Green Truckers: Organic delivery

“She hates to see waste that could be used thrown away. Recycling is very much a part of who she is.”
– Rainbow Recycling President Marilyn Sobanski, about Kathryn Beattie (pictured), owner-operator of Leading Green Distribution Inc.

After 14 years transporting goods for wholesale vendor Mountain Food Products, Kathryn Beattie knew there was a more efficient way for her to help farmers transport and deliver their produce.

In June 2007, Beattie, 42, of Black Mountain, N.C., started Leading Green Distribution Inc. to help small farmers and producers in her area deliver goods to businesses across the country. “By starting this, I’ve been able to save small farmers from having to take a huge part of their time away from farming and making numerous deliveries each month,” she says.

Beattie completed the “Foundations” course at Mountain BizWorks, a group that helps small businesses as they are starting out. The eight-week “business incubator,” Beattie says, helped her gain perspective on how to run a business. After purchasing a 1995 Mitsubishi SK bulk-mail truck that can hold eight pallets of produce, Beattie spent months refurbishing it and adding a rear refrigeration box, and she purchased a refrigerated van for smaller deliveries and to combat fuel costs. “Part of this is for the quality of the produce,” Beattie says. “Refrigeration is important for food safety and shelf life.”

Her “office” runs on biodiesel and usually is loaded with organic produce or recyclable goods, such as Styrofoam and cardboard. Biodiesel can cost a few cents more per gallon than regular diesel, but the positive environmental effects make up for it, Beattie says. “Biodiesel pumps less pollution into the air,” she says. “The type I use generally comes from soybeans.”

Beattie charges per pallet with a minimum delivery of two pallets per customer. Local deliveries (within 60 miles of Black Mountain) are $30 dollars per pallet, and longer trips are $70 per pallet. The most challenging part of her job has been placing a dollar value on her services. “My charges definitely save farmers and producers fuel and keep them farming and me driving,” she says.

The longest regular haul Beattie makes is an eight-hour round trip to Atlanta carrying certified organic produce. “I carry everything from cucumbers to peppers and tomatoes on that run,” she says.

Beattie also works with Rainbow Recycling, a non-profit advocacy group that promotes the recycling of materials, particularly Styrofoam. Rainbow Recycling President Marilyn Sobanski says Beattie is the “kind of person you want on your team. She hates to see waste that could be used thrown away,” Sobanski says. “Recycling is very much a part of who she is.”

Beattie feels good about the differences she is making for small farmers and doesn’t plan to expand her customer base anytime soon. “I’m geared for small local farmers and producers, and I want it to stay that way,” she says.

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