Grower’s Organic LLC
Founded in 2005, Grower’s Organic LLC (Grower’s Organic) is an organic distribution organization working specifically with small and local farmers. The seed that eventually bloomed into the company began in the ‘90s when Brian Freeman, president of Grower’s Organic, provided marketing services for some independent farmers.
“While doing marketing, some farmers expressed interest in starting a company,” says Freeman. “The timing for this venture was finally right and in 2004, I decided I was ready to leave banking to go back to the world of produce. Eventually we decided to take the company to a regional level and started bringing in growers from all over the states.”
The mission of Grower’s Organic is to highlight foods produced by small and local farmers, while also holding true to the company’s values of organic sustainability and environmental stewardship. To accomplish its mission, the company only purchases certified organic produce from more than 50 farmers located both around the company’s base in Colorado and the West Coast region at large, and Grower’s Organic then sends that produce to a regional customer base of retail stores, restaurants and cooperatives.
“Our distribution has grown regionally to such states as Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska,” says Freeman. “People come to us because we’re trying to do the right thing and they want to come onboard. Organic certification standards keep being reduced and we like farmers that are continuing to do the right thing.”
As of 2014, the company sells produce to approximately 70 retail operations, 200 restaurants and 10 wholesale accounts. “We’re doing more and more fruits and vegetables, in addition to bringing in more specialty organic items, like dandelion greens, puntarelle and sunchokes, into the mainstream,” says Freeman. “To compete with the conventional market, we’re constantly searching for new organic varietals of produce, whether it’s tomatoes, squash or zucchini.”
Forward-thinking Food Distribution
Freeman takes pride in the fact that Grower’s Organic is one of Colorado’s 100 percent organic produce distribution companies. More importantly, Grower’s Organic maintains personal relationships with each and every farmer, so that the company can learn more about a farmer’s needs, processes and products. All of this helps the end-consumers who eat food from Grower’s Organic, because the company can properly monitor both farms and food for quality.
This attention to detail extends further than the company’s products, too, as Grower’s Organic tries to ensure every facet of the company falls in line with the environmentally-minded mission statement. For example, the company recycles approximately 75 percent of post-consumer waste and has plans to construct a greenhouse to serve as an educational platform for students to learn about the importance of organic produce. “We also volunteer a lot of hours to farms and schools,” says Freeman.
Accomplishing so much in an industry that fights against the mainstream tides requires an extensive amount of support, especially from individuals within the company. For this reason, Freeman admits to constantly striving to hire passionate like-minded individuals who believe in the company’s mission.
“We’ve been looking outside of the industry for talent,” says Freeman. “A lot of people in the produce industry are old school, and when we realized we were doing things the old way we decided to bring in new management to evolve the company.”
Along with the new management also came an extensive overhaul of the company’s computerized logistics systems. “We bought Thyme Software from Fresh Software Solutions and implemented the software about a year and a half ago,” says Freeman. “Since then, we’ve found a lot of organizational ability through using the software that we hadn’t had previously. We were using more of accounting-based software and it just wasn’t working out.”
In the organic produce industry, every little bit of advantage is crucial, which is why Freeman focuses so much on bringing in the best talent, utilizing the most efficient software and buying goods from farmers who care. His company needs a solid foundation to see success. “We’ve already seen a lot of that,” he says. “Last year we grew 20 percent, though it’s usually 35 percent or better.”
Freeman wants to keep the company moving on a progressive path, which is why Grower’s Organic has expanded into additional organic markets, including dairy products, dry spices, meats and local eggs. “We’re trying to at least do a little bit in every food category,” he says. “We want to provide farmers with more opportunities to sell and take care of the small retailer.” This allows customers to find a diverse grouping of organic products from a single vendor, ensuring a consistent service level.
An important thing to note is Freeman’s constant focus on turning every decision, every change and every action of Grower’s Organic back onto the benefit of farmers. Grower’s Organic’s roots are firmly entrenched in the organic industry, and the company’s sole existence is to empower farmers looking to provide the public with more wholesome, natural products.
“The interest from customers and farmers continues to build, too,” says Freeman. “Clearly the organic movement just keeps growing.”
True to the title, the company is at the forefront of that growth, providing people across the nation with outstanding organic foods, and Brian Freeman sees Grower’s Organic LLC continuing well into the future.