Thirty to forty percent of perfectly good, fresh produce grown in the U.S. goes to waste each year simply due to bruising or ripening that most markets deem unacceptable for sale. That astounding figure has only increased during the pandemic, as widespread closures of restaurants, schools, and businesses have led farmers to dump their surpluses of eggs, milk, and potatoes—all this as needy families line up in growing numbers at food banks across the country. Tabitha Stroup, a former chef and restaurant veteran of nearly 20 years, tells us how she’s working to help close the loop and boost local independent farms in California’s Pajaro Valley with Terroir in a Jar, a company with a serious mission to reduce food waste and put profits back into the hands of growers.
You’ve worn many hats in the food industry. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I’ll just give you the Reader’s Digest version. I started cooking in 1991, in Santa Cruz, went to Cordon Bleu in the mid-nineties and through that, helped open up a couple restaurants. I got bored with that and got into the wine world, got my Level 1 sommelier certification, and became the caterer to the wineries of our AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and specialized in it. Within that time frame, I got my Level 1 cheese mongering certification and was teaching at the Cheese School of San Francisco as well, because I needed something new to keep me going.
I was realizing that there were no products out there in the market that represented our community, let alone anyone else’s community, to go out and be a pairing ambassador for the region. In 2011, I started Friend in Cheeses Jam Co., which is a national brand now, utilizing all that we grow here on the Central Coast—we create products that I call “jars of possibilities.” When you open up a jar, it can go twelve different directions, and you’re only limited by your own imagination.
What led you to then start Terroir in a Jar?
Last year, my former business partner and I were thinking, Okay, farmers are the lowest common denominator of our food chain, right? They get the lowest amount of money, the least amount of respect, take on the most physical abuse in a job, and [receive] usually the least return, compared to the mass agricultural index—I’m talking about the small, local, family-run, organic farmer. They’ll bring me, Friend in Cheeses Jam Co., their unsellable produce to make into preserves. Let’s say they have one hundred pounds of strawberries to offload, and I’ll buy those for either fifty cents to a dollar a pound. So the end of their financial journey, with that one hundred pounds, ends with me at fifty to a hundred bucks. Well, hmm, that’s fucked. So I thought, Could I take that same hundred pounds and make more money for me and the farmer? How could I do that?
The economics of farming seem pretty backwards—especially given the time it takes to grow something, and the necessity of what they grow.
I started contacting my farm partners and just posed it to them: What if you just give me that one hundred pounds, I make it into shelf-stable products that are legal to sell to the public, and sell back to you to distribute wholesale? This way, the farmer has the ability for a complete recoup. So with that same one hundred pounds of strawberries I would have bought to make Friend in Cheeses jam, I instead take that and make preserves, jams, jellies, hot sauce, or whatever suits the produce they’re selling, and sell it back to them. All of a sudden, their profitability on that “unsellable” produce has jumped three thousand percent with a product that has a three-year shelf life.
Unlike other private labels that do this sort of thing, we’re also a full-service product for the farmer: I have a marketing person and graphic designers that will help get their labels together with all the legal federal requirements and die-cuts for the labels, and meet with local markets and grocery stores to find an outlet. They can also include them in their C.S.A. boxes, at farmer’s markets, and, during the off months, still have some offerings in their C.S.A. pantry. We’re a certified green kitchen, as well, which is part of the bonus of working with us: For all of our food waste, we have farm partners that we text when the buckets are full. They pick them up, feed livestock with it, or throw it into their compost to grow more food.
What’s the end goal for Terroir in a Jar?
That the majority of small agricultural regions in this country have an outlet to not only monetize from waste, but to be able to diversify offerings to their community, be able to raise profits, and become stronger farms. And then, to have a national training program for disadvantaged human beings that have taken a trip or stumbled in life, and get them back into the world with beautiful food, teaching them about paying it forward and all that good stuff. And, of course, to get the amount of food waste down. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.
What changes would you like to see in our food and agricultural systems at large?
First and foremost, legislation. We are losing such a grip with our current administration. For example, the USDA, which monitors our meatpacking plants and livestock farming. Just a few weeks ago, the President signed [a declaration] that all laws and good manufacturing practices instilled in USDA packing plants are no longer laws but suggestions. Nobody’s going to follow a suggestion, especially if the suggestion costs more. Profits are already so hard to come by in the food industry and, unfortunately, so many Americans are conditioned to want to pay less for food than they would a pair of kicks, a fresh set of nails, or a haircut: It’s a Happy Meal mentality.
Fresh, responsibly grown fruits and vegetables may be more expensive, but it’s an investment that goes into yourself, your body. We have this skewed reality of how we should be fed, who should feed us, and what its value is. We’re flipped on our backs, because everyone wants to go grocery shopping at the big boxes during this pandemic, but here in California, the farmer’s markets are open. [I’d rather be] in an open-air market, keeping my dollars in my backyard, which in turn makes my local schools, roads, and communities better.
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Whetstone Magazine Co-Founder and “Origin Forager” Stephen Satterfield on Food, Culture, and Identity
The co-founder of Whetstone magazine and host of the food anthropology podcast Point of Origin, food writer Stephen Satterfield spent more than a decade working as a sommelier before venturing into the world of medEsquire, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and other publications, Satterfield tells us about his role as a self-described “origin forager,” and why the
With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer has officially begun, and for many home-growers, this signifies the busiest Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917 by a Japanese American family, sells some of the best, and offers more than 500 seed varieties of dento yasai, traditional heirloom varieties of a diverse array of Asian vegetables used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines, Browse the extensive catalog to learn about all the delicious varieties, and pick up some recipes for dishes such as sunomono, a simple and refreshing cucumber salad, and kinpira gobo, a savory side of burdock root sautéed in sweet soy sauce.
As the in-house chef for Vitsœ—the midcentury furniture manufacturer that’s been producing Dieter Rams designs since 1959—Will Leigh is a fixture who famous 606 modular shelving. Though much of the Vitsœ team has been working remotely these past several weeks, Leigh, along with a dozen or so esse
As we enter yet another week of social distancing in many cities throughout the U.S., home cooking, it seems, is here toGreat Jones, the direct-to-consumer startup co-founded by Grub Street alum Sierra Tishgart, makes a beautiful enamel cast-iron versThe Dutchess, in a range of cheery colors to brighten any kitchen drudgery. For the more minimalist or solo cook looking to save spaAlways Pan from Our Place is an ideal starter piece, with a ceramic non-stick coating and various nesting accessories that give it a multifunctioMisen’s durable seven-piece cookware set, designed by the Brooklyn studio Visibility, offers a clean, no-nonsense take, with ergonomic handles designed for comf
The ongoing Covid-19 closures have brought the unimaginable to so many local and small businesses across the country andFamily Meal, a site and Instagram account of recipe cards featuring dishes from their favorite local restaurants. All are available for download, with suggested bagna cauda from Popina, challah from The Lighthouse, and lou rou fan from Win Son.
Between homeschooling, working from home, and/or cooking at home more than ever, many of us are spending our days stayinan automated, open-source system called FarmBot that’s been slowly cultivating a fan base of users online. Controlled using an app, and assembled from a kit of parts, t
Daytime drinking is on the up—hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere (not that we can keep track of time these days, though the #HandMarkingTime Stories on our @slowdown.tv Instagram at least help us remember which day of the month it is). But if you prefer not to risk getting a hangover, or weakeningDram Apothecary makes a version of the increasingly popular drink in a range of flavors, such as cardamom and black tea, using CBD extrWild Mountain Sage) and switchels, as well as a set of CBD tinctures that you can either drop directly on your tongue, or add to any drink
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has put a sudden and massive halt on the restaurant industry: Bars, small businesses, mega-c“morbidly high business death rate.” (There’s an episode of our At a Distance podcast on this very subject with Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier coming out soon.) As wholesale restaurant suppliers now find their client bases on
As people everywhere settle into new home-cooking routines, finding resourceful ways to make their pantry goods stretch victory garden. Luckily for apartment dwellers without a backyard or access to much green space (more than half the world, basically), all you need is a corner of a countertop to grow some fresh herbs indoors. Better still, and for the botanEdn. The company makes wifi-controlled kits that come with a built-in LED grow light; simple seed pods for no-fuss, soillesSmall Garden order placed—a welcome reminder, in these uncertain times, that your efforts to stay indoors can make a difference for
Self-quarantine and social distancing in the age of the coronavirus are not to be taken lightly, and if, like us, you’refor your own safety and for the safety of others—you may be asking yourself what to stock your pantries with. Add to cart: DADA Daily, a line of tasty and healthy snacks that are neither heavy-handedly survivalist nor overprocessed and, not to mention, so don’t be that bulk-buying, toilet paper-stockpiling jerk.
As the daughter of Slow Food pioneer and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Fanny Singer has had her share of Proustian Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), offers a warm and sensorial portrait of her mother, and of an upbringing that often revolved around
Dimes, the all-day café, bar, and market founded by Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner in downtown Manhattan, has always doneDimes Times: Emotional Eating (Karma Books)—which she says is the first in a series of more publications to come.
Rich Shih, founder of the blog Our Cook Quest and co-author of the forthcoming book Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, is a self-taught cook and fermentation expert who makes everything from takuan pickles to fish sauce from scratch, twekoji, the source of umami in fermented ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mirin, and more.
South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant OscarsParasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.
Zach Mangan, founder of the specialty Japanese tea importer, gallery, and café Kettl, tells us what to look, smell, and taste for in a top-quality matcha.