In a subtle twist on the popular farm-to-table movement, Westfielder Meredith Lehman aims to deliver locally-sourced, farm-fresh, organic produce right to your doorstep.
Turning her passion for healthy eating into the homegrown business 'Just Farmed,' Lehman and her husband, Brian, will begin delivering boxes of certified organic fruits and vegetables to customers in the following towns: Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Fanwood, Garwood, Mountainside, New Providence, Scotch Plains, and Westfield starting Thursday, May 9.
Lehman explained that she and her husband will be working with over 70 farms in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to put together a balanced offering that's easy to use.
"The whole aim of the program is to have a quick turnaround," Lehman said. "We obtain it Wednesday or Thursday and we want people to have it that day or the next day."
Delivery, priced at $34 per week, is available from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and from 6 to 10 a.m. Fridays and will run through the first week of December. Customers can choose to take a three-week break from the program and there will be no deliveries over July 4th weekend and Thanksgiving. Just Farmed uses FDA-approved recyclable boxes that will be cold-packed so produce will remain crisp and fresh outside for a few hours, Lehman explained, adding that the boxes will be closed as well as waterproof, making them easy to take the shore for the weekend.
Out of the box options
Spending much of her youth as a competitive gymnast, Lehman is eager to share some of her favorite healthy recipes with customers. A mom of three, the new business owner will also include kid-friendly and gluten-free options as well.
"I've always loved food and healthy eating and was surrounded by people who shared that passion and that's the biggest reason I decided to go this route," she explained. "I think our recipes will be unique. Some will be for the individual pieces and others can be used in combination."
Sowing the seeds for the business for the past several years, the Lehmans' ultimate goal is to be able to produce and distribute all of their own produce. Following more than two years of searching for just the right property, the couple currently has an option on a farm in Somerset County.
While she acknowledged creating a start-up is "scary," Lehman said feedback so far has been "overwhelmingly postive." Several dozen customers are already signed up and while there isn't a limit right now, Lehman said her priorities are harvest-quality and quick turnaround followed by customer service. In sales for a healthcare magazine for 12 years, the entrepreneur noted "if customers are happy, you're happy"
"People are committing to trying new things and spending their hard-earned money and being healthy. I want it to be fun for them," she said.
Below, Lehman shared one of her favorite recipes:
Eggplant Sandwich (makes 2 sandwiches)
"I love sandwiches, especially when I have a fridge stocked full of fresh veggies. You can vary this sandwich any way you like- add new ingredients, change the bread…the options are endless. I’ve used wheat bread, added avocado, added caramelized onions…whatever you like. The original is really good too!"
- 8 (1/2-inch-thick) eggplant slices
- Olive oil
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 4 Slices ciabatta bread
- 2 tablespoons pesto (you can use refrigerated or make your own- recipe below)
- 1 cup baby arugula
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft goat cheese
- Preheat broiler and/or Panini Press. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides of eggplant with olive oil.
- Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and insides. Arrange bell pepper halves, skin sides up, on baking sheet with eggplant; Flatten the peppers with your hand as much as possible.
- Broil 4 minutes; turn eggplant over (do not turn bell pepper over). Broil an additional 4 minutes; remove eggplant from pan.
- Broil bell pepper an additional 7 minutes or until blackened. Place bell pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand for 15 minutes; when cooled, peel the skin off the pepper. You now have a roasted pepper!
- You can broil bread slices for 2 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once.
- Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on one side of bread. On top of the pesto layer with 2 eggplant slices, 1 bell pepper half, and 2 eggplant slices.
- Toss arugula with remaining a little olive oil and black pepper; divide arugula mixture among both sandwiches. Layer with top slice of bread.
- You can eat or press in Panini for additional 3 minutes and then enjoy.
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