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Scaling Up Artisanal Food: How Big Is Too Big?

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

Lessons from the Front Line: Building a Local Grain Economy

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

Kitchen Table Talks: Building a Regional Grain Economy

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.

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Cottage Food: A Step Towards a Law

“All food businesses start in a home kitchen,” said Shakirah Simley at a recent Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco. Her statement is a simple reflection on the ethos driving the recent cottage food legislation in California. Abuzz among the craft food community for months, the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) passed the Assembly Committee on Health on April 17th in a unanimous vote of support by all 15 committee members.

With widespread support by almost 60 organizations and businesses who have already written letters to the California legislature, including Bay Area institutions La Cocina, Garden for the Environment and Rainbow Grocery, the legislation was the subject of the Kitchen Table Talks discussion at 18 Reasons, co-hosted by SPUR. Richard Lee, the Director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Christina Oatfield, Food Policy Director at the Sustainable Economies Law Center–which introduced the bill–joined Simley in discussing the implications of the legislation on California’s growing number of food entrepreneurs. Read more

Cottage Food Laws: Selling Food from a Home Kitchen

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

Kitchen Table Talks: In Solidarity with the Occupy Movement

In the 10 weeks since that momentous spark in mid-September, what began as an audacious protest, call to action, and singular act of civil disobedience on Wall Street, has quickly taken root worldwide. Capturing the hearts of those negatively impacted by the current economic and political system, speaking passionately for the disenfranchised, and uniting arms in solidarity with protest movements around the world, the Occupy movement has become a lightning rod and catalyst stimulating a long needed dialogue. Economic and social justice, corporate control and profiteering, and systematic corruption are just part of that discussion.

On Thursday, December 15, 2011 please join us in San Francisco for the next Kitchen Table Talks for a thought provoking and stimulating exploration of the context, implications, actions, and promise of Occupy for the food movement. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks Event: The Food and Farm Bill 2012

Everyone from Willie Nelson to your average Zuccotti Park resident knows that we need to see policy that reflects our national needs for good, clean, healthy, and fair food. But, how and where to get involved in a piece of legislation as complicated and entrenched as the Farm Bill? To aid in your education, we’re excited to announce a special Kitchen Table Talks on Sunday, November 6, in conjunction with the Community Food Security Coalition’s annual conference. Join us in San Francisco for a lively conversation about the Farm Bill at our new location at 18 Reasons and we’ll take a look at this important piece of legislation from national, state and local levels, and answer your questions about what the it is, where it is headed and how you can get involved. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: A Food Activist’s Guide to Growing the Movement

While the expression “vote with your fork” has become a slogan for the modern food movement, many advocates struggle with how to move from conscientious consumerism to engaged citizenship. Harnessing the groundswell of public interest in food to create lasting policy change was the subject of a recent San Francisco Kitchen Table Talks, a monthly conversation about food issues. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks SF: Food Activism

As consumers, we all know and try to live the mantra “vote with your fork.” But as citizens, voting with our forks can only get us so far. Standing up for real change in our food system requires getting informed, involved, and activated. As the political season heats up, please join us for Kitchen Table Talks on Tuesday, September 20 to hear how ordinary people made extraordinary improvements in our community and learn the tools of political engagement. It will be the first KTT in the new 18 Reasons location, across the street from Bi-Rite Market.

We encourage participants to take their newly learned skills the following week to a free San Francisco mayoral candidate forum on Monday, September 26, sponsored by the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, and Bay Area Water Stewards. There you can engage candidates on their perspectives on issues related to urban agriculture, schoolyard greening, and the City’s management of water resources.

When: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where: 18 Reasons, 3674 18th Street (@ Dolores), San Francisco

Food and drink at 6:30 pm; Discussion at 7:00 pm

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