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.