When Mariko Grady joined La Cocina’s incubator kitchen three years ago, the thought of owning her own business was little more than a dream. Following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that devastated Japan in 2011, she had started selling her homemade misos and kojis to friends to raise money to donate to victims in her home country.
When Allison Miller lost her job as a server at a restaurant that closed last summer, she wasn’t sure how she would make ends meet while living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Surviving on unemployment benefits, she was able to qualify for CalFresh, funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), AKA food stamps. Although she had limited resources, she wanted to continue to buy her produce at the farmers’ market, where she had developed strong ties with local farmers. Read more
Most people take it for granted that all the fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market are grown by the farmers selling them–and with good reason: Farmers markets foster direct relationships between producers and consumers.
But recent reports of fraud threaten to undermine that foundation of trust. In 2010, an undercover investigation revealed farmers buying wholesale produce from Mexico to sell at Los Angeles farmers’ markets. Last year, LA County boosted enforcement at markets and rooted out 19 vendors selling produce they didn’t grow. Read more
If you think the “natural” label means that a food product contains no artificial ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics, or GMOs, you’re mistaken—but you’re not alone. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 59% of consumers seek out the natural label, despite the fact that it has little or no meaning in the marketplace and no federal or third-party standards or verification. Read more
While many conscientious eaters go out of their way to purchase pasture-raised eggs laid by happy chickens, it’s a little-known fact that almost all eggs have a hidden cost: millions of baby male chicks are killed each year at the hatcheries that raise egg-laying hens. Even humane, organic egg producers are reliant on these large hatcheries. Read more
With their rainbow colors and odd shapes and sizes, the appeal of heirloom tomatoes is undeniable. But more than just a pretty face, these darlings of the summer farmers market also represent diversity and freedom in our food supply.
“People ask me, ‘Is this heirloom or hybrid?’” says farmer Bill Crepps of the Winters, California farm Everything Under the Sun. “You can tell that there’s something they don’t like about the word ‘hybrid.’” Read more
On February 8, Rancho Feed Corporation issued a recall on more than 8.7 million pounds of meat that had been processed in its facility over the last year. No illnesses have been reported, but the Petaluma, California-based slaughterhouse allegedly defied the law and circumvented U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, slaughtering and selling meat from diseased cows. Read more
Last December, the New York Times offered a list of words for the dumpster, tired and worn-out terms ready for retirement in 2014. Topping the list was “artisan,” a term used in the marketing of products ranging from small-batch pickles and preserves to Tostitos tortilla chips and Starbucks sandwiches.
Regardless of mainstream attempts to co-opt the label, a truly artisanal food movement—based in craft, community, tradition, and innovation—is alive and kicking. For these businesses, growth is not something to take lightly; it’s a delicate dance between staying true to one’s values while adapting to new economies of scale. Read more
America has a growing appetite for handcrafted gourmet food products. With this high demand, small-scale food producers often wrestle with questions of growth. How big can they get while remaining true to their values and maintaining the quality of their product? Has the word “artisanal” lost its meaning in the marketplace? How can one identify responsible small businesses that use authentic ingredients and value craft and transparency?
Join CUESA, Kitchen Table Talks, and the Good Food Awards at the Ferry Building for a panel discussion on Monday, January 20, from 6 – 8 pm with three successful artisan food producers who have found their way in the expanding market. The panel will be followed by a reception with refreshments generously provided by Bi-Rite Market. Read more
Daily menus, open kitchens, and women chefs may seem commonplace in today’s restaurants, but 40 years ago they were downright radical. Coming out of the social upheavals of the 1960s, California chefs, farmers, and food artisans of the 1970s bucked tradition in the kitchen and the fields, stirring a culinary revolution that has reverberated around the world.
Joyce Goldstein, one such pioneer, assembles this complex history in her new book, Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness (University of California Press), weaving together nearly 200 interviews with farm-to-table visionaries such as CUESA founder Sibella Kraus, Warren Weber of Star Route Farms, Steve Sullivan of Acme Bread, and Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery. Read more