After a great response to my “10 Innovative Sustainable Food Retailers” post nearly three weeks ago, and a number of suggestions of people, organizations and companies doing equally important work, I am following up with seven more role-model ventures that deserve attention.
Claire’s was launched in May 2008 by four partners with the help of numerous investments from the Hardwick and surrounding communities, in what is best described as a community supported restaurant (CSR). Around 50 community members put in $1,000 each in return for discounted meals they will receive over four years. What they invested in was a restaurant truly committed to local and sustainable food, which is evidenced by the restaurant purchasing 79% of its food from farms in the Northeast corner of Vermont through its first winter, a significant feat given Claire’s location in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The innovative and seasonal menu, which quickly adapts to what’s available, has won the hearts and stomachs of those lucky enough to have eaten at Claire’s. For more, check out a great interview with Chef Steven Obronovich on Zachary Cohen’s Farm to Table blog.
Just down the road from Claire’s Restaurant, you will find Jasper Hill Farm, a small family farm making arguably one of the best blue cheeses on the planet – Bayley Hazen Blue. They took over the farm in 1998 and settled on making farmstead cheese as the most viable business model. Good thing! After five years of study and preparation they purchased 15 Ayrshire heifers in July 2002 and got to making cheese. What sets Jasper Hill apart as a sustainable food venture is the $3.2-million cheese cave it built to finish its cheeses, as well as those of other cheesemakers, including Cabot Creamery’s award-winning Clothbound Cheddar. Jasper Hill offers local dairy farms a turnkey solution for aging that will add considerable value to those producer’s end product. Everyone wins. By making it easier and more cost effective for dairy farms making high-quality cheese, Jasper Hill hopes to help more farms come online and/or make a good living around value-added products. Blur your eyes and imagine similar cheese caves and services throughout New England and beyond. Yum!
This soon-to-be-opened community kitchen is serving as an extension of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, and will offer commercial teaching, processing, and retail kitchen for the sale of prepared foods, value-added products, and farm-fresh produce. The purpose behind this sustainable food venture is to link California’s small farmers with the urban (Los Angeles) population by extending the presence of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market through the entire week. Given the need of fresh produce and healthy meals in urban areas, especially lower income sections, the potential of this model in other large cities is exciting. Income from the Farmer’s Kitchen will support nutrition education programs and provide job training in food preparation for Hollywood’s low-income residents.
Along similar lines as The Farmer’s Kitchen, but on a smaller scale and slightly different angle, Green Go started out in April 2008 working with the Neighborhood Farmers Markets, a community-based organization developed in response to growing popularity of farmers markets in the Seattle area. What Green Go does is utilize food from “our local farm heroes” to prepare and serve healthy fast food at farmers markets. Very cool, especially since it provides tasty proof that utilizing local produce can yield great results. Their goal is to acquire a kitchen and storefront, with a longer term vision of a “Taco Truck style” venue (need to find out more about this; please let me know if you have more information). By creating community “hot spots” for local, sustainable foods, they are increasing retail access to sustainable food in the Seattle region. Next step? How about mobile sustainable food venues rolling through town like yesteryear’s ice cream truck?
The first sentence on their web site states, “Experience grocery shopping like it used to be!” That’s a great start, so I dug deeper. By purchasing local, certified organic and fair trade foods from Bushel & Peck, they are helping you help support farmers and processors that have chosen sustainable agriculture as their approach. It is so great to see such innovations in the retail experience that consumers in Beloit, Wisconsin are offered in this significantly smaller than average grocer (6000 square feet with full kitchen and old fashioned lunch counter). What gives this new venture even more credibility is the fact that its founders, Rich Horbaczewski and Jackie Gennett, are also farmers that practice what they preach.
This find is thanks to Todd Gonzales (a.k.a., Newlandarcher on Twitter), a UC Berkeley student working on agriculture and food systems. This is his descprition. Todd & Jordan Champagne, who cut their teeth at Fully Belly Farms, realized their farmer neighbors needed an outlet for what they were producing. The most common complaint among farmers with whom I work: inadequate & insufficient retail outlets/wholesalers for their yields. The solution: the revival of the dying art of food preservation. But HGK has taken its efforts further by initiating a series of entertaining workshops to teach people how to pickle, can, and ferment. They are using their existing channels (farmers’ markets) to promote the workshops and empowering people to engage with their food. Thanks, Todd. On a related note, please check out Three Stone Kitchen, a community supported kitchen in Berkeley that was in the original “10 Innovative Sustainable Food Retailers” list.
Last, but not least, is Portland’s Lost Arts Kitchen. While this one-woman show is significantly limited in the impact it can have today, Chris Musser is the real deal and offers a breadth and depth of perspective that we can all learn from. Read more in my April 22 post.
As always, I encourage everyone to comment on any of these venture, and, more important, to recognize those people, organizations and companies that I have missed. It is my belief that the more we raise these innovators up and learn from there efforts, the faster we will develop an alternative food system capable of making a real difference in sustainable food.
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