Job Title: Co-founder/Owner, The Organic Box
Why He’s Top 40: He’s changing the way we access food while supporting local organic farmers.
What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: “Edmonton is the San Francisco of Alberta. There’s a microcosm of people who these issues really matter to, and that’s one of the things that keeps me here.”
Cross a hippie with an investment banker and you might get a guy like Danny Turner. His brown hair is on the longer side, but clean and neat. His shirt is plaid, but polished.
But it’s his business that really bridges these two seeming solitudes. Turner has an MBA from Oxford University, but instead of high-rolling it in a Canary Wharf skyscraper, he drives a truck between his Creston, B.C., organic farm and Edmonton, where 6,400 families and counting have signed up for his organic food delivery business, The Organic Box.
“The growth is crazy, and that’s what’s gratifying. We thought we were going to have this little business, so we had this little warehouse, bought a run-down crappy van,” says Turner.
The Organic Box is now in its second, larger warehouse, deep in the industrial south side. Out back, white delivery vans emblazoned with fruit and vegetable decals are splashes of brightness amid the concrete.
Originally from Calgary, Turner was working as a bank consultant in the United States when he applied to Oxford “as a lark” and unexpectedly got in. He graduated with distinction, and settled into life in the United Kingdom with his wife, Miranda.
Everything changed when Turner’s mother Judy, then 55, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. After a rapid decline, Judy is now in long-term care. Mentally, says Turner, “she’s completely gone.”
The family struggled to understand how this could have befallen a woman who had lived a healthy lifestyle.
“We decided food, and the way it was produced, was a major contributor. It wasn’t science-based, just common-sense based,” says Turner. “I decided I wanted to choose a different future.”
He and Miranda, who have two sons, moved back to Canada to help Judy, and started to seek out organic farmers. In the summer of 2009, Turner had an “epiphany.”
“My MBA brain kicked in and I realized the distribution [for the organic farms] didn’t exist,” says Turner. Months later, he launched The Organic Box.
The company, which employs 55 people, bought $1 million in food from local organic farmers last year, and has had 200 per cent annual growth.
Turner is passionate about local, organic food, but his philosophy is firmly “big tent.”
“We made a choice, and invited other people to come with us.”