Crooked Carrot Grows with Local Food System

By Kristie Snyder
GreenLeaf Editor

2013-crooked-carrotCrooked Carrot Community Supported Kitchen is no ordinary business, a fact that's reflected even in its name. When two of its co-founders, Johanna Brown and Silas Conroy, were developing the concept for a "community supported kitchen," something new to Ithaca, they also happened to be working at Stick and Stone Farm "washing thousands of pounds of carrots," Silas explained. They sorted out their favorite misfits, "and by the end we had an amazing collection of crooked carrots. That was the context in which we made the choice of name. As our business has grown, we've become fond of the perseverance metaphor embodied in the crooked carrot — a living thing meeting an obstacle and finding a way to keep growing."

When you set foot in Crooked Carrot's kitchen, currently located at Stick and Stone Farm in Ulysses, you'll immediately notice that the place smells amazing. Fresh flowers decorate the small, efficiently organized space, and quart-sized mason jars of spices line the shelves. Napa cabbages the size and shape of sleeping babies recline on a work table, ready to be transformed, via the magic of lacto-fermentation, into tasty kim chi. In a corner, 300 pounds each of sauerkraut and dilled green beans ferment in barrels.

The four owners of Crooked Carrot began their venture in 2011, and built their business somewhat in reverse. "It was always part of the vision to have our own farm, but we created the market first," said Silas. "There was already an abundant fresh food market in the area," added Johanna, "and we didn't want to directly compete." Thus, the venture began as a "Community Supported Kitchen," or CSK. Members of the Full Plate Farm Collective CSA could purchase Crooked Carrot shares as well, receiving weekly installments of prepared food meant to complement the CSA offerings — dressings, sauces, etc. — along with seasonal soups and other dishes, and lacto-fermented pickles. The raw ingredients were sourced from a variety of organic farms within 30 miles of Ithaca — Stick and Stone, Remembrance, and The Good Life Farms among them. Over time, the share has evolved to offer more ready-to-eat foods — and the pickles remain. A sample week's offering from October included a vegan or chicken Mole Taco Filling, Smoked Pepper Squash soup, Cilantro Black Beans, Tomatillo Salsa, and various pickled items. This past June, Crooked Carrot began wholesaling its pickled products to local suppliers, including GreenStar. You can also find Crooked Carrot's cooking at local festivals such as Chili Fest, and they offer catering services as well.

Read more: Crooked Carrot Grows with Local Food System

The Evolution of Fair Trade

By Phyllis Robinson, 

Education and Campaigns Manager, 
Equal Exchange

The first Fair Trade farmer-owned certification system, referred to as the Small Producer Symbol (SPP, for its Spanish acronym), will arrive this fall on Equal Exchange coffees in food co-ops and natural food stores across the country. Ten years in the making, the SPP certification system represents the small farmers' persistent attempt to ensure a more just trade system for their fellow farmers everywhere. The colorful SPP logo will initially appear on Equal Exchange coffee bags and bulk coffee bins. While the SPP itself is just a little logo, the actual symbolism of this new Fair Trade seal is anything but small. The very folks for whom the Fair Trade movement was built are taking a leadership role in shaping their own destiny. The potential impact this new system will have on small farmers, their cooperative organizations, and the entire Fair Trade movement could be quite profound indeed.

In the early 1980s, a division in the Fair Trade movement resulted in the creation of one international certification system with two distinct ideologies. The early founders of Fair Trade recognized that small farmer organizations trying to access the market were operating on an unfair playing field. The founders' goal was to create a system that could right the wrongs of hundreds of years of colonialism and unjust trade. Once the system was underway, other traders wanted a faster way to put Fair Trade products on the shelves and decided to open up the system to large-scale plantations. As plantations generally have more access to resources, it is usually faster and easier for them to move products from origin country to market. This means that plantations, with their ease in accessing bank loans, infrastructure, market information, technical assistance, and networks, will almost always carry the same advantage over small farmers that Fair Trade was designed to address.

Eventually, the international Fair Trade certifying system, Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO), allowed plantations to become a source for almost all Fair Trade products, with the exception of coffee, cacao, and a few other categories. Small farmer coffee and cacao organizations, typically the most advanced and successful Fair Trade producers, have been living with the fear since the division occurred that the Fair Trade system will one day open its products to plantations as well. Should this happen, many believe that they will once again become marginalized and lose their hard-won market access. After all, if it's easier to source coffee and cacao from large-scale plantations and still call it "Fair Trade," why wouldn't multinational corporations simply take the easier route and ignore the small farmer? In coffee, it took 15 years of Fair Trade before coffee farmers began to see a positive impact on their businesses and in their lives. Sourcing from plantations in tea and bananas has prevented the growth of a strong small farmer movement in these two categories.

Read more: The Evolution of Fair Trade


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Adam Morris,
Grocery Manager

larabarEvery day, we're thinking up ways to help you save. Check out our new low prices when you buy in bulk!

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