Tag Archives: Berkeley

7 More Innovative Sustainable Food Ventures

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 Restaurant (Hardwick, VT)

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.

Jasper Hill Farm (Greensboro, VT)

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!

The Farmer’s Kitchen (Hollywood, CA)

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.

Green Go Food (Seattle, WA)

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?

Bushel & Peck’s Local Market (Beloit, WI)

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.

Happy Girl Kitchen (Watsonville, CA)

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.

Lost Arts Kitchen (Portland, OR)

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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10 Innovative Sustainable Food Retailers

There is plenty of talk, especially online, about all the problems associated with our conventional, industrialized food system, me included.  And while there are significant challenges ahead in migrating toward more sustainable approaches to feeding people real food, I want to highlight a number of innovative retail solutions that are blazing trails for the rest to follow.

Here are 10 retail concepts I find intriguing (presented in alphabetical order).  In addition to a brief description, I am highlighting key strengths in supporting a more sustainable approach to food.

  1. Farm Fresh To You (Capay Valley, CA) – customer friendly, flexible and convenient certified organic CSA program serving 800 members from over 240 acres; home or office delivery options; no formal commitment required (cancel or suspend deliveries at any time); some customization of weekly delivery (eliminate items or add additional servings); mid-size farm CSA program with member numbers significantly greater than typical CSA farms
  2. FamilyFarmed.org (Oak Park, IL) – Mission is to expand production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food and goods, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities; offers directory of CSA farms with delivery information; manages FamilyFarmed EXPO (three-day fall harvest festival and celebration of local foods and goods); developing product label program; large scale implementation of local, sustainable food
  3. FarmsReach (Bay Area, CA) – “the web hub for local grub” is building a web-based platform that offers a simple way for buyers to order food from local producers through delivery or local markets; pushing into new, easier to implement farmer-to-wholesale pathways
  4. Intervale Center (Burlington, VT) – manage 350 acres of farmland, nursery, compost production, trails, and wildlife corridors; developed Food Hub (connecting farmers to profitable market opportunities) and Food Basket (multi-farm CSA serving 125 members via 7 workplace drop off points); since 1980s, the Intervale has played a critical role in developing the Burlington community’s interest and support of local foods
  5. Know Your Farms (Davidson, NC) – multi-farm, year-round CSA program with limited customization of weekly box; introducing new “meal-in-a-box” pilot program that provides entire 4-person meal with local ingredients and cooking instructions; experimenting with new ways to deliver food that will be more valuable than random boxes
  6. Pete’s Greens (Craftsbury, VT) – year-round CSA program integrating farm and local products; utilizes wholesale delivery routes to drop off shares to 250 members; sales have been steadily migrating toward retail; reaching well beyond his farms location, Pete Johnson is pushing toward regional CSA programs (beyond local)
  7. Recipease (London, UK) – what list would be complete without a celebrity project, in this case “The Naked Chef” – Jamie Oliver; his first food and kitchen shop is designed to help anyone learn to cook and make great food; customers will be able to “assemble a brilliant meal in around 10 minutes”; bottom line: Mr. Oliver is helping get more people into their kitchens
  8. Sunflower Farmers Market (Boulder, CO) – “Serious Food…Silly Prices” is behind this growing chain of full-service grocery stores with emphasis on high quality natural and organic produce; founded and led by Wild Oats founder Mike Gilliland; also see Sprouts Farmers Market (AZ); both of these mini Whole Foods are part of trend toward smaller stores (10-20,000 square feet)
  9. The Organic Dish (Boulder, CO) – offering healthy, simple to make, and delicious ready-to-cook (frozen) organic meals and dinner kits utilizing local products; online or in-store order/deliver options; offers on-site do-it-yourself meal preparation parties for small groups (see Recipease)
  10. Three Stone Hearth (Berkeley, CA) – TSH is a worker-owned cooperative, offering nutrient dense foods to homes and families around the San Francisco Bay Area through what it calls a community supported kitchen (CSK); foods offered include soups, stews, cultured vegetables and coolers, sauces, prepared whole grain dishes; seems like a great model that could be customized to adapt to other regions

There are clearly a lot of really smart, energetic, and (in some cases) well-funded people attacking the challenges in our food system from multiple angles.  Over time, it is these efforts and those to follow that will make a real difference in getting more people to eat real food.

And if I missed companies or organizations that you feel should have made “the list”, please add them in the comments section so that we can raise our collective awareness even further.


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