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Seasonal Roots Brings High-Tech Solutions to Richmond's Local Food Growers



Cynical marketing and the pursuit of fat profit are the foundation of American capitalism. Or are they?

There are some companies out there with more idealistic goals. One of them is Seasonal Roots. Begun in Richmond in 2010 as Farm Table, the company wanted a new name to inaugurate its new strategy — aggressive growth.

But that buzz-worthy phrase actually obscures the generosity of the plan — the seeds of which were there since the company’s inception.

Seasonal Roots focuses on one simple principle: connecting farmers with customers. Founder Duane Slyder noticed that at the markets he visited, the farmers were exhausted. They had to not only plant and harvest, but also to become salesmen when they took their products to all of the various farmers markets across the state each week. With a background in software development, Slyder thought he might be able to help them.

“He developed a proprietary software to solve for that last mile,” says Kat Costello, co-owner and marketing director. “He wanted farmers to be able to farm.”

The solution is that Slyder’s company delivers farm goods straight to its customers, rather than farmers taking their goods to market. And customers, no longer constrained by different farmers markets’ hours, can more easily order the products they need from home.

At the moment, Seasonal Roots has anywhere from 40 to 50 suppliers, depending on the time of year. About 480 different products are available within a 150-square-mile area around its Hanover County distribution center, according to Costello.

“We still have a wide, wide variety of produce,” Costello says, “but now we have artisans on board — we have four different bakers, we have four different orchards, we work with a couple different meat companies and dairy [as well].” Seven hundred boxes can go out to members in one day alone.

Billing itself as an online farmers market, the company delivers from Hampton Roads to Northern Virginia. And it has rolled out new, more intuitive back-end software to underpin its revamped, user-friendly website. Preferences that you set in your profile generate menus, and along with the history of the items that you’ve selected in the past, the site suggests other items that you might like.

The first step, as Seasonal Roots implements its new plan, is expanding into Charlottesville. It’s similar to Richmond — people love food, want to buy local and are looking for the convenience of delivery. “So many of our members are families with kids,” Costello says.

But what about competition with the farmers markets that inspired Slyder to start the business in the first place? Costello says that they talk to the market managers on a regular basis.

“We’re not really taking business away from them — we’re supplementing,” she says. “We offer a little bit more of a different variety than they can offer just because we can source from so many different locations.”