FarmRaiser Partners: Food For Thought & Esch Road

September 3, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

Food for Thought 

Food for Thought was started in 1995 as a way for founder, Timothy Young, to put into a jar his philosophy on making the world abetter place to live for all of us. These impeccably high quality, organic, and fair trade products could therefore convince anyone of our collective need to create and raise awareness around just and sustainable food.

Most of the Food for Thought products feature difficult-to-find organic fruits from northern Michigan farms. In preserves, you’ll find these fruits paired with herbs and other flavors to create extremely unique products such as Blueberry Lavender, Strawberry Basil, and Apricot Chardonnay. Salsas perfectly pair your more typical flavors with organic blueberries or cherries. You’ll also find a number of products featuring foraged wild plants such as Pickled Wild Leeks.

 

Esch Road  

Timothy and his family founded Esch Road Foods in 2012 as a new line of products intended to showcase all that is great about the Great Lakes. The brand is aptly named for what locals refer to as Esch Road Beach, where Esch Road dead ends at a perfect Lake Michigan sandy shoreline. A creek meandering out of the forest and through the sand before meeting with the big lake.

Esch Road products feature a line of goods that celebrates the richness of the Great Lakes region, particularly the incredible fruits grown along the west coast of Michigan. While they’ve dropped the organic standards, you can rest assured that these products are still produced in small batches with plenty of natural ingredients, attention, and love. They’re also certified Kosher & Non-GMO, and feature some organic ingredients grown on the Food for Thought Farm! Plus, these products are made more affordable than their Food for Thought counterparts.

About Founder, Timothy Young 

Timothy  is a pioneer of local products in the northern Michigan region, and likely one of the area’s most passionate citizens. He stands behind his passion for building a more just and sustainable food system worldwide, not only by running a food business that meets these ideals, but by working on projects and with organizations who are also committed to these goals. Here are just a few of those things.

Timothy (along with Chris Treter of another FarmRaiser partner business, Higher Grounds) is a founding board member of the non-profit, On The Ground. On The Ground supports sustainable community development in farming regions across the world. They raise awareness and funds for those projects by orchestrating incredible runs in the regions where they’re working. For example, in 2012 a group ran across the West Bank planting olive trees along the way to raise awareness about the struggles of Palestinian olive farmers.

At home, Food for Thought sponsors an annual free event called Green Cuisine at their farm and business location. The event helps to raise awareness about just and sustainable food systems within the northern Michigan community, while also being Michigan’s very fist zero waste event. Up to 1,000 visitors have attended each year to sample some of the region’s best local food and drink. Taking place every year in mid-July, we highly recommend you attend if you’re in the area!

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Students sell local food for school and businesses

August 27, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

Sixth grader Nicholas Plamondon said it was fun selling products like Brownwood Farms jams, Higher Grounds coffee, and salsas from Esch Road Foods to his aunts, uncles and grandparents.

He also had fun tasting the fare.

“The peach salsa was really good,” Plamondon said.

About $1,700 from the food drive will go to the 134-student school. The rest is destined for the local businesses and farms that produced the products, minus a 10-percent cut for FarmRaiser, the Flint-based company that coordinated the drive.

FarmRaiser helps schools in Michigan raise money and teach students about their local economies, said Christina Carson, the group’s campaign coordinator.

Connie Lauferskey, Leelanau Montessori’s head of school, said those are two things that spark passion in her students’ families.

“The opportunity for families to support our school and local business and farms was perfect for us,” she said.

Carson said FarmRaiser also beefs up business for local farms and food producers, and unlike a lot of other school fundraisers, educates students about healthy-eating habits.

“A lot of the fundraisers that are accessible to schools are selling cookie dough,” Carson said.

 

Carson said she brought a slew of local foods to Leelanau Montessori at the start of the fundraiser for students to sample. Roasted root vegetables were among the offerings. Carson said they were a hit with the students, but they weren’t the most popular local food.

That distinction went to dessert.

“The kids, of course, particularly enjoyed the chocolate,” Lauferskey said.

 

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FarmRaiser Partners: Flint Coffee Company

August 15, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

About the Family 

Teresa Villacorta and her husband John Cherry started the Flint Coffee Company to bring Teresa’s family’s coffee directly to the Flint community. Humberto Villacorta and his wife Juliana are coffee farmers in the village of Los Patos, Peru where their family has been farming coffee for over 45 years. Coffee farming can be an unpredictable business due to the potential of disease on the plants and constantly fluctuating prices. By sourcing beans from their family farm, the Flint Coffee Company can make sure the family has a constant buyer for their crop and that they receive a livable price for their work.

About the Coffee

By purchasing coffee beans from their own family, the Flint Coffee Company can ensure that the beans are of the highest quality. All of the coffee is shade grown in a traditional manner under a variety of trees, including fruit such as banana and papaya, and other native trees. Growing coffee in this manner mimics the natural habitat of coffee, protecting the biodiversity of the region and eliminating the need for pesticides or fungicides.

All of the coffee is harvested by hand, ensuring that only the ripest cherries (what the coffee fruit is called) are picked. During the harvest, the entire village of Los Patos comes together with all hands working together to harvest the coffee. Once harvested, the coffee cherries are depulped, leaving just the fresh green coffee beans. The are then fermented, washed, and dried in the sun. Once dry, they can be sent to Flint for roasting. Then of course, to make you a delicious cup of coffee!

Where to find Flint Coffee Company 

Of course you can purchase their coffee from FarmRaiser campaigns in the Flint area, but it is also available in plenty of locations throughout the community. You can purchase a cup of freshly made coffee at Bankok Peppers, Hoffman’s Deco Deli, Local Grocer in the Flint Farmers Market, and The Lunch Studio. If you’re looking for some freshly roasted beans to make coffee at home, stop by the Local Grocer in the Flint Farmers Market, Good Beans Cafe, or Trim Pines Farm in Holly.

Happy Coffee Drinking!

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Cupcake Wars? What’s the Best Way to Control our Children’s Sugar Intake at School and Home?

August 8, 2014 / All, Family and Community Health / Comments: 0
Impact on School Fundraising 
Since the first of July of this year, those restrictions were extended beyond mealtimes into all areas of the school day.  Any food that’s intended for students to consume at school must meet the sugar and fats specifications outlined in the bill, including food sold during on-site bake sales. Many have dubbed this new aspect of the bill “The War on Cupcakes,” a humorous nickname that undermines the important implications of the program. By ensuring that children eat better at school, they are being exposed to healthy eating alternatives and learning how to have a more complete diet. That said, the bill only covers snack foods intended to be consumed during the school day, and not a majority of junk-food based fundraising items such as frozen cookie dough, candy or pizza kits where the products are intended to be taken home (these remain exempt from the regulation).

FarmRaiser’s Two Cents 
As a company that offers healthy alternatives to the sea of sugar and preservative-filled foods that are the norm for fundraising campaigns, many of our supporters and friends have assumed we’d be in favor of extending regulations to cover all food sold in fundraisers.  In fact, the new rules set up a strange situation where schools are banning certain products on campus only to have students take home fundraising brochures filled with every imaginable variation of these same products no longer available for consumption at school–a mixed message that could undermine the effectiveness of the “Let’s Move” campaign in truly changing food selection and eating habits.
But is the answer more regulation?  FarmRaiser could probably benefit from expanding the regulation.  However, I believe the true power in our model is that we offer a healthy alternative.  We want families to join the growing movement around eating healthy and eating local.  In my experience, no one joins a group or a cause because they are forced to do so.  So I think schools should be able to sell whatever they want to raise money for their critical supplies.  Of course, any school that sees how well our campaigns align with the values and practices of their school wellness plans, not to mention the amazing local products (and profits) available through our campaigns, will jump at the chance to join our movement.
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Join the Community Supported Agriculture Movement!

July 28, 2014 / All, Local Food and Amazing Products / Comments: 0

Want to support your local farmers? Like the idea of having direct access to fresh, high quality, locally grown produce? Interested to do a little more experimenting in your kitchen? If so, we recommend looking into joining the rapidly growing movement called Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSA.

 

What is a CSA?

More than anything, CSAs are about community. It involves community members committing to a partnership with a local farmer (or group of farmers). In this partnership, the community members each purchase a share of the farm in advance to cover the farmer’s operating costs and salary.  In return, they receive shares of produce throughout the growing season. These shares are often delivered weekly. CSA shares vary greatly in their cost and what they include. A share could cost you anywhere from $200 to $700 and include veggies, fruit, eggs, meat, cheese, bread, or some combination of these things. If you’re concerned about eating all the produce – consider asking if your farmer offers half-shares or find a friend to share your weekly box of goodies with!

 

Many CSA farms also offer the option of including produce from other local farms, which can enhance variety. The structure of different CSA farms may vary greatly in terms of who coordinates the shares and how they work – but all United States CSAs share the aforementioned characteristics. Some programs even have high-tech online systems where one can choose the produce they’ll receive, skip weeks they’ll be out of town, and add additional goods to round out the offerings.

 

Why CSAs?

For the past 50 or so years, corporate agribusinesses have dominated agriculture in the U.S. The industrial farming methods used by these enormous corporations have supplanted small family farms and created a rift between the consumer and his or her food. Community Supported Agriculture started popping up in the U.S. in the 1980’s, and we now have over 13,000 CSA farms throughout the nation. Community Supported Agriculture offers us a chance to build a strong, sustainable food system and to become more invested (literally) in our food.

 

How does your CSA help local farmers?

  • Helps small farms afford their spring planting costs.
  • Relieves the burden of having to independently finance farm operations, which often includes relying on bank loans.
  • Ensures a core collection of customers, guaranteeing initial sales for the season.
  • Lessens the impact of a single unfruitful harvest or external crisis, as the community members or “shareholders” share the risk.
  • Cuts out the middleman, lowering cost.

 

How does your CSA benefit you and your community?

  • You gain direct access to regular deliveries of fresh, healthy produce.
  • You know where your food comes from, and often are offered frequent opportunities to visit or help on the farm.
  • Connects people back to the earth and the food they eat.
  • Strengthens the local economy.
  • Often CSAs end up being less expensive in the long run than purchasing the same vegetables at market weekly.

 

Looking for a CSA in your area?

There are plenty of ways find a CSA in your area or find out more about the different options. Of course we always suggest stopping by your local farmers market and asking the farmers who has a CSA – there’s nothing like choosing your CSA in person instead of online! There are plenty of online resources for finding a CSA as well. Do a search for local resources in your area, or check out some of these more national options: Local Harvest, Rural Bounty, USDA, Real Time Farms.

 

What to do with your CSA veggies?

Lots of folks sign up for CSA shares as an early step in getting more local food into their homes, and quickly get a little overwhelmed by all the veggies. Don’t fear though – there are plenty of things to do with excess! Increasing your daily vegetable intake is a great way to improve your overall health. Plus, with a little creativity many CSA items can be preserved for eating in the winter when less is available locally.

Here are some great resources for learning to eat with a CSA share:

  • The Kitchn provides some great tips on how to approach cooking with a CSA share as opposed to a weekly trip to the market or store.
  • This Pintrest board is full of great recipes for using some of those overly abundant veggies!
  • And of course Buzzfeed put together this amusing yet useful guide to making the most of some common CSA veggies that many folks aren’t used to having around the house.
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FarmRaiser Partners with the Cascade Harvest Coalition

July 23, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

The Cascade Harvest Coalition is an incredible Seattle-based organization that is working to re-localize the food system, and they’re working with FarmRaiser as a result! The coalition is made up of a diverse group of individuals and organizations that are all committed to fostering a healthy food and farm industry throughout the state of Washington.

 

Their goals are to:

  • Increase public awareness, appreciation and support for the economic, environmental, and cultural benefits of agriculture in the region.
  • Promote preservation and protection of agricultural lands and resources.
  • Enhance community food security and health by improving access to and consumption of locally-produced food.
  • Promote coordinated action and dialogue among the broad diversity of agricultural interests on issues affecting the region’s farmers, agricultural resources and quality of life.

They meet these goals by connecting consumers more directly with farmers and providing resources to farmers to aid them in making their operations more sustainable.

 

How it Started

Their unified endeavor began in 1997 when the lack of awareness about local and sustainable food options called for a collective voice to advocate better options to the public. A series of gatherings ensued that brought together all types of people involved in different aspects of the local food industry, from land use managers and economists, to chefs and state government representatives, and of course farmers. The result of the many discussions that took place was the birth of the idea for the coalition.

 

Puget Sound Fresh App

Since that time, the coalition has worked tirelessly to change the food system for the better. Along the way, they have adapted to the changes in how people talk and think about food and have invested time and energy to make their wealth of information more available to the public. Recently, they released a free application called Puget Sound Fresh that provides a quick and easy way for you to search the product you want to buy and see where it is available locally. It was also allows you to find farmers markets, provides information about each farm, and discover new recipes. Imagine how convenient it is to have all of that information contained in one app!

 

Cascade Harvest Coalition and FarmRaiser

The Coalition has been a flagship partner for FarmRaiser in the Seattle area since we started working there. Their wealth of knowledge about the local agriculture scene and time-honored connections with farmers and food artisans alike has proved to be an invaluable resource in jump-starting vendor relationships in the area. We couldn’t be happier to have them on board!
Coalitions like the Cascade Harvest Coalition are making strides to make shopping sustainably a more convenient and doable option for families all over the country. If you don’t live in Washington, do some searching to see if you have a similar organization in your area!

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Bow Hill Blueberries

July 22, 2014 / All, Local Food and Amazing Products / Comments: 0

The Bow Hill Blueberry Farm (Bow, WA) has been a staple partner for FarmRaiser in Washington since we started working there. The farm sits on the original property of the Anderson Blueberry Farm, in the fertile lands of the Skagit Valley. They’ve been an established farm since 1947, making them the oldest family-run blueberry farm in the Skagit Valley. The land is beautiful, rolling, and bountiful and the berries are delicious!

 

Bow Hill has been producing scrumptious blueberries for over 65 years, and has become a staple in their community. They draw on the strengths of their whole family to make their farm welcoming, beautiful, and productive. Harley, a former photojournalist for the Seattle Times takes beautiful photos of the farm, as can be seen on their website. Susan works as a freelance commercial director to keep the farm running smoothly. Amelia, their daughter, used her graphic design talents to design the logo for the farm and decorate their store. Wylie, their son, is about to start the 8th grade.

 

The farm has over 4500 high bush blueberries, a combination of Blue Crop, Jersey, Rubel, and Stanley. Each variety has distinct characteristics and flavor, if you have a sensitive taste for blueberries. The growing season in Washington is from June-September, so right now is the peak of the season.

 

They strive to create an environment that is conducive to family engagement and agricultural education. Their farm is a favorite local destination for “You-Pick” blueberries every summer, where folks can roam the fields, pick their own blueberries, and learn about the process of growing this prized berry.

 

Bow Hill also distributes “We-Pick” berries and blueberry products to locations around the area through their involvement in the Puget Sound Food Hub. The farm serves as a distribution point for the food hub – where area farmers bring together products to fulfill orders for restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, and more in larger metropolitan areas such as Seattle. One truck then leaves from Bow Hill with everyone’s goods. Having a centralized delivery system for small and medium sized farms saves time and money for farmers and makes it easier for businesses to source local goods direct from the farm.
If you live in an area where blueberries are grown locally, try going to a farm and picking them yourself for a great family activity. Bow Hill Blueberries has a few awesome recipes for you to try should you get your hands on some local berries!

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Al Dente

July 9, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

In 1981, Al Dente rolled out their first sheets of pasta dough and the high quality dried product hit the market at a select few specialty grocery stores—Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli and Chicago’s Treasure Island. Since then, the company has grown significantly and their delectable pasta is now available all over the country as well as in Canada. It’s no surprise that Al Dente has been such a success as their pastas are unique, easy to cook, and absolutely delicious. They use high quality ingredients and traditional methods many others skip for convenience, making their pasta so special!

A week ago, I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of Monique Deschaine, one of the founders of Al Dente, and one of the warmest people I have ever met. I found myself at the small batch manufactory while picking up the latest order of pasta for FarmRaiser. Al Dente was one of FarmRaiser’s inaugural partners in southeast Michigan and has been a part of almost every fundraising campaign that has taken place in the area. They package their “shorter than normal” pasta pieces for us and sell them at a significantly reduced price so that the organization running the campaign is able to make a higher profit. It’s one of the many ways that Al Dente gives back to their community. Monique congenially chatted with me as she finished counting and packing our boxes of pasta. Her joyful presence made the seemingly mundane task really pleasant (this sentiment is shared for most of our vendors – we love visiting them in their element)! Of course she couldn’t help but send us away with some of her pasta to try.

Tonight, after discovering that my mom had bought a beautiful filet of salmon, I decided to try one of the many recipes that Monique has posted on Al Dente’s website. It was absolutely delicious and simple to make. Monique has posted a lot of  quick recipes that have just a few ingredients, making it possible to have a complete homemade meal in about 20 minutes. The recipe I followed called for salmon, mushrooms, and Boursin cheese. Because we had some in the refrigerator, I included kale and onions as well for some extra veggie goodness.

I used the Bona Chia Spinach Fettuccine, which is made with chia seeds and therefore packed with fiber, omega 3s, and protein. Thispasta variety complemented this recipe really well. The spinach flavor came through, but was by no means overpowering. When you make Al Dente pasta, be sure to follow the cooking instructions carefully, as it’s easy to overcook!

Look for Al Dente in our fundraisers, and be sure to visit Al Dente to see everything they have to offer, peruse the recipes, and find a store near you that sells their products.

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FarmRaiser Named Winner of Seattle Sustainable Food Business Competition!

April 6, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

Joe Dobrow, former head of marketing for Whole Foods Market, Fresh Fields and Sprouts, recently released his book about the history of the natural foods industry called Natural Prophets. It details how the industry grew from a fringe movement to a $100 billion piece of the food puzzle and features extensive interviews with some of the largest organic companies around. In coming to Seattle on his book launch tour, he wanted to do something a little different and help the audience look a little closer at the great things happening in their community.

The resulting event brought together key players in the industry locally to share some really heartfelt stories about how they got their start. Then, six new and emerging companies (including us!) working in the region pitched their ideas to the panel and audience who rated us on key business factors.

Panel of Judges

Joe Whinney, Theo Chocolate

Arjan Stephens, Nature’s Path Organic

Edmond Sanctis, Sahale Snacks

Strategy Slam Winners! 

After inspiring introductions from the folks above, six unique and impressive businesses pitched their ideas. From a snail farm to a group teaching refugees commercial cooking skills to a mason bee business — what a treat to be included in a group of innovative folks each with their own unique idea!

Each pitch was followed by a questions and comments from the panelists. Every one of the panelists had great things to say about FarmRaiser and the audience was excited for FarmRaiser to grow in the Seattle community. We couldn’t have been happier for this great reception of our business from some of the biggest movers and shakers in the natural and organic food business of the northwest and the country!

At the end of the night, FarmRaiser was proud to be named the winner of the Strategy Slam event — coming out in front in ratings from both the panelists and the audience!

A big thank you goes out to the community of Seattle for welcoming us and instilling an awesome sense of excitement for what is to come for FarmRaiser in Seattle and beyond.

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What FarmRaiser’s All About!

March 18, 2014 / About FarmRaiser, All, Healthy Fundraising Ideas / Comments: 0

Reinventing School Fundraisers with Local, Healthy Food!

FarmRaiser founder, Mark Abbott, had finally had enough of his kids hawking unhealthy products to their family, friends, and neighbors when he decided to found new school fundraising company, FarmRaiser. This reinvention of the time-honored tradition of product-based school fundraising eliminates the unhealthy, sugar-laden products chock full of preservatives. Instead, schools participating in a FarmRaiser enlist their students to sell healthy products from local farmers and food artisans to their family and friends. In the process, students learn about the importance of feeding their body right and the local economy of every community where FarmRaiser works is supported in the process!

FarmRaiser creates their product lists by partnering with farmers and artisans making products like kale chips, dried fruit, peanut butter, coffee, preserves, salsas, and more in every community where they work.

Together we can reinvent fundraising!

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