readers and you have to appeal to each of them. I also understand that you are writing to earn a living, and thus you need advertisers, but, as a Canadian blog reader I am often left disappointed when blogs I love post about products which aren’t accessible to me. That’s one of the reasons I have loved your blog – I always feel included! So, while I could even wrap my head around a single post about Blue Apron, having multiple posts feels kind of yucky to me – considering you are also Canadian and have a large Canadian following. Just my two cents.

    • Kiara says:

      Chiming in. A lot of your sponsorships and partnerships are with companies in the US. If they’re even available to us, the exchange rate and shipping make shopping prohibitive. I hope you continue to partner with companies like Lee Valley Tools for Canadian posts!

      As a side note, I wish Blue Apron would come to Canada. If they ever do, I hope they use Canadian produce/meat as well.

      • Karen says:

        I actually have a post with Lee Valley coming up soon Kiara (complete with giveaway!) but the reason they can delve into the world of blogging is because they’re also an American company. ~ karen!

      • Carlene says:

        As one of Karen’s US-based advertisers (oooh, that made me sound so much fancier than reality, where I am typing this in sweatpants), I also wish shipping to Canada was cheaper & easier! I live in the US (three hours from Canada in Albany, New York) and consider everyone here my “Comment Friends”. I also know that a lot of Canadian readers won’t buy from me due to higher shipping rates, which cost me double or triple the cost of mailing in the States. I only sell greeting cards so the difference is something like $2.99 instead of $0.99, but still!! It’s a total bummer when I could practically drive the cards over the border.

        PS: Hi, Canadian “Comment Friends!”

        PPS: Karen, great article, the story was fascinating.

    • Karen says:

      I understand Jen, and I can tell you exactly why! The first reason is Because 75% of my readers are American. And the second reason is because Canadian companies will not pay for sponsored posts. And if they do, they prefer to do things like exchange product for the sponsored post. They do this for two reasons. Because they simply don’t have the big budgets of American companies and also because they haven’t yet really delved into the world of sponsored posts on blogs. So there you go. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • Patti says:

        Thanks for the insight, Karen!

      • Julie says:

        Hi Karen. I also do not mean any disrespect. I understand the majority of your subscribers is from the US. It appears a lot of your commenters are Canadian though!

        It seems that if you truly think Blue Apron is a wonderful product that you would be interested in providing an alternative for Canadians. Yes, I know that they will not pay you. But many of your posts are not sponsered. Even though we make up only 25%, I think we are worthy of consideration!

        Thanks for listening…love your blog…always refer to you as “my friend Karen”
        ***Julie

      • Christina says:

        If it makes the 25% feel better, 75% of us can’t get Karen’s amazing Blue Star range, because their affordable line is not sold in the US.

        Not to be stir anyone up, but I am amused when people complain because ads aren’t targeted towards them.

        Karen, generally I roll my eyes when I hear “blue apron” (from anyone, not just you), but you sold me here. If I could have been one of the first 50, I would have signed up.

  7. GC Lehman says:

    That’s an awesome way to do business and if they were (or are, haven’t checked yet) available in Canada I’d TOTALLY sign up!!

    Off to check out some of their meal plans and recipes and when they think they’ll be available in Canada.

  8. Jeannette says:

    Karen, you look like a Grecian goddess of the harvest in the photo, or the goddess of Swiss chard, specifically.

    I have really wanted to try Blue Apron, but kinda find it difficult to justify since I am retired & am at home with plenty of time to cook, which I do. I am definitely going to check out the recipes; thank you for the link.

    • TeresaP says:

      I have used the Blue Apron service when I lived in NYC and worked at home …as a single person, I appreciated that you could get meals meant for two that were pretty simple and inventive and delicious and healthy. I would cook once and have lunch and dinner :). I had just enough cooking to have fun and not have any real waste ….a problem when you get an entire head of lettuce etch and find that you have to go out of town at the last moment.

      I found myself eating a wider range of things because there were sometimes some unusual ingredients that I would never have bought a “real” size of.

      You might give it a think/try for a bit….just for some fun :). There is no such thing as too much fun

  9. Rebecca dubous says:

    Are they operating up here Canada?

    I remember your other posts about Blue Apron and the were USA only…

    Your chard looks lovely by the way lol – mine was wilted this year, no rain!!!

  10. Stephbo says:

    I’ve tried Blue Apron, and I’ve actually received some of those fairy tale eggplants! The food was all super fresh, and I loved that we had nothing wasted. We’re not great cooks, so it was nice to have some exposure to new ideas and cooking techniques. And I loved not having to shop for groceries!

  11. ncp says:

    I had no idea! This makes the whole Blue Apron thing sound so excellent. I’m trying it, even though I wish they had low carb selections. And you remind me why I don’t want to grow my own vegetables and I should keep going to the Farmers Market.
    Do your neighbors know you are out in your nightie picking chard??

  12. Rosemarie James says:

    Hard to tell the winner in this beauty contest. You or the chard. Apparently you don’t have earwigs in your garden. I have tons and am willing to share (big grin). My chard was loaded with “protein”. Hardy little critters but less than palatable. I think I’ll swap out for those wee eggplants next year.
    Love your blogs and your humor. Can’t wait each day to see what you’ve written.

  13. Stefanie says:

    Yes, please! Thanks for the Blue Apron education, I also thought they were only in the US.

  14. whitequeen96 says:

    You look like Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest, or Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth! Great photo!

  15. CarlyMae says:

    I tried to sign up at midnight Pacific Time and it gave me a $30 discount but the box was still $29 ($59 total) 🙁 I want to try it, and I know that $29 is still a good deal, but it isn’t as good as FREE!

  16. Maureen Locke says:

    Hi Karen,
    I love the concept of Blue Apron, especially with getting the farmers to specialize in products but alas, it’s not for me… even if it were available in Canada.
    I understand the disappointment from some of your readers because this is a US only company, but the way I look at it… you have US readers too and if you can help them, as you’ve helped us, why not?? Perhaps a disclaimer at the beginning would help those who don’t want to read a post about something that they can’t subscribe to because of location. ( eg. Offer available in the US only ) Myself… I loved reading how everyone in the company is benefiting from the way they do things. I’m not one bit disappointed in this post. 🙂 Enjoy your day even though Mondays suck.. lol

    • Jenny W says:

      I totally agree 🙂
      I found it quite interesting to read about Blue Apron, and how they do business with local farmers. We, as loyal readers, have to remember that Karen has readers from around the globe, and she also needs to be able to carry on with her business!
      Just maybe, Blue Apron will get feedback about how disappointed we Canadians are, and they will work harder at making their product available to us too.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Thanks Maureen. ~ karen!

  17. Amy in StL says:

    That’s great about their partnership with local farmers. Maybe they should work on improving working conditions at their warehouses. Please look into that before endorsing this company again. They’ve recently been in the news for deplorable conditions for local workers. Apparently they’ve grown so fast they no longer care about work conditions, just about getting the product out. If they were such a great company they’d care about those that work for them, not just about things that hipsters carew about.

    • Melissa says:

      Sadly, I agree. Also, I worry about eggplants from NY being shipped to CA to be bagged and shipped to FL or IL or wherever. I did try Blue Apron and loved the concept, but there always seemed to be something disliked by my picky family. Then I learned about the warehouse issues and was glad I quit.

  18. Wendy says:

    I’ve tried the recipes Blue Apron shared with you. Delicious & the turkey meatball one is now my go-to for pot lucks. Always a hit.
    Good for them bucking the trend that bigger is better, small & sustainable works too.

  19. Joanne says:

    Oh my goodness, everyone — RELAX!!
    If you don’t like it, don’t purchase it. And if something isn’t offered in your area, but you want to try it, look for something similar (there are a million other “blue apron” services – not as big, but just as interesting)!

    Karen, While I rarely purchase anything fron your posts, I LOVE reading about them, and hearing why you support the groups that you’ve chosen. It inspires me and gives me ideas. So thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Joanne! ~ karen

    • Kitty McCarty says:

      JoAnne, My sentiments exactly!
      Karen, even if one of your posts is not for me: not what like, not available in my area, or just doesn’t fit my lifestyle, I enjoy reading them. I like the educational factor. A motto I’ve repeated many times is “There shouldn’t be a day go by that you don’t learn something new”. Recently I added “and try something new”. Keep on doing what you do best.
      PS: and, of course, there’s THAT humor.

      • Karen says:

        Thanks so much Kitty. I thought it was a really good stand-alone post regardless of whether you use/could use the service or not, lol. And it looks like *most* everyone else did as well. 🙂 ~ karen!

    • Jenifer says:

      DITTO! Goodness!

      I LOVE that they support and work with the local farmers!! Thank you for sharing their story.

      I also enjoy your educational adventures…thanks for sharing them and being so upfront!!

      Keep it up! 🙂

  20. Mary W says:

    We’ve been getting Blue Apron for 6 months and LOVE it. Not only is the food really good, easy to prepare, and fun, but it cut down on impulse buying, eliminated hours of time spent shopping, and introduced us to many new flavors and meals. DELICIOUS! No more wasted food to throw out. One of the best decisions we’ve made. (No meal has been repeated and that’s a shame since so many were really worth repeating.) There have been a few I didn’t love, but still tasted fine. I’m impressed by the quality of the food. I adore eggplant and the little fairy ones are really pretty and good. So glad you told us more about the company – makes them heroes in my book. We began getting additional meals from Martha Stewart’s Marley boxes. They are fine with good recipes but Blue Apron is our favorite.

  21. Linda in Illinois says:

    That is nice of Blue Apron, I love the concept of from farm to table, I’m a back yard gardener, but Blue Apron is too sophisticated for me, too many ingredients and too fancy schamnchy for me and I am a simple girl. I like 3-5 ingredients so as not to mask the flavors of the real food, keeping it simple. Thank you to you Karen and Blue Apron and especially the farmers for giving every one a chance to expand their diet.

  22. Dawn says:

    I have tried out three meal delivery services so far- Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Plated- and so far my husband and I really like Blue Apron and Plated. Plated has way more variety but I think Blue Apron wins for food quality. I’m someone who loves to cook (LOVES!) and at first I thought getting a meal delivery service would make me sad that I wasn’t planning meals for the week but I’ve found it’s the opposite- it’s fantastic to get three meals that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, that will all take less than an hour to make, with exactly the right amount of ingredients so no waste!

  23. Erin says:

    You nailed the small farmer perspective, Karen. “Twitchy” would be putting it mildly given the drought this year.
    And the screaming person in the produce aisle is me – although I am usually screaming at the poor quality of the veg our grocery stores try to pawn off on us. (Don’t get me started on tomatoes.)
    It’s nice to hear a story about the cooperation of Blue Apron and small farmers.

    • Jenifer says:

      While I am not a farmer, I share your sentiments regarding tomatoes! You haven’t really eaten one until you can take it straight from the vine and eat it like an apple…HEAVENLY! I’ve never gone back to the grocery store for tomatoes since! I have developed a deep appreciation and respect for our small farmers.

      Much love to you and yours!

  24. Shawna says:

    Hi Karen,
    I’m so disappointed this great opportunity isn’t available in Canada! I’m surprised you would support something so passionately when you are Canadian and based in Canada. However, it does sound like an awesome company who are trying to do the right things for consumers and farmers. I guess I would find that hard to resist writing about as well:) Hopefully they’ll see all these comments and expand into Canada soon! Fresh ingredients and instructions delivered to my door twice a week sounds like a dream come true.

    Shawna

  25. TucsonPatty says:

    Karen – can I just say – I love you no matter what! Someone already said it – I love reading about anything you give to us. After all – it is *your* blog!
    I don’t enjoy cooking any more, I grew up on a farm and I am so done with stuff in the dirt, I don’t want to raise chickens, (been there, done that) but there is something in each and every post that speaks to me. This one stirred up a lot of passion for some readers for a subject for which I really don’t have an interest anymore, But I Still Loved Reading About It!! Thanks so much for your humor (humour) and grace under pressure. And the FREE education and edification! Many thanks. P.S. We all have to do laundry, and I love my balls! ; )

  26. JulieD says:

    What a great business model. I love it. Thanks for continuing to spread the word about the importance of supporting small farmers.

  27. Lynn says:

    As a Alberta born raised in B.C. Had baby in B.C. an in Ontario plus a Quebec born husband I guess you could say we are truly Canada born. That said I love your Blog . I learn something every time an you make me laugh. There is a lot of things the USA does we wish we had here, but in all truth I would not trade my Canada birth certificate for a USA birth certificate for any price. We are different in many ways yet same in many ways . The web has given us more idea’s an many new friends. Do not dwell on what you have not . Try to find a solution for the idea in your area of the world . It will make for a better place for all. Karen keep coming with your ideas / stories , your sponsors are people / companies you trust . We are here to educated / sounding board an we thank you for being you.

  28. Melinda says:

    I love the “glamour” gardening picture!

  29. maggie van sickle says:

    Thanks for info Karen. I see the adds on TV and I know it is not available in Canada but glad to know that the product they use is farm to table. Maybe this is a project for u. Blue Apron Canadian style. Just sayin.

  30. Ellen says:

    You can write about anything you like….I will read it, often guffaw, and always be curious as to what you will attempt and or write next. You are my absolute favorite blogger!!

  31. Mindy says:

    I don’t know if it’s on my end or yours, but I’ve been having trouble commenting lately. This is my third try on a tablet. I was originally only a few in line. Anyway, my original comment was, you can’t please em all.

    • Karen says:

      Well that sucks. What happens when you try to comment?? And true. And thanks! ~ karen

      • Mindy says:

        On my tablet, it freezes up. Not sure if it’s the pop up ad that interferes, the comment box itself, or what. I end up refreshing and starting over. Sometimes it works, sometimes it makes me want to pull out my hair and I walk away. On my desktop right now and so far so good. Attempting to post…….

        • Karen says:

          Hmm. Weird. I’ll ask my ad people, but no one else has mentioned the issue. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen tho! ~ karen

  32. Jamieson Cochrane says:

    I’m right chuffed by this! I used to not really care about these services because I buy fresh produce from farmers and St Lawrence Market in Toronto and cook everything myself anyway. However this business model is a miracle that I can commend! Count me as a new fan (from afar, in Canada).

  33. Annie says:

    Don’t know if I’m in the first fifty, but I’d love to try it!

  34. Sarah says:

    Hi Karen,
    I think your post is great! All this talk about whether it is available in Canada, what % of your readers are Canadian. . . It is so important to share knowledge and ideas! Our world is actually pretty small! So lets keep thinking about ways to work with food. It is really about the concept and not about ‘can we have that’. Just maybe your post will ignite a spark somewhere!! Wonderful stuff that company is doing and I am would love to know more! Thank you, Karen!!

  35. Toni G says:

    It has been driving me nuts, but it finally came to me. It’s eke not eek, as in eke out a living.

    Bet you already knew that and couldn’t think of it either! LOL

  36. Paula says:

    There were some options available to Toronto on CTV news tonight at 6pm. Eat Fresh (food delivered for meals but you still cook them yourself) and Eat Savage (Paleo Meals).

  37. Patty says:

    How does a farmer become a supplier for Blue Apron?

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