All posts filed under: Food

A Beautiful Harvest

I caught up with Louie the peach farmer last week and we talked about the troubling water situation in California. Louie also grows almonds, a mainstay in our state, but also one of our most water-consuming crops. Louie is no stranger to this reality, but it’s tough to transition away from a crop you’ve been working with your whole life. Always looking to the bright side, Louie shared some good news — he was able to buy the water allotment from one of his neighbors who doesn’t use his acreage for agriculture. With the gift of his gallons, Louie was able to have a bountiful fruit harvest. Our conversation hopped to the farm laborers who made it all happen. Louie’s operation is smaller than the farms that typically make the news. He is not the guy getting interviewed by reporters on immigration and farm labor management. Some folks on his crew have been with him for decades and Louie pays them an above market wage. According to Louie, giving people dignity is just good business. …

The Wild Alone

Louie Boer is a college chum of my father’s, a peach farmer, and somewhat of a mythical figure. I remember him visiting the house when I was a kid, driving down from Modesto in his ginormous truck, wearing a thick lined windbreaker and work boots. He is a big guy – towering, Dutch, and agricultural. Louie is the kind of guy you look at and think, “Your mom fed you well growing up.” As gentle as he is big, Louie is a rugged but soft-spoken intellectual. I remember sitting at the dinner table listening to him and my dad talk about the good old days, fishing up the Central Coast, reading, and just being free outdoors. They talked about life, God, and family while my mom served Louie Indian food – puffed up rotis, sautéed vegetables, and my dad’s chicken curry. About a month ago, Louie got COVID, and then a couple of weeks ago, he disappeared. My father grew desolate trying to reach him, and every day he would talk to some friend or …

These Legumes Offer a Leg Up

In 1989, Jossy Eyre was volunteering at a daytime women’s shelter in Denver as part of her master’s degree in social work. There she met dozens of jobless women with little sense of where they were going or what came next. After a period of relative safety and stability at the shelter, the women simply stopped showing up. Jossy worked at the shelter for the entire academic year, and it didn’t take long for familiar faces to reappear. Often, the women had gotten jobs during their time away, but struggled to keep them. Jossy’s talks with them revealed an interconnected web of social and financial challenges that required a more sustainable solution. So she did what all accidental social entrepreneurs do – she asked herself what she knew how to do, and how she could use her skills to create opportunities for others. 500 Bucks and a Vision Jossy knew how to make soup. So she invested $500 of her own money and put two women to work making single pot mixes – 10 Bean, …

It’s a Beautiful Day for Refugees

Where does most granola begin? Probably in a factory, or maybe a sticky bowl at home during an oatmeal cookie project gone wrong. At Beautiful Day, a nonprofit gourmet granola powerhouse in Rhode Island, the answer may surprise you – a classroom. In 2008, Keith Cooper was an educator struggling to meet the learning needs of his refugee students. The decontextualized atmosphere of the western classroom – desks and chairs arranged in neat rows – wasn’t conducive to learning for kids who had just arrived from camps. Since most people learn by doing, Keith decided that one of his personal hobbies might be a perfect hands-on project. So he got together with his friend Geoff Gordon and started teaching his students how to make granola. English improved. Morale improved. Students found something that bound them together and gave them purpose – and Keith saw a chance to make it all sustainable. Honoring Work & Roots Fast-forward a dozen years, and Beautiful Day is a thriving nonprofit with a mission “to help refugees, especially youth and the most …

Impact is the Spice of Life

Northeastern Afghanistan might be the last place on earth that you’d expect to find inspiration for a new social impact business – especially in the food industry. With short summers and jagged peaks that soar past 20,000 feet, the Hindu Kush mountains defy any attempts at profitable farming. But once a year, foragers head up the cliffs to gather wild mountain cumin, a favorite local spice that’s largely unknown in the rest of the world. As a young aid worker stationed in Afghanistan, Ethan Frisch surely wasn’t the first Westerner to taste the stuff, but thanks to his background as a chef in New York City, he instantly recognized that it was something special. That rare, tiny seed was the inspiration for Burlap & Barrel, a single-origin spice company that sources unique and beautiful products from smallholder farmers sustaining an ancient trade in some of the most remote parts of the world. The company aims to reduce inequality and exploitation in food systems by connecting farmers to high value markets. Ethan founded the company with Ori …

Vintners with a Vision for Impact

In 2007, when Jake Kloberdanz found out that a loved one had been diagnosed with cancer, he turned to his work friends for support. All recent college grads cutting their teeth in the wine industry, they revisited an audacious idea they’d discussed earlier: Could they sell wine and donate money to worthy causes like cancer research? “Breast cancer awareness typically lasts for a month,” says Kristen Shroyer, one of Jake’s friends. “There was no wine giving back, so we wondered how we could use what we knew to keep a cause going all year long.” “We really had no idea what we were doing,” Brandon Hall admits, but he and the rest of the group — Jake, Tiffany, Tom, Sarah, and Kristen — weren’t about to let that stop them from launching ONEHOPE Wine, the first built-from-the-ground-up, purpose-driven wine brand. “I was selling wine out of my car!” laughs Kristen, who’s now EVP for Partnerships. In an industry dominated by big players, the team’s naivete may have been an asset, and their common mission is certainly …

New to Food

If you think about it, none of us is “new to food.” Food is something each of us has experienced and interacted with since our first days. However, the growing complexity and commercialization of food in recent decades has distanced us so much from this thing so elemental to our existence, that we sometimes feel confused or like we’re new here. Despite knowing a great deal about food, I too often wander the supermarket aisles, assaulted by trends and market forces, wondering if I should buy this or that. Despite a growing collective renaissance we’re having about food and keeping what we consume as close to the earth as possible, food is still something we largely obtain through corporate channels. Having grown up with a food scientist father in a factory environment, and being an experienced food industry professional myself, I would argue that what we now call food isn’t really food. Since we’ve come down on “big food,” another goliath industry has emerged comprised of “natural, non-GMO, dairy- and gluten-free, small batch, hand-crafted, functional, …