The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative operates urban farms in Detroit. This is a great group of young folks committed to urban farming and reinvigorating the city of Detroit. In this Skype conversation Molly Hubbell- Vice President and Pinky Jones – Farm manager talk with me about urban farming, the struggles of intercity folks to access food in a bankrupt city.
John & Kira’s is a Philadelphia based confection company owned and operated by John Doyle and his wife Kira Baker-Doyle. John talked with me about his rise from creating chocolate delights in his studio apartment to his current muti-million dollar chocolate manufacturing facility. Through the good fortune of a meeting with a magazine editor, John & Kira’s growth exploded.
The candy business is seasonal. John tells me that John & Kira’s does half of their yearly sales volume in the November-December holiday season. We have a revealing conversation about manufacturing chocolate for a peek sales season of just four weeks a year.
Marketing is a big part of the confection business and John & Kira’s does marketing really well. John talks about differentiation in the chocolate business. With beautiful packaging and extremely creative, earth and nature inspired chocolates J&K product stands out in what could easily be argued is a commodity industry.
This interview is a really good lesson in good business practices that can be applied to virtually any industry.
Here’s their story from their website:
John & Kira’s is a socially innovative chocolate company dedicated to both making and selling world class confections and promoting positive social change.
Co-founders John Doyle and Kira Baker-Doyle both felt the itch to start an entrepreneurial venture back in September, 2000. John, after a short stint in banking, made a career switch into the kitchen at various restaurants in Manhattan and Philadelphia. Kira was completing a Masters in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and working closely with an urban school garden project.
After over a year of research and experimentation, the pair developed an all natural line of chocolates so delicious and unique that Gourmet Magazine placed them on the front cover of their publication in 2003, and praised them as their ‘favorite chocolates’. John & Kira’s quickly became nationally known as a premiere gourmet chocolate company in the United States, both for their fresh confections and their pioneering social mission.
The signature line of chocolate ganache squares features ingredients from sustainable artisan food growers local to their Philadelphia chocolate studio, across the country and around the world. They highlight:
– fresh mint grown in urban school garden programs in Philadelphia that teach students about nutrition and agriculture
– honey from family-run Draper’s Apiaries in PA paired with organic lavender
– lemongrass from a biodynamic & organic farm preserving heirloom crops in CA
– ginger from a biodynamic & organic farm on Molokai, Hawaii
– shade grown coffee from a worker-owned Fair Trade cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico
– pistachios grown, harvested & roasted on family owned & operated Eagle Ranch in NM – organic earl grey tea from a Sri Lankan employee-owned cooperative.
Since the 2003 Gourmet Magazine article, John & Kira’s concept and the company have grown steadily. They have expanded their chocolate line to include chocolate ladybugs and chocolate filled figs from an organic, family-owned farm in Spain. Their chocolates, recently featured on the Martha Stewart Show and in Oprah Magazine, are available online at www.johnandkiras.com or by calling 800.747.4808.
Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust and Mukethe Kawinzi, Project Manager in charge of farmers markets join me on this episode.
The Food Trust was founded 20 years ago with a simple idea: healthy change.
There were neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia where residents couldn’t easily buy healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. And science shows us that people who live in these underserved neighborhoods are more at risk for serious diet-related diseases like obesity.
The Food Trust – then known as The Farmers’ Market Trust, an off-shoot of Philadelphia’s venerable Reading Terminal Market – began with one farmers’ market at Tasker Homes, a public housing development in South Philadelphia. Once a week, with the help of the Tasker Homes Tenant Council, we set up one long table overflowing with produce. It was the only source of fresh fruits and vegetables in the community. “People hadn’t seen that kind of quality produce in their neighborhood before,” The Food Trust founder Duane Perry recalls.
In the two decades since the opening of the Tasker Homes market, The Food Trust has worked with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers in Philadelphia and across the country to change how we all think about healthy food and to increase its availability. Together, we’ve brought supermarkets to communities that have gone decades without one. We’ve helped corner store owners introduce fresh produce, low-fat dairy and whole grains. We’ve taken soda and junk food out of schools, and we’ve taught students to appreciate foods like apples and cherry tomatoes.
A recent study by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health found that – for the first time in decades – the obesity rates among Philadelphia school children decreased by 5 percent between 2006 and 2010. This is one of the first studies showing a reversal of the country’s troubling obesity trends, and it suggests that together, we have found a key to obesity prevention: a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and increased access to healthy foods.
David Siller is a forager. He hunts for, finds and then carefully guards the locations of his most prized items.
Wild edibles exist almost everywhere and are in abundance if you forage for them. Edible wild food has naturally grown in almost every corner of our planet for tens of thousands of years. Edible weeds, flowersand wild herbs were foraged and used as food (as well as medications); and they provided all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients required for the human body to maintain good health. Foraging for food used to be the way to survive.
Chances are edible weeds are in your backyard, on pathways you walk every day, or in fields you see every day. Many of these plants can be foraged and added to your daily diet to increase your nutritional intake.
There’s a plethora of wild herbs, weeds, flowers, shrubs, trees and vines all safe to eat so long as you identify them properly and know what part of the plant is usable.
Mary Seton Corboy is a true pioneer in the Urban farming movement.
She’s charming as well…
In this episode we get a glimpse of how she and a partner started Greensgrow Farms in Kensington, PA. Kensington is is right off of I-95; something like a mile or 2 from downtown Philadelphia. Greensgrow has grown from scratch. She shares the Greensgrow story and its evolution. From finding abandoned land and the politics behind to it’s current iteration. Greensgrow is something more than and different than a traditional urban farm.
The concept of urban farming isn’t new. There are multiple examples of Urban farming in virtually every city in the United Sates. Greensgrow Farms was one of the first to experiment with this concept.
Urban farming promotes healthy communities and provides food security for many low income persons. In an urban setting, community gardens are part of the open space network. The gardens and those who participate in urban farming contribute to the preservation of open space, provide access to it, and create sustainable uses of the space. The idea is to strengthen community bonds, provide food, and create recreational and therapeutic opportunities for a community. They can also promote environmental awareness and provide community education.
Greensgrow is a not for profit enterprise. They use the non profit model to help experiment with some inner city food programs.
Once you talk with Mary you’ll fall in love.
Hope you enjoy this one.