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
Jim Leap, an organic farmer in Aromas, California, had his first introduction to fracking a year ago when a bunch of large trucks showed up at his property and workers started putting out data loggers. When he asked what was they were doing, he was told that they were mapping earthquake faults. Read more
Join us June 12, 2013 in San Francisco for the latest installment of Kitchen Table Talks, which will focus on Food, Farms, and Fracking in California. More details about the event after the jump.
Labor is embedded in every aspect of the food system, from those working in the fields, to restaurant workers, even to those baking their own bread at home. So why is labor so often left out of the discussion on local, sustainable food systems? Many organizations are now trying to change this paradigm, from new ways to organize and protest current practices to food businesses which take into account the quality of life of their employees.
These new approaches to achieve social justice in the food system and how they are a reflection of the changing dynamic of work in society will be the focus of the next Kitchen Table Talks event in San Francisco. Specifically we’ll look at national organizing around farm and restaurant labor and local efforts to create a good food economy. And we will ask the question, “Why do we all have to work, anyway?”
Panelists will include Chris Carlsson, historian and author of Nowtopia; Mariela Cedeño, Senior Manager, Social Enterprise & Communications at Mandela Marketplace; and Kay Cuajunco of the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Read more
A couple of weeks ago, a farmer, a baker and a community grains maker gathered at Oliveto in Oakland, CA to give the Kitchen Table Talks audience the low down on local grains. Doug Mosel of The Mendocino Grain Project, Craig Pondsford of Pondsford’s Place Bakery & Innovation Center and Bob Klein of Community Grains taught us about the industrial grain economy, the local alternatives and the current barriers to expansion. Read more
To buy local fruits, vegetables, and meat, we do not have to look much further than a nearby farmers market or community supported agriculture share. But to buy wheat flour, we have traditionally spent our dollars outside of the farmers market to find the product we use during all seasons. For a large part, the underlying reason lies in the industrialization of wheat production, which started in the 1880s with the advent of the steam roller mill. This large-scale mill turned out a cheap shelf-stable flour which essentially crippled regional grain markets. But as we begin to realize the detrimental economic and nutritional effects of the transformation of wheat to a commodity crop, regional grain economies are beginning to regrow across the country. Over the past five years, the necessary infrastructure has been put into place to process and sell grains at a smaller scale and keep profits within local communities.
Food entrepreneurs in California cannot currently sell products to the public that they’ve cooked in a home kitchen. The recently proposed California Homemade Food Act, or “cottage food” law, introduced last month in the California legislature would change that. The reform would allow individuals, like their counterparts in 31 other states, to sell “non-potentially hazardous foods” produced in home kitchens directly to consumers.
The proposed legislation, backed by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, would open up the market for aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to test the market, establish a customer base and incubate their business without the high overhead costs of renting commercial kitchen space. Especially with the current lack of appropriate commercial kitchens and the increasing number of passionate food crafters looking to enter the industry, this legislation would be welcomed by aspiring picklers and bakers alike.
Alongside the excitement from the craft food community, exists concerns from established food businesses who have made the investment in commercial spaces. In addition, despite the restrictions on permitted food products and sanitation regulations, there exists further concerns from public health officials who worry about the safety of foods produced in a home kitchen. And so the legislative discussion continues.
Please join us to discuss the proposed “cottage food law” from both the small business and public health perspectives at the next Kitchen Table Talks at 18 Reasons, in association with SPUR. Read more
Since the homemade food renaissance has taken root in California, there’s been no shortage of home picklers, jammers, and bakers. But under current state laws, it’s a misdemeanor for those home artisans to sell their goodies in the open marketplace. Case in point: Last June, Department of Public Health officials shut down ForageSF’s popular Underground Market, which featured mostly home producers, because its sellers were not compliant with local and state regulations.
But due to a campaign launched by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), the laws might change this year. The Oakland-based SELC recently teamed up with Los Angeles Assemblymember Mike Gatto to introduce the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616), a “cottage food” bill that would legalize the sale of certain foods produced in home kitchens. Read more