Venice, Mar Vista, Playa Vista, Santa Monica (three of them!), West LA, Westwood – we live in a farmer’s market mecca. Which is great if you’re always ready to do your produce shopping on a Wednesday at 11am, or if you didn’t get so distracted by all the breakfast options at the Main Street market. Sometimes, though, the week goes by, you have no produce in your house and you’re making vows to eat better next week.
Enter Giles & Laura Donovan – the Venice Merchants. They are on a mission, and they need our help. The mission?
TO CURATE + DELIVER GOOD,
HONEST FOOD DIRECTLY TO YOU
FROM THE SOURCE
AT AFFORDABLE PRICES.
Sounds good, but what does it mean? It means a new take on the ‘farm box’. A new way to get local produce and goods into your house. It means supporting local business and local farms and not stopping going to the farmers market, but instead making sure you get the basics covered every week. Plus a few new things you might not have tried otherwise. It means being a part of another community within Venice.
We asked Giles to tell us a little more about their business, why they’re here and what they’re passionate about.
Welo: Tell us about your history with Venice. How long have you been here? What do you love most about Venice?
Giles: Laura and I have been here 10 and 5 years respectively. We met in Venice in 2009, and married a year and a half later. We have made great friends here, and The Venice Merchant is a testament to the creative skills of the people we know here – a collaboration of neighbors and friends have helped us with the concept, the design, the photography, the direction, the recipes, everything it’s taken to get it up and going, including spreading the word! We love Venice, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and are so excited to bring this service to our neighborhood.
Welo: What spurred you to start the Venice Merchant?
Giles: Laura’s family has a cattle ranch in Texas, and we made the effort to bring some grass fed beef back from there one time. Enjoying sharing that with our friends was the seed of the idea, perhaps we could find great quality beef in California that we could all share. So we started visiting local farms and soon realized there is a wonderful bounty of California products and some incredibly passionate farmers out there doing what we believe is right – loving their animals, treating them with respect and allowing them to live full and natural lives in harmony with nature. Laura was a vegetarian when we met and I quickly became sickened with the industrialized farming techniques after seeing ‘Food inc’. We set out to find great tasting products grown, and raised with care and respectful values, that we could bring from the farms to share with our friends. In the process we became excited by the possibility of eating only organic fruits and vegetables, artisan cheeses, olive oils, and having a direct link to our sources.
Welo: How is this different from your typical CSA program? (and, for people who don’t know, what is a CSA?)
Giles: A CSA is community supported agriculture. Today there are essentially 3 CSA models, a single farm box, collaborative farm box, and farm membership / share model. Thevenicemerchant.com is actually a non-farm aggregator of California agricultural products, not a CSA. What we do is collect from our local farms the products that we have sourced for our members. Our model is based on researching our local suppliers and their growing schedules, bulk ordering consistently large orders which supports them and in turn gets our members a good value deal. I am actually deal obsessed and will not rest until we get good value, Laura can vouch for that! Different from a CSA we do not rely on one or a few suppliers to provide us with what they have, we set out to source everything and provide it in a seasonally balanced way to our members. We are as excited working with a supplier to try something new as we are in finding a grower in Fillmore that still has organic blueberries in November! California is blessed with fantastic growing conditions, and many farms will have their own special microclimates which allow them to produce out of season or enjoy longer seasons and it’s about tapping into that knowledge to provide our members with variety. Only 3% of the planet is classified as ‘Mediterranean climate’ and SoCal is part of that 3%. When I think Mediterranean food my mouth starts watering, well the good news is we have that mouth watering food here too – let us bring the food tour to you in an awesome wooden crate.
Welo: What sorts of products can we expect to get in a Venice Merchant box?
Giles: Expect great tasting organic fruits and vegetables, and if you customize your order with additional items expect to find more great produce, bakery items, a butchers, dairy items, a fishmongers, and pantry items. We have sourced Venice made chocolate, honey, salts, and expect to see some exclusive team ups with our local chef’s offering vinaigrettes, sauces as well as recipes in our crates. That’s an aspect of our service that really excites us – recipes in every crate, and the ability to customize your crate with recommendations tailored to you. We also have the use of a commercial kitchen so expect to see some preserves, sauces, pickles, chutneys and all sorts of good stuff being made to the same standards as we expect from our suppliers.
Welo: What are your favorite places to eat in Venice?
Giles: We love, in no particular order Joe’s, Oscars, WISC, Pit Fire Pizza, Superba Snack bar, Venice Ale House, Hals, Gjelina, Piccolo, Poke Poke, Willi’s Sushi (Okaya), Hama Sushi, Canal Club, Zinc, French Market, Tasting Kitchen, Waterloo & City, Rose Café, Deus Ex Machina (morning café & pastry!), GTA, Abbots Pizza.
Welo: Why should people sign up for the Venice Merchant?
Giles: TheVeniceMerchant.com will connect you with your local foods, your growers, your neighborhood chef’s and we’ll all enjoy sharing the experience of eating great food and the wellbeing that comes with that. We’ll learn new ways to cook, we’ll eat well and know that we’re eating the best at an affordable price. The demand that we channel to our farmers will create changes in the way others farm. We are not starting a business here, we are providing a neighborhood service that makes a difference.
Boxes from the Venice Merchant range from $25-$40, and can be delivered weekly or bi-weekly. You can place your order right here, and for being a part of the first 150 customers, you’ll nab yourself an invite to their upcoming pizza party. (They threw dinner parties for the first 50 and 100 customers in their own backyard!)