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Online Marketplace Set to Launch Local Food Vendors into the Mainstream

When Sadie Scheffer decided to start her own vegan, gluten-free baking company, the logistics were not her top priority. Like many small food companies without retail spaces, she started Bread SRSLY by delivering her breads and muffins on a bike, using a makeshift online ordering system through email and Etsy, and taking cash on delivery. Scheffer’s system worked when she was fielding a few orders at a time, but when it came time to scale up, it was less than ideal.

Enter Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based startup that provides online tools for small and sustainable food producers. Now Scheffer’s orders come through the Good Eggs online platform, and on top of taking orders from house to house, she now also drops off a lot of product at once at community pickup spots arranged by the company. She sells three times as many loaves of bread as she did before Good Eggs. Scheffer admits that she’s had trouble keeping up with orders, but adds: “That’s the fun part, the scary part, and the only way I’m going to grow.” Read more

FoodCorps Members Get Their Hands Dirty

At a compost bin that doubles as a podium, urban farming hero Will Allen faced the inaugural class of 50 FoodCorps service members—sitting together in Milwaukee but about to spin out to ten states around the country–giving them advice for the year of service they have ahead of them.

“There’s a lot of skill and knowledge existing in the communities you’re going into. You’ll bring stuff, and you’ll learn stuff. It’s a two-way street,” he said. “That’s how real sustainability works.” Read more

A Tell-All Guide to Artisanal Butchery

It’s an unlikely story: A vegan chef and his vegetarian wife open a butcher shop that becomes a commercial hit and an industry game-changer. It all started thanks to that omnivore gateway meat, bacon, which for years was Jessica Applestone’s one vegetarian exception. When she started craving more meat she searched for meat that aligned with her ethics: Something raised with respect for the animal and for the environment. But she found meat labels confusing.

She concluded her best option was to buy a whole steer from a farmer, but how to deal with a whole animal when she was the only meat-eater in the family? Jessica’s dilemma revealed a gap in the market: Butcher shops that break down whole, well-raised animals for the average home cook. Her husband Joshua saw an opportunity and the couple began the painstaking training and groundwork that eventually became Fleisher’s Grass-fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, New York. Read more

Another Assault on the SOLE Food Movement

Causing no end of difficulties in our national discourse is the steadfast belief held by both the right and the left that everything is either right or left: bad or good, strong or weak, despotic or patriotic.  You’re either with us or you’re against us.  President Obama addressed this very effectively before both House Republicans and Senate Democrats in recent days.  It is media driven to a large extent because the media need controversy to sell papers, or bytes or views or whatever it is they’re selling these days.

The most common form this takes is the old build’em-up-then-tear’em-down routine.  Perhaps the only thing many Americans enjoy more than the uplifting emotion of a success story is the schadenfreude of watching that success come tumbling down.  So when an idea comes to the fore, the critics ooze from the woodwork and their primary tactic is divide and conquer.  Label it, frame the debate, and the fight is won or lost before the story is even told.

For a long time in the circles I travel in this was not a problem because the ideas embodied in what some have come to call SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local, & Ethical) were not perceived as a threat to the established paradigm.  Recent successes such as Michael Pollan’s work have, however, shined a very bright spotlight on advocates of real food.  As a result, people who have been toiling at these ideas for decades are becoming targets of powerful interests in the Big Food lobby.  Such is the case this week at WeeklyStandard.com, where Missouri Farm Bureau vice president Blake Hurst has found his most recent audience. Read more

Rooftop Farms: The Start of a City-Farmer Revolution

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of lending a hand as a volunteer at Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The name says it all: it is a 6000 square foot urban vegetable farm on the roof of an industrial building, growing rows inter-cropped with lettuces, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, kale and much more, which they sell directly to restaurants and at a farm stand inside the building every Sunday from 9am – 4pm.

Annie Novak and Ben Flanner are the farming minds behind the project. Both are passionate about how food gets to our table (Novak works with farmer with Kira Kenney of Evolutionary Organics at the Greenmarket, and works as the Children’s Gardening Program Coordinator at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Flanner is new to farming but seems to get a kick out of hawking produce). Chris and Lisa Goode of Goode Green, a green roofing company, found the roof and funded Rooftop Farms as a test. With this project, the team hopes to determine what is possible in terms of scale for growing on rooftops in the city. Read more

Growing Community Through Food in Santa Cruz

My obscure Community Studies undergraduate degree provided a multitude of lessons, but the main things I gained were these two ideas: 1. The personal is political. 2. To affect change you must begin right where you are. With these dictums in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about communities that are coming together to become self-sustaining. With food safety threats, economic destruction, globalization, outsourcing of jobs, and the homogenization of our food sources, it is no wonder that people are starting to get more and more organized. It seems like just this week, I have heard about a variety of examples, not just nationally but really close to home here in my small-ish town of Santa Cruz. Read more

Re-Imagining Queens County Farm Museum

Just inside New York City limits, there is a historic 47-acre farm dating back to 1697. Once owned by Dutch settlers, the Queens County Farm Museum was taken over by the NYC Department of Parks and saved from further development in the mid 1970’s. For 33 years, it has provided much-needed open space and has served as a community center, with visitors and schoolchildren of every age and from every borough in attendance. Read more

Stumptown Coffee Brings the Producer to You

For every sack of apples wearing its “I’m local” label proudly, there is a cup of coffee that will never be able to proclaim such a thing. Between all of those trips to the farmer’s market to shake hands with the farmer growing your dinner, and short of traveling to the coffee farm yourself, what is the devoted locavore who wants their morning brew to do? Read more