It’s Friday, pie day, a good day for Joel Trevino—founder of Dagon Produce, a farm to table produce delivery service in Corpus Christi, Texas—to visit John on his farm in the Amish community of Beeville.
John had called Joel (pronounced Jo-elle) earlier that morning—much too early—from the communal phone booth that sits in the middle of the farm to let him know he had cantaloupes. Lots of them.
“There’s that big orange ball in the sky. It’s coming up. Don’t be afraid of it,” John teased Joel before letting him know that the cantaloupe had come in quick, the rain even quicker, and he needed to get the fruit off the fields before the mildew set in.
“I can take two boxes,” Joel told the farmer.
“Twenty boxes?” John retorted playfully? Joel considered for a moment.
This was his friend whose fields were plowed by Clydesdale horses in the straightest rows he’d ever seen, who inquired about the weather forecast with the enthusiasm of someone hearing about the next episode of a favorite tv show. He had to help him move the melons.
This is what Joel does. He moves the melons, and the kale, and the sage, and the eggs. In a farm to table model, Joel picks up produce from farmers, which he then delivers to customers through a subscription model, and to restaurants whose menus are crafted with local, seasonal produce in mind.
Joel initially came up with the idea for Dagon Produce when he noticed the unconscionable amount of unsold fruits and vegetables that farmers at Grow Local South Texas were discarding. The farmers simply didn’t have the time, energy, or connections to sell their additional produce to restaurants. Fueled by a motivation to help farmers increase their sales and decrease their food waste, Joel walked into a local restaurant with a bag full of beautiful kale, and a business was born. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered farmers’ markets, Joel quickly expanded his model to bring the fresh, local produce, to people’s doors—with a little help from technology.
“Working with Joel to build both his website and e-commerce storefront has been an amazing collaboration for our team,” explains Mike Kai, Director of Product - Website / Ecommerce at SpotOn, adding, “Not gonna lie, working with merchants like Dagon Produce keeps me and my team excited to deliver each day because we know that our work is having a direct impact on the service and quality experienced by Joel’s customers. We cheer for his success internally each time his business hits a new milestone.”
Joel was one of the first merchants to use the local pickup and delivery feature in e-commerce checkout, as well as subscription billing in SpotOn Virtual Terminal for Dagon Produce’s customizable baskets and delivery plans. Since he started working with SpotOn, Dagon Produce has seen a 47 percent increase in operations and an incredible 96 percent increase in his conversion rate (how many prospects actually become customers).
Dagon Produce is about more than getting fruits, vegetables, and herbs from point A to point B, though. Joel listens to what the farmers have, to what his residential and restaurant customers need, and connects the dots between people and produce in the most common-sense way.
“We have the Amish farming okra and bitter gourd on special request from the Indian restaurant, and two of our eight farms are dividing and conquering to grow herbs specifically for the new Asian fusion restaurant,” Joel says. “Right now I’m talking to restaurants and they all want purple carrots, so I’m sharing that info with the farmers who are planning their fall planting season. I’ve also sold ducks that are barely waddling to one restaurant."
Most days you can find Joel making calls from a table at the Driftwood Coffee Company, where two of his employees also work, and where his cooking demos are hosted. Connecting these dots works so well because of the connections Joel has forged in his community—whether answering a customer call at 4 am, a misdial, as it turned out; spending two hours on the phone with a produce basket customer chatting about cooking; visiting with Sarah, the egg lady (as she’s affectionately known) and keeping his voice down so she can catch the coyote who’s been stalking her hundred-plus colored-egg laying hens; or putting together a class on how to quick pickle and cook with okra because his customers remain baffled by the slimy texture.
More than tailoring this super local supply chain to maximize correlation between supply and demand, Joel is passionate about teaching his community to eat the season, rather than shop the box. To change the way they view their relationship with food. To this end, he’s recently introduced more classes. In a community that boasts more fast food restaurants than you can shake a fry at, Joel is determined to bring fresh, seasonal eating to his community.
“Eating local is a mindset shift. We’ve been programmed to think that we have to go to the grocery store to get food,” Joel explains. “And that if we want a pineapple, there should be a pineapple available. It’s just a habit we need to break. We can ask ourselves instead, what are people growing in my community? What’s in season? And if you need something for a recipe that’s not local or in season, there are alternatives for everything. You just have to be creative. The other week, we made pecan basil pesto because you can’t find pine nuts around here. You make it work!”