Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 18th 2014

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DIY Food Makeover

By Jennie McKeon

If you can’t enlist the expertise of Jodi Brown, you can still shop for fresh foods locally, with little to no hassle.

Many folks are happy to see Flora Bama Farms selling fresh produce again since it re-opened two months ago. Sandy Veilleux, co-owner, said there were many people who came up to her to share their excitement of shopping at Flora Bama once again.

“It has a cult following,” she said.

Veilleux and co-owners Barbara and Barrie Williams—with the guidance of Janet Etheridge at the Small Business Development Center—are not only bringing back what has been missed, but also adding to it.

“The customers like their basics,” said Barbara Williams. “But we’d like to introduce them to new things, too.”

“We’re reaching out to farmers,” Veilleux added. “We want to have the farm-to-chef or farm-to-table aesthetic.”

At Flora Bama Farms you will find familiar Pensacola products such as East Hill Honey Co. and Keens Beans, and as much local produce that Flora Bama can find.

“There’s great farmers everywhere,” Veilleux said. “We try to buy local produce. We like putting a face on the food.”

“And highlighting the farmers,” Williams added.

With just five employees, Veilleux finds herself working the sales floor, which she doesn’t mind. As a self-professed “food dork” she enjoys seeing what people buy and how low the cost is.

“When I started ringing people up I realized I was feeding people at such an affordable amount,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”

And they’re not just helping the community by selling good food, but through donating too.

“Barbara was already a part of the Four Blades of Grass and just recently we donated to Global Learning Academy,” Veilleux said. “We also donate imperfect goods to the Waterfront men’s shelter.”

There are plenty of perfectly good reasons to shop for local produce and goods, but Williams points out the best one.

“It just tastes better,” she said.
For those time-crunched people who venture to grocery stores in the middle of the night, there is a way to make good food more accessible.
Jen Barnett and Sam Brasseale both wanted to eat more fresh, but couldn’t find much in Birmingham, Ala., where they live. As web experts, the set out to create a website that allows people to shop for their produce online and choose a pick-up location. After winning a new business competition, Freshfully launched in November 2011 and has been growing since.
“Originally we were going to be purely web-based, like Amazon,” Barnett said. “But people started bringing products to us and customers and farmers showing up, so we decided to open a market for retail space.”
But the market is just the tip of the iceberg. Freshfully is slowly adding more cities to its customer reach, including Pensacola.
“We’d like to add two cities a week until we reach the entire south,” Barnett said.
Barnett and the Freshfully team are also working to help farmers reach customers through social media.
“I can’t grow anything, but I’ll tweet,” Barnett joked.
While Barnett isn’t averse to Freshfully being available around the country, she notes that the south is where it’s needed most.
“We tend to get left behind,” she said. “People want to eat healthy foods, but there are still a lot of people that don’t understand the difference between an apple from Argentina and one from 45 minutes away. It all seems the same.”

FLORA BAMA FARMS
WHERE: 6404 Mobile Hwy.
DETAILS: 944-6911 or facebook.com/florabamafarmsofpensacola

FRESHFULLY
WHERE: 200 41st St. South, Birmingham, Ala.
DETAILS: freshfully.com

Healthy Vending
Vending machines no longer have to be your enemy. Thanks to Refresh2Go joining forces with Fresh Healthy Vending franchisors, better choices will be available soon in vending machines around the country.

Six locations are already secured locally: T.T. Wentworth Museum, Pensacourt, Riviera Fitness, The Crown Plaza and AMS in Milton. More locations will be announced.

The machines will offer products such as natural and organic chips, crackers and bars, like Cliff Bars and Pop Chips. Instead of sodas, tea, flavored water, sports drinks, organic milk and natural energy drinks will be stocked. You may even purchase perishable items such as fresh juices, smoothies, yogurts and fresh vegetables.

For more information, visit freshvending.com.