Last Updated on November 23, 2022 by Jeremy
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You may be familiar with local CSAs (community supported agriculture), where farms offer what is effectively a crop share typically for a set seasonal fee. In these situations, you receive a box of produce each week based on whatever the farm is harvesting and, in many cases, they are delivered to drop sites near your house for easy pickup.
We've been avid CSA supporters for years and absolutely love getting fresh produce grown locally in the summer months. So when the folks at Harvie reached out to see if we would be interested in trying their service, we were intrigued.
This one is a little bit different than a conventional CSA, however. Rather than focusing solely on produce, Harvie broadened the scope and focuses on local food as a whole. This can range from produce to dairy, snacks to non-perishables, seafood to meats, flowers even, and many other items all produced within the greater Pittsburgh metro (or in the case of select tropical fruit, imported locally and via fair trade sources). Instead of paying a set fee per box, you simply are buying items a la carte to craft your own box with the only real requirement being a $100 minimum order value.
As such, Harvie Farms boxes are designed to be a weekly supplement to your shopping where (almost) everything is procured locally and delivered straight to your door. So, what was our experience like? Read on!
Harvie Box is a Customizable Local Food Share
After joining Harvie, you have to fill out a profile of your likes and dislikes for them to craft proposed boxes for your weekly deliveries. For your delivery zip code, you will be assigned a specific delivery day as well as an ordering window (roughly 36 hours) a few days ahead of time where you can prepare your order.
For us, our delivery was on Thursdays with a Monday/Tuesday ordering window (yours may vary pending where you live). As such, on Monday we received an email with proposed items based on our profile and what Harvie had available, and we had until Tuesday afternoon to add or remove items from our cart. Since everything is priced individually, it was pretty easy to add/remove/swap items, but the only real rule is that you have to maintain a minimum $100 order value all the same.
As it turns out, our first box spoke to our tastes quite well and included the following items:
- Firehook Rosemary Sea Salt Chips
- Pitaland Pita Chips
- Pitaland Hummus (20 ounces) and Tabouleh (15 ounces)
- Weatherbury Farm Spelt Flour (2 lbs)
- Lettuce Ladies Microgreen Mix
- Two (2) Lancaster Farm Fresh Partners Green Bell Peppers
- One (1) Wayward Seed Farm Radish
- Minerva Dairy Unsalted Butter (8 ounces)
- Parma Hot Sopressatta Charcuterie
- Vera Pasta Co Radiatori and Rigatoni (dried, 15 ounces each)
- Pittsburgh Cream Cheese (8 ounces)
- Laurel Hill Trout Farm Trout (0.9 lbs)
- Jubilee Hilltop Ranch Steak (0.5 lbs)
To us, this was a great mix of items that really spoke to our tastes and how we generally shop. Pitaland chips with dips? Yes please! We buy those often already. Local vegetables? Always in our cart. Then there are some more unique options like spelt flour and trout from sources we have always wanted to try but never quite got a chance to shop from.
While we felt like we got a great assortment of items in our box for the $100 minimum price, such that we didn't make any changes, we had to also stop and ask- how does all of this compare to buying the very same items outside of the service?
Finding exact prices for some of these items was easier than others. Vera Pasta dried pasta, for example, ran about $5.25 each locally at the time of our order and the Harvie price was about $6. The spelt flour was about $5 from the farm and the Harvie price was about $7. The Parma sausage ran about $9 both locally and on Harvie. The butter ran about $4 locally and $5 on Harvie. The meats were a bit of a wildcard and hard to estimate relative to the Harvie price. Generally, I would not be surprised if the a la carte cost for all of the items in our box pushed to about $80-$85 before tax if we went out and bought them on our own (filling in the gaps based on our experience, mind you).
All things being equal, simply looking at Harvie from a cost element alone would do them a disservice as you also need to factor in that they deliver the food to you as well. Adding in a nominal delivery fee, like what you'd expect from some big box stores who we will not plug here, the price ends up becoming quite close.
But the real perk of the Harvie Farms food boxes is that you simply cannot find all of the items in a single store. So the delivery is not just offsetting one trip, but likely several!
For the Pitaland products, for example, we would've had to drive nearly 20 minutes to their South Hills location, pay to park, and pick up these items on their own. Our drives would be a fair bit further for things like the Laurel Hill trout and the Weatherbury Farms flour too- I really can't say I've seen those items anywhere near us recently. (Oddly enough, prior to receiving our Harvie box we had already placed a bulk flour order at Weatherbury Farm for pickup for two weeks after our delivery- it is a two-hour round trip drive!)
As such, even though you may be paying a slight premium for your box, you could very likely come out ahead in terms of driving time and the price of gas. And of course, having access to new local companies you've possibly never heard of is a bonus we can't even factor into the calculation either. We've been wanting to try the Laurel Hill trout for a while now, and we only got it because of this delivery!
Correspondence is Top Notch Through the Entire Process
One of the things that struck us about Harvie, beyond the delivery itself, is how on top of correspondence they are.
After joining, we received a call from a team member welcoming us to explain more about the process and see if we had any questions. When ordering opened for the first week, we received another call (and a few emails) notifying us to check our proposed cart and to make any changes before the Tuesday afternoon deadline.
On the day of delivery, we received a text in the morning showing what time our box would arrive with a note to expect delivery of +/- two hours from that window to account for traffic (ours arrived +45 minutes) as well as a text message about five minutes after the delivery was made to let us know as well. They did not, however, ring our doorbell although I saw the van pull up from our window.
Suffice it to say, we didn't feel like we were at risk of missing anything in the program- they made sure to communicate every step of the way via all several communication mediums.
A Few Minor Details About Harvie Worth Noting
As Harvie is a new kind of approach to food share programs, there are a few things we noticed that you may want to keep in mind.
First, one of the highlights of Harvie is that you can set your food preferences for about 300 items for them to craft a proposed box based on their inventory in any given week. Don't want a certain kind of item? You can set it to never include in your box. Love an item and use it regularly? You can request to always include them every week whenever it is available. We thought this was a great system that honed into our tastes surprisingly well.
For example, we turned off meat from Birch Creek Farmery simply because we buy in bulk from there and have a completely stocked deep freezer already. We even turned off a bit more random items like kimchi since we simply make our own at home too. The flexibility was quite well done here, but admittedly you'll need to spend about 15 minutes going through the incredibly long list to set your preferences at the start. We consider this a good thing, but you need to make that effort when signing up to get the full benefit.
That being said, at the time of our order they did not have a place to globally log dietary restrictions or allergies on our profile. You can turn off some subsets of items entirely (and we set our profile to never include anything from the nuts category to help with Angie's allergy), but you may still receive prepackaged items that could have allergens in them all the same (think dips, snacks, etc.). Thankfully, when we reviewed our proposed delivery we found that the ingredients were listed out nicely next to each item so it helped alleviate any of our concerns there.
Second, at the time of our order at least, Harvie deliveries were on Thursdays from 8 am to 8 pm and we only were alerted to our rough pickup time about four hours ahead of time. This is great for folks who work at home within their delivery radius (as we do) but may provide some challenges for others (you can check out their delivery radius here, too). In either case, you'll want to think about options here to ensure you can get perishable foods stored away in enough time (we wouldn't want our steak sitting on our front porch all day!).
All things being equal, our delivery was wrapped in high-quality insulation with an ice pack as well, so you should have some wiggle room there but we'd be hesitant on having a box sit out all day in the summer.
Third, you can pause weeks if you want to craft, say, a monthly share instead of a weekly share. It is worth noting that the service only lets you turn off just a few weeks out as opposed to a longer schedule, so you will need to check this one regularly if you fancy any sort of custom schedule beyond weekly deliveries.
Finally, we think the Harvie box is a good way to supplement your shopping each week but may not necessarily replace it outright. Sure, you can get strategic in trying to meal plan to ensure you have everything you need within their $100 minimum order, and the recommended boxes do appear to be built around meal ideas to a degree. But as our first proposed box came we still had to take a supplemental shopping trip to round out our meals all the same. While you're not limited in adding more items to your food box, it is unlikely to offset your food spending entirely every week purely based on what their inventory is at the time (seasonal variations and local goods can be at odds like that sometimes).
Overall, Harvie box is a pretty inventive take on a food share that focuses on supporting our local companies be it farmers, pasta makers, and more. The box is a great way to expose yourself to companies you may not otherwise shop from and getting new items each week pending availability and season make things a lot of fun without the you-get-what-you-get approach of more conventional CSAs.
Would we do Harvie box every week? Although we cook an absurd amount at home and generally eat like we're a family of six instead of two, the price tag may be a bit much for us to do this one every week of the year. But would we do this one every month or so to stock our fridge, freezer, and pantry with local goodies from businesses we adore? Well, we certainly could be persuaded!
No matter what, we're a big fan of supporting all things local, and if you are too then Harvie food boxes should be on your radar!
Looking to check out Harvie food boxes? Click here to learn more and to receive $25 off your first order on us! We were provided our first Harvie box as a courtesy for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.