It’s week three of his new business venture and Selvin Young is shaking his head.
One minute he was debuting his farm-to-neighborhoods business and selling boxes of chilled fruits and vegetables for centralized pickup.
The next? He was giving away 35 more boxes than he sold.
No worries. It’s all good.
The former NFL and University of Texas running back and Houston native worked with Brothers Produce and designed a for-profit plan that would allow neighborhoods like Memorial or Katy to form co-ops for direct sales and allow him to do wholesale sales as well. He saw the broken food chain that didn’t always take into account that donated fruits and vegetables needed to be refrigerated and, well, not all pantries even have that option. His model fills that void on both counts.
Then, just before he launched www.farmtoneighborhoods.com, Young decided to add an option to donate a box to those in need during this global pandemic.
He thought it might just touch someone’s heart. It touched quite a few.
Those random acts of kindness, as he calls them, allowed him to donate enough boxes to feed 70 seniors at Manor at Jersey Village assisted living. He had the boxes delivered and they did the rest.
“By the time the boxes got there, there was a line,’’ Young said. “They spread it out on tables and created their own in-house farmer’s market. They went through, picked what they wanted.’’
The next day, Young visited them to share their thoughts with those who donated.
“They say it’s a humbling feeling for people to accept something from someone,’’ he said. “I wanted to get feedback and understand what they were going through.’’
The second week, Young, who played at Jersey Village, added a second facility, which meant he had been able to help 200 seniors in his first two weeks. The third week has been a challenge, but he’s already looking toward the fifth week and June 9 when his former UT teammate Kasey Studdard, who played for the Houston Texans, will bring farmtoneighborhoods.com to Austin’s Lake Hills Church.
Former NBA and UT point guard and Houston native T.J. Ford, who went to Willowridge, is interested in the business as well.
Young’s plan just keeps morphing. A vocal advocate for eating fresh, the 36-year-old knows how important nutrition is, especially during the pandemic when it isn’t always easy to get to the grocery store. His produce boxes – a large one will feed a family of four for a week — are ordered online and delivered to pickup locations in refrigerated trucks. He has been using two pickup locations in Houston – one at Checkers on Dairy Ashford and the other at Houston Sauce Co. on South Wayside.
One of the first things he did was pull in his cousin and vegan chef Courtney Lindsay, the owner of Houston Sauce Co. Young, who also builds food trucks, built one for Lindsay – the Houston Sauce Kitchen.
And, he said, while there are a lot of plans to help you work out to stay in shape, there aren’t enough to show you how to eat healthier by adding fresh produce to your diet.
“I felt like with the vegetables, Courtney would be a good guy to launch this with,’’ Young said. “He can also show people what they could do with vegetables creatively.’’
Young said it’s a bit of a throw-back as well to the old days when his grandparents grew their own produce in the backyard.
“I wanted to kind of gear it toward neighborhoods where I knew fresh fruits and vegetables were not there or not on the radar,’’ he said. “I wanted to get fresh fruits and vegetables back into the neighborhood. There’s nothing like real healthy produce.
“I’m trying to create something that will feed people and change eating habits. That’s why I want to have athletes involved. It’s a real push for me toward changing the diets.’’
Young saw the national stories of farmers having to throw away produce and talked about the break in the food chain and his idea with Brothers Produce CEO Brent Erenwert. Things tumbled together from there.
“There’s a lot of food going to waste right now,’’ he said. “This is a way to get to people who need it. Food pantries can’t get (fresh food) out fast enough, but we have a way to that.’’
Young can see opportunities around every corner. He’s focused on Facebook and Twitter to drive purchases and donations to his website, as well as reaching out to friends who are spreading the word to their networks.
In the coming weeks, he’s adding boxes of individual fruits and vegetables to his site and reaching out commercially – another chance to grow the business as well as donations. His vision also includes churches and ministries for outreach to those in need as well as to groups who could use produce boxes as fund raisers. There are opportunities for neighborhood co-ops all around the Greater Houston Area and the state since Brothers is the largest distributor in Texas.
He sees it as a win-win for everyone from the farmers to the co-ops.
Young knows that a little help here and there – whether you are getting it or giving it – can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
His father, a sheet metal mechanic, was the first one to put a hammer in his hand and hard hat on his head. And when he was sidelined after surgery, his dad stepped into his role with the food truck business – www.buildingfoodtrucks.com — and was his stand-in for several months. Aaron Weise of Weise Properties gave him a rent-free warehouse for the first year. The company has now built 28 trucks.
Even before that, there was extended family and former UT coach Mack Brown.
“I felt like a lot of people been giving to me most of my life,’’ Young said. “And I know truly, I was able to get where I am today through assistance whether it was from a coach or a friend or a neighbor or a summer program.
“I’m a Houston kid. I grew up on the North side of Houston – all over it. I went to so many different middle schools I lost count. I do realize that it takes a village. It wasn’t just my parents. It was the city and being able to play sports, make a name for yourself and go to the University of Texas.’’
Young was a member of the Longhorns’ 2005 National Championship team and threw the clearing block for quarterback Vince Young on the winning touchdown. He ran for 1,713 yards and 25 touchdowns in his UT career, then played three years with the Denver Broncos before a neck injury ended his NFL career.
“Mack Brown really had a good grip on me as a person and the way he raised us as men,’’ Young said. “He made sure that we showed up, we talked, and we gave back. He instilled discipline in us.’’
As much as this started as a totally for-profit venture, Young had no idea how much the charitable aspect would tug at his heart. Consumers can direct their donation or allow Young to choose to get donations to those in need.
He does want to help the African American population which is especially vulnerable and disproportionately affected by COVID-19, but, the bottom line is, he wants these donations to help people in need.
“I know hungry doesn’t have a color,’’ he said.
And while he does have a business to run, Young’s faith reminds him he has been given an opportunity to do more. He sees himself, as he said on his Facebook page, as a vessel which is allowing blessings to flow.
“At this point I have to be obedient and not turn away,’’ he said. “He’s (God) using me to do something and I don’t know where in the heck it’s going…’’
But wherever that leads, he’s ready.