Sharing the thoughts and feelings of millions in the country, 27-year-old Luke Saunders wanted to help bring forth healthy, organic food to a junk food nation. But when he told his boss he was turning down a substantial raise so that he could create a vending machine that would sell only organic, restaurant-quality salads and snacks, he likely didn’t imagine he would end up with 5-star Yelp ratings and a bevy of Chicagoans who rave about his company, Farmer’s Fridge.
“They still think I’m nuts,” said Saunders, admitting that his boss was only one of many skeptics. Despite this, he unveiled his dream idea in a food court in downtown Chicago last October, and it became an immediate vindication for taking a chance.
The machine is made from reclaimed wood and surrounded by real plants with a carpet of artificial grass leading up to it. The vending machine is stocked every day at 10 in the morning, with fresh salads and snacks containing only organic, locally-grown produce. The salads are always fresh because they are made in a local kitchen just hours before the vending machine is stocked. If there is anything ‘unvended’ at the end of the day, it is taken to a local food pantry.
Saunders had this wonderful idea when he was travelling and noticed that there were no healthy, fast food options. Farmer’s Fridge was his answer to a problem he had himself.
“My realization was that I could make fresh food and put it in a vending machine without adding any preservatives or other junk and it would taste good,” he said. “We want everything to be in the running for ‘the best salad I ever had’ or ‘the best blank I ever had.’ If it’s not that good, we’re not going to put it in there.” 
There are no sandwiches in Saunders’ vending machine because they don’t stay fresh. Only ingredients which lend themselves to staying at the peak of freshness, packed in recyclable plastic containers, end up at Farmer’s Fridge.
Components are also stacked to stay fresh: greens on top, cheeses and water-retaining fruits on the bottom, nuts in the middle.
The result is a diverse menu that ranges from “The Cheater,” a modified classic Cobb salad, to “The Junk Food Eraser,” a detox salad stocked with kale, quinoa, sprouts, fennel, blueberries and pineapple with a cider vinegar-lemon dressing on the side. You can also add items like lemon-pepper chicken tuna and tofu.
The salads start at $8, proteins (except salmon) are $2 and the sides cost $4.25.
Saunders has been so successful; he is wondering how to keep up with demand. He plans a “very aggressive” launch schedule for February, with a new kiosk going up “every day” from Feb. 13 onward, all of the company’s new locations will be in the Chicago area for now.
“We’re still blown away by people’s feedback,” Saunders said. “The biggest fear I had leading up to the day before it opened was, ‘Will anyone buy food from a vending machine like this?’ But it’s working.”