In the summer of 2015, while on a family vacation on Cape Cod, I had the idea of making a family business of my latest food idea. I had been taking my excess vegetable produce and turning it into vegetable powders and had discovered that they seamlessly increased the vegetable diversity in my diet and improved the flavor and nutrition of our meals. I was certain that others would find properly made and stored vegetable powders a valuable addition to their diets as well.
We decided to sell all the powders I had made that summer at the 2015 Weston A. Price Foundation annual conference. By any account, they were very well received. I did not expect what happened after that.
See also: Plant Growth Habits, Seasonal Eating and the Optimal Time to Eat Each Vegetable
My sons, who are more entrepreneurial than I, saw potential for this infant business. Within two years, we created a burgeoning online business, took on a small investment, have been extensively written about and touted in podcasts, and promoted and sold through other online stores. Fairly early on, it became clear that the three-quarter-acre Napa garden, worked by me, Lynda, Mary and Esteban, could not keep up with the demand. So we began buying vegetables from Northern California organic farms as well.
Furthermore, within the past year, we found that producing the powders in our commercial kitchen in Vallejo was far too inefficient and costly for us to keep going. If we were to stay alive, we had to find a different solution while still fulfilling our core mission, which is to produce the best-quality, most diverse vegetable powders possible. The other part of our mission is to be active and effective supporters of sustainable farms and farmers.
After months of searching, we found a solution that meets all these needs: a company in Upstate New York whose owners are considered leaders of sustainable agriculture in that region. We trust their integrity, priorities and mission, and they are able to make our powders according to our precise instructions — just as I made them that first summer. Their laudable mission has been to help food companies turn their “clean waste,” meaning unsightly but otherwise good fruits or vegetables, into re-sellable powdered ingredients that are rich in nutrients and flavors. They’ve also launched their own products, such as frozen vegetable noodles, sweet potato flour and sweet potato pancake mix.
In addition, their facility in Geneva, N.Y., has state-of-the-art dehydrating and milling equipment, which means they can make our powders more efficiently and at less cost than we ever could in Northern California. We all think the powders they make are actually better than the ones we have made, which is saying a lot, because we have been blessed with an incredibly hard-working, resourceful and dedicated kitchen crew, to whom we are forever grateful.
Once we found the company to produce our powders, we turned to the crucial questions
of how and where to source our vegetables, and what would become of the Napa garden. We think we have come up with solutions that not only meet our mission but also expand it.
In the Napa garden, which will continue to be planted and tended by Lynda and me (we're staying in San Francisco!), we'll keep growing crops that we are unable to source elsewhere: ashitaba, perennial greens and summer savory (a product we will launch this summer). It will also be our test garden for different growing techniques and plants, and we’ll add a medicinal herb garden (more on this later).
The most exciting part of this move for all of us is that it gives us access to a thriving network of biodynamic farms. We are in the process of making agreements with an Hawthorne Valley Farm, an established biodynamic farm near Ghent, N.Y., to grow many of our vegetables (the photo above is from this farm). Until it and other biodynamic farms can provide all of our vegetables, we’ll also source from other small, organic farms in the region, and, when necessary, larger, certified organic farms. Also, my son Joe, who is our director of operations, lives within driving distance of both the network of biodynamic farms and the production facility, so he'll visit regularly.
We’ll also continue to sell foraged, wild vegetables, such as nori, chaga, sea vegetables and moringa. For me, to transition to mostly biodynamic vegetables, which will be processed with utmost care for quality and safety, is almost a dream come true, as I have a long history with biodynamics (I was one of the original members of the first biodynamic CSA in the country, and I consider biodynamics the most holistic, nutritional and ethical way to grow food and build healthy soil in the world. To read more about this methodology, click here.)
Although I loved the idea of “Dad growing all the vegetables” and Beverly and Doris processing them with care and love in Vallejo, frankly, I don’t really want to grow that much kale, and Beverly and Doris were wearing down a bit from what is really, really hard work. Our new model will produce a better product, is more sustainable and will allow us to turn the bulk of our attention to cultivating relationships with foragers and BD farmers (and other “beyond organic” growers), which is very exciting to all of us.
We welcome any questions you have about this move, which begins in earnest this month. To introduce you to the products already sourced from and made in Upstate New York, we’re putting them on sale this week. Kale Powder, Threefold Blend (Slightly Sweet), Three-Beet Powder and Winter Squash Powder, as well as their refill pouches, are 20 percent off.
We welcome your thoughts, feelings and questions in relation to this move.
And we continue to be humbled by and deeply grateful for your loyalty and support.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.