Rebyl Food provides fruits and vegetables, specialty foods from home cooks and other goods that Coastside customers can order weekly. Photo courtesy Ryan Salet.
There's a quiet rebellion happening out of Half Moon Bay. The mission? Feed the Coastside from the Coastside.
Rebyl Food is creating a central place where food creators and customers from Pacifica to Pescadero can connect. Part of the goal is to prove that the community can feed itself, beyond big chains.
"To buy these types of products and and support these types of businesses is a bit rebellious," founder and owner Ryan Salet says. "We want to be a data point. We want to prove that this works now."
This stretch of Northern California is special in that it has access to both agricultural land and ocean, as well as skill and talent. With that, there's access to high-quality staples including produce, livestock and seafood.
"This isn't possible on a massive scale, but I do think there are other communities out there (where it is). I'd love to be a data point and prove that this type of model works," Salet says.
Salet started partnering with food growers and makers throughout the Coastside. "Simm's organics was a starting point for me, and talking to them. It spider-webbed through that," Salet says.
Now, Salet's team of four is working with dozens of vendors to serve about a hundred customers a week. Customers place orders online, then the Rebyl team works out of a space offered by John and Eda Muller of Farmer John's Pumpkins. The team assembles orders "to fill the grocery cart, so to speak," Salet says. From different food makers, they include fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, prepared meals, craft foods, baked treats and more. Then, the team delivers orders by van.
"All these places were there and functioning at a very high level. The challenge that Rebyl is tackling is it's really hard to get them in one place," Salet says.
While the pandemic delayed the opening of some businesses, it expedited Rebyl's. Salet started developing the concept in 2019 with plans to open in the middle of 2020, but ended up launching earlier to give food growers and makers a platform to reach more people, and customers an outlet with pickup and delivery for groceries as other options became more limited. It was a way to work with existing businesses, as well as new ones.
"It's pretty remarkable. I get to meet all these farmers. They're hardworking people and create wonderful products," Salet says. "COVID brought lots of interesting things. There are people who because of circumstance were pushed into trying more of a passion project and moving in that direction."
Rebyl's founding was inspired by Salet's desire to support the community where he was born and raised, but national public health added fuel to the fire. Prior to starting Rebyl, Salet worked in health care analytics for a decade, observing that the leading causes of death in the U.S. include heart disease and diabetes, largely driven by what we eat.
"When you see the highest driving sickness that's widespread across the country, food has a lot to do with that. It became very important for me as an individual to know where it came from and make sure it was what I wanted to put in my body," Salet says. "I started thinking as a customer."
Is everything sourced from Pacifica to Pescadero? Not quite.
"We don't make everything here — yet. So we go as far as San Francisco and Santa Cruz," Salet says.
But Salet hopes that this bears out: "(The coast is) an extremely special place for food. We have the capability of feeding ourselves.
"This community has been amazing … The vendors — the farmers, the ranchers, the foodmakers, the fishermen — they're the lifeblood. It doesn't work without them."
For more more information, visit rebylfood.com or follow Rebyl Food on Instagram.
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