Farm to trike
SN&R chats with West Sac Veggie Trike owners Collin Samaan and Aimee Benner
Collin Samaan and Aimee Benner often complete each others’ sentences—just like many other married couples. This duo’s the pair behind the West Sac Veggie Trike, a rolling farmers market of sorts that hawks fresh produce, and other local products ranging from baked goods to coffee. Their year-old business is a somewhat perfect fit for the pair’s combined expertise: Benner comes from Shingle Springs and has a farming background, while Samaan grew up in Fair Oaks, and has been a professional cyclist for years—even after a car hit his bike and nearly killed him about 10 years ago. On a recent rainy weekday morning, they ordered a cup of coffee at Insight Coffee Roasters (which can be purchased from the trike), pulled out a box featuring some of their favorite products and chatted with SN&R about how their fresh fruit sometimes even wins out over the ice cream truck.
What’s in that box?
Aimee Benner: Right now, since it's holiday time, we have a gift box that features these awesome gourmet salts. We also have raw, unfiltered honey. And then we just started carrying Sassy Oh Baking Co. cookies. It's like a chocolate-chip lavender and they also have a peanut-ginger-lime cookie, and …
Colin Samaan: An oatmeal-coconut-almond cookie.
Benner: And it's all vegan.
Samaan: And this [pulls out soap] is locally made soap, and all the ingredients are just listed right on it.
Benner: Our produce always changes. We source it from different farms, it's not just one farm.
Samaan: Lots of fruit in the late summer, apples in the fall, citrus in the winter.
So it’s like a roaming farmers market?
Benner: Yeah. People ask us if we go to the farmers market to sell stuff. But that's not our thing. We started out going door-to-door in the neighborhoods of West Sacramento.
Samaan: She means riding down the street with music—gypsy jazz—and going, “Hey! Get your veggies, fresh, local veggies!” And waving.
How long ago did you start?
Benner: We started in September.
Samaan: September? August? July? Sometime.
Benner: We started at a local West Sac cyclocross race.
Samaan: Then we did TBD Fest. That was a great showing and introduction to our community. We got to meet with the city manager of West Sac, and then the mayor, Christopher Cabaldon. It was really great seeing them in that kind of situation. Actually, when we lived in Fair Oaks, we kind of tried to do a similar thing.
Benner: We delivered apple pies in Fair Oaks by bicycle.
Samaan: We called it Simply Better Service.
Benner: Now we have the veggie trike which is built by John Lucas of Cycle Trucks in West Sacramento, so we were really lucky to have been given the opportunity to do this.
Samaan: He built the trike in China and it's portable. It was sitting in his backyard for like five, six, seven years. And I was like hey, what can we do with this thing?
Put veggies on it?
Benner: They do it all around the world. John, who built the bicycle, has traveled to China, the Philippines, all around the world, and says everyone sells that way.
Samaan: He had the idea.
Benner: And Collin loves riding bicycles, and I work on an organic farm, so it was kind of like the perfect opportunity.
Samaan: It was like connecting all the dots.
Benner: It just all basically fell into line. We weren't like “Hey, we're going to start a business.” And now, we work with local farms, like Sara Bernal over at West Sacramento Urban Farm. We buy produce from her and other local farms. So it's really nice to be able to work with other small business, and that's why we expanded into other products. We're going to the community and we're like, “Hey, we got these awesome products. Do you need it? Try this out.” And people are just really excited about supporting the community, so it's worked out.
What’s your top seller?
Samaan: I'd say the lettuce and the garlic salt right now.
Benner: From Abbott Organics, the same people that make the salt, they also grow organic lettuce. It's butter and crisp lettuce, so it's a gourmet blend.
Samaan: And the honey. And Insight coffee was gone off our shelves in a day.
Benner: And we're just hoping to expand with more products that are local.
Samaan: It's been evolving. Like in the fall, fruits sold out instantly. Kids would come up to us instead of the ice cream truck, and they'd spend their money on fruit. And I'd give them samples and it was such a fun feeling watching them as the ice cream truck pulled up behind me, and they'd go, “Hey, we spent all our money on fruit; no ice cream today!” It was pretty funny.