The Company's cofounders are Jim Epstein and Mark Seale. Blue Ridge Produce is located at 13200 Willow Run Drive, Elkwood, VA 22718
Jim Epstein's family has owned property in the northern Virginia Piedmont for more than 50 years. Over that time he has seen the agricultural landscape disappear, and with it a great farming tradition. As a real estate developer he understands the difficulty for farmers to hold onto their land as farm incomes dwindle and land values soar. In considering plans for the development of a village site in the heart of the Piedmont region, he began to imagine how his efforts could also protect and strengthen the local farming community by enhancing the local food system.
At a Social Venture Network conference in April 2009, a conversation with Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org brought greater clarity to the question of what direction to take. FamilyFarmed.org is at the center of the burgeoning local food movement, developing markets by connecting local growers with wholesale buyers. Jim and Jim began envisioning the development of a packing facility that would aggregate produce from nearby farms and supply it not only to the village, but also to buyers throughout the region. In July 2010, a feasibility analysis was completed which validated the demand for local produce for wholesale markets but also noted that production with the quality and consistency and quantity demanded of wholesale buyers was uncertain.
In May 2010 during the course of the feasibility analysis, Jim Epstein was introduced to Mark Seale who owns and operates Simply Fresh Produce, a fresh market produce retail outlet in Charlottesville, VA. Mark had been looking to further expand the wholesaling side of his business, so the two immediately saw that combining Mark's acumen for produce aggregation and sales with Jim's vision, financial and business expertise could lead to an important step in the local food movement, the creation of Blue Ridge Produce.
During the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2011 a business plan was completed and shortly thereafter the negotiation for the purchase of a 33 acre industrial site in Elkwood, VA was finalized. On May 2nd, 2011 Blue Ridge Produce opened its doors.
To create efficient and high-value markets which support the local farming community and increase access to healthy, locally-grown food. Blue Ridge Produce will focus extensively on providing training and technical assistance to growers, enabling them to enter into larger markets and increase farm incomes. It will seek B-Lab certification and operate under the principles of a Benefit Corporation although not eligible for Benefit Corporation status as an LLC.
Food Safety Certified
Blue Ridge Produce is dedicated to Food Safety and we are proud to announce that we have again have obtained an Excellent status by ASI Food Safety. This Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) audit is required by the Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR 110. The areas covered in this inspection include record keeping, personnel practices, equipment maintenance, sanitation procedures, complaint policies, allergen control, and HACCP Validation.
Products and Services
Blue Ridge Produce specializes in locally-grown fresh-market fruits and vegetables, both organically and conventionally grown on small- to medium-sized diversified farms. The Company has two primary lines of business: aggregation and production. Blue Ridge Produce will also own and manage leased space in the 33-acre commercial property where it conducts business.