Producer Spotlight: Clean Conscience Chocolates
Clean Conscience Chocolates are simply nothing like what you find in your local grocery store. Their attention to detail and simple high-quality ingredients pays off in the form of taste, texture, health, and even satiety. Mary Kennedy brings almost 15 years of experience as a Chocolatier to the Clean Conscience product line. Her passion for making chocolate led her to become certified as both a personal chef and a professional Chocolatier.
With a history in high tech sales, Mary had enough of corporate life and took the plunge 15 years ago to pursue her dream to serve as a personal chef. She was quite the culinary pioneer in Fredericksburg! She prepared food in her clients’ homes, leaving them stocked with up to a week of healthy family meals. Mary would sometimes leave the families a treat for their special events and celebrations. Her clean versions of peanut butter cups and peppermint patties soon became a regular request and her entrepreneurial spirit was sparked! She eventually opened up retail chocolate stores in Fredericksburg and then Charlottesville, which is where she met her current husband, Steve.
From their first meeting, it was clear that Mary and Steve shared a commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle. They consider themselves foodies with high expectations and standards for how they nourish their bodies, eating a clean diet of real food. Steve also decided to leave his corporate management and consulting work to join forces with Mary in a quest to provide the community with guilt-free dark chocolate treats made with real food. It’s easy to support and cheer on this couple because they created their products with their customers’ health and satisfaction as their top priority.
A family brainstorming session ensured they had the right name. It was inspired by Mary’s signature description of her chocolates: “You can indulge without the guilt.” Steve’s daughter Erin, a graphic designer, even designed the logo. Since establishing Clean Conscience Chocolates in 2018, they continue to refine their products to provide customers with the highest quality craftmanship and ingredients. From the start, their peanut butter cups, almond butter cups, peppermint patties, and coconut joys were Vegan, and free from soy, gluten, dairy and refined sugars; but they had higher aspirations for their creations.
At the Healthy Food Expo in late 2018, they connected with the only certified biodynamic chocolate source in the world, Pacari. Steve described the experience by stating, “It was the best chocolate I ever had. They are the Lamborghini of chocolates. They helped us reach our goal of 70% cacao to really increase the health benefits and taste. The chocolate is raw, meaning the beans have been dried by the sun which preserves more of their natural floral and citrus accents. Plus, the chocolate was the foundation to enable us to go organic.”
Mary and Steve additionally refined their packaging in 2019 as they are now 100% compostable! They call their products clean and green! They recently added to their product line after test marketing a raw nut and seed bark at farmers markets. The result is a combination of raw almonds, cashews and pumpkin and sunflower seeds with just the right amount of chocolate. Lots of protein without refined sugars or preservatives! Try them for hikes or bike rides or just a healthy snack between meals.
The decision to infuse some of their products with CBD came from Mary’s challenges with menopause. Since CBD provided relief from symptoms, she delved into research and received a certificate in Chocolate, CBD and Cannabis from L’Ecole Chocolat. Steve elaborated on this addition to their offerings by stating, “The quality of the CBD is key to the benefit and effect you experience. In CBD For The People we found the highest quality unrefined full spectrum products we could find. The natural hemp flavor of CBD can ruin the taste of chocolate, so we only put it in the filling. We have found that its earthy flavor actually enhances our nut butters.” CBD-infused options are available for their peanut butter and almond butter cups, as well as their peppermint patties.
Clean Conscience Chocolates has developed quite the fan base. Steve remarked, “The consistent feedback is that our customers really appreciate the quality of the ingredients and that it’s satisfying and filling because it’s real food. The surprise has been our following in the diabetic community. They can have chocolate again since all of our products except the peppermint patties have less than 6 g of sugar.” They recently learned that one customer makes a peppermint mocha latte by dropping a patty in her coffee! Steve, the self-proclaimed “Chief Taster,” likes to pair a coconut joy with bourbon or coffee. Customers also love freezing their products to eat as ice cream! The sipping chocolate will hit the spot as the weather continues to cool!
Mary and Steve have had to shift gears and adapt to these challenging times since they primarily sold their products in health food stores and cafes. They are grateful for online markets like RVAg Marketplace and see the potential long-term benefits of this valuable service that brings local producers and community members together. Add their healthy chocolate snacks to your cart and enjoy them with a clean conscience!
Producer Spotlight: Mother Shrub
Meredyth Archer cherishes memories of drinking sweet fruit vinegars with her maternal Grandmother, who insisted it was a panacea for anything that ailed you! In fact, she and her siblings would stay with her when they were sick. She promoted food as medicine, loading them up with not only vinegar but garlic, ginger and other home remedies. Meredyth said it did make her a believer and humorously added, “It helped to balance me from being a child of 70s era convenience foods and corn syrup, like Eggos!”
Meredyth began exploring the idea of bringing her Grandmother’s beloved drinking vinegar, or “shrub,” to the community. Just like her Grandmother, her recipes start with apple cider vinegar (made with a mother!) as the base. Meredyth adds her own ideas for fresh, organic non-GMO ingredients. A collection of vintage cookbooks provides additional inspiration for her creations. Coming from a long line of strong women and a welcoming home always full of people, her children describe her as everyone’s Mom. “MOTHER Shrub” was a logical choice for the name of the business she officially started in 2015. Plus, her husband and three adult children insisted upon it! Her first product was a Cranberry Shrub, followed by Black Cherry, Grapefruit, Salted Honey, and Ginger. She still keeps the ingredients simple and natural with a perfect balance of tart and sweet.
The five years have flown by! Meredyth is grateful for the community support, articles and awards she’s received since taking the leap. She’s proud of the perseverance behind pursuing a product she believed in and taking advantage of opportunities for growth. Her husband’s support has been critical. He not only provides production help but he’s the artistic mastermind behind the labels and recipes that are a perfect complement to her products. You can find her shrubs in local shops like Good Foods Grocery, Stella’s Markets and Perk and even at the New York Botanical Garden! Meredyth loves collaborating with local businesses and distilleries to create special cocktails and custom shrub flavors. She’s also joined forces with AR’s Hot Southern Honey to make a salted honey shrub and a carrot shrub! Creative and delicious!
Farmers markets are where Meredyth feels at home and embraced by the community. Market customers have reported relief from many ailments – digestive discomfort, muscle cramps, sore throats and osteoarthritis. All agree they are a fool-proof drink mixer! Two or three ingredients is all it takes to make a simple delicious cocktail or mocktail. Check out Mother Shrub recipes for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage ideas. Use as a mixer with hard cider, seltzer, cocktails, and even beer, champagne, and wine. Meredyth’s favorites include tequila with lime or grapefruit shrub and a mint julep with black cherry shrub. She sums up the allure of her drinking vinegars by stating, “It’s for the curious. The taste is something familiar but also unexpected.” Pick up a couple of flavors and get creative with shrubs that add a welcome fresh, sweet and tangy zip!
Producer Spotlight: The Mayor
It’s inspiring and uplifting to meet people who have found a career that is truly a great fit for their passions, personality, and skills. Chef Kyle Morse is one of those people and he’s currently in such an exciting time within his career in the culinary arts. Fortunately, we get to share in the benefits of his success!
After graduating from Ball State University and the Culinary Institute of America, Kyle gained over ten years of experience cooking in New York City. This journey included everything from serving as a personal chef to celebrity families to becoming the head butcher of the Michelin Star restaurant, the Breslin. Kyle described this latter position as a turning point in his career, stating, “It’s amazing how certain jobs shaped the cook I am now. The Executive Chef at the Breslin trusted me early on. He was always building up the staff’s strengths.” He thrived under management that granted him creative freedom. The confidence and advanced butchery skills he gained led him to the next bold step in his career.
In 2018 Kyle moved to Richmond with his wife who had secured a professorship in Dance And Media Technology at VCU. Three months prior to the move they had a son who they gave the middle name of Mayor (just like Kyle and his Father) to honor his paternal grandmother, Doris Mayor Morse. Kyle fondly described Doris by remarking, “She was the sweet small-town woman who baked pies for all the children in her neighborhood. She and my grandfather were self-sufficient, tapping their own maple trees and raising goats.” While being full-time Dad for a year he formulated a plan to establish his own business of small batch hand-crafted sausages, fittingly called “The Mayor.”
He found the right source for local heritage pigs in Autumn Olive Farms, where they raise their animals in a natural environment, prioritizing their health and quality of life. Kyle also works with smaller local pig farms to create sausages for special community events. He loves supporting local growers like Liberty Tree Farm, who provide the peppers for his popular jalapeno cheddar sausage.
Richmond has proven to be such a welcoming community who appreciates his farm fresh cuisine and commitment to using all parts of humanely raised animals. Farmers Market customers like having access to local, sustainable high-end sausage from this accomplished butcher and chef. Local restaurants, breweries, and cideries have embraced his high-quality line of sausages as he frequently partners with them for fun pop-up events.
The Mayor offers a good variety of sausages including fennel garlic and bratwurst. The seasons inspire Kyle to take on special creations like his Summer Jalapeno Cheddar and his Fall Broccoli Raab Swiss. Sometimes his travels or family traditions spark new ideas like his Red Eye, Steak and Cheese, Thai Curry, and Linguica (smoked Portugese sausage)! He’s currently exploring a Vegan option so everyone in the family can find a favorite!
Come meet Kyle and pick up some of his small batch hand crafted sausages at the RVAg Urban Farmhouse-Midlothian Farmers Market. He delivers to the Midlothian and Downtown Richmond locations through RVAg Marketplace!
Producer Spotlight: Scoring Big Creations
LaQueta Barnes knew her toddler needed relief from dry itchy skin that persisted no matter what she tried. Many products had harsh, unpronounceable chemicals while others had to be reapplied often with only limited success. So she set off to make her own! The shea butter, coconut, olive, and argan oil-based moisturizer she developed provided moisture all day long and welcome relief from irritated itchy skin. Soon this homemade product became a hit with family and friends who consistently told LaQueta she should share it on a larger scale.
It took some time as LaQueta and her husband Corey have demanding full time jobs, two children (now aged four and seven), as well as volunteer commitments to serving their Church, community, and children’s schools and sports. September will mark one year that Scoring Big Creations began selling their simple, pure, natural ingredient moisturizing products to the community! The name was inspired by their love of athletics and the values that team sports can instill.
LaQueta built upon her knowledge and success from her original whipped body butter and created a beard balm, brown sugar body scrub, and honey lip scrub. Customers consistently report they love how her products supply moisture all day without feeling heavy. LaQueta adds, “I need effective moisturizing of my knees and elbows from crawling around with the boys all day! You can really slather it on for touchable, smooth skin. Plus, there is comfort for customers in knowing the ingredients you are using on your family are safe.” Customers like that they are familiar with ALL the ingredients. The body scrub is essentially a home-based spa treatment, which we could all use these days! Beard balm fans appreciate the ability of the product to tame their beards with a natural source of moisturizer that smells subtle and clean.
Somehow with all of their parenting, work, and community responsibilities LaQueta and Corey make time for a blog! They are accomplishing their goal of sharing their family experiences and tips and ideas with others. LaQueta states, “We wanted to shine light in some darkness and help others to know they are not alone.” Moving from Atlanta to a quieter life in Goochland sparked an interest in LaQueta to keep a garden to help her boys understand and appreciate where food comes from. Corey has been passionate about photography since his first journalism class in highschool. Check out his collection of postcards on their website. He loves capturing the beauty of nature and wildlife, as well as events and activities in the community that evoke emotion and reflection.
LaQueta is clearly filled with gratitude that her perseverance led to local families benefitting from her products, stating, “We provide simple, good, pure products. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised that people really care what they put on their body.” You can feel good about supporting your skin health as well as the Barnes family when you add their balm, butter and scrubs to your cart. It’s also a critical time to be proactive in your support of black-owned businesses like Scoring Big Creations!
Producer Spotlight: Salsas Don Sebastian
Just three years ago, America DeLoach was in her fourteenth year of teaching Spanish in the public school system. Now her line of Mexican style salsa products is in numerous local farmers markets and over 60 stores in Virginia! Find out why everyone is talking about Salsas Don Sebastian by reading her story but, most importantly…by tasting her yummy, fresh, simple-ingredient salsas!
America found her time as a teacher rewarding, but her entrepreneurial spirit was tugging at her to make a courageous change in her career. Her husband Lionel’s salsa recipe, which came from his grandmother in Mexico, had been a long-standing hit with family and friends. America enhanced the recipe’s acidity and flavor with additional lime. She tested the waters with neighbors and received rave reviews. Her market research quickly revealed that her salsa stood out in both taste and freshness. Unlike most salsas, hers contains no sugar, artificial colors or preservatives.
America entered the farmers market venue which she described by stating, “I started strong and stayed strong!” Customers told her she should sell to retail stores. Although the idea seemed daunting, the manager she approached at Elwood Thompsons immediately loved her salsas and stocked up on mild, medium, and hot varieties. America humorously recalls, “I was vicious after that! I thought now I can get in anywhere!” She hired a phenomenal graphic designer, fiercely studied her competition, asked tons of questions along the way, assembled a small staff and worked her way into over 60 stores! In fact, Whole Foods will soon carry her products in every store in Virginia!
Throughout America’s journey, she became closer to Lionel’s family. She met with his mother who shared stories about her mother Carmelita, who had taught Lionel how to make salsa and other family favorites. America was honored to receive Carmelita’s beloved beautifully handwritten recipes from the early 1900’s stating, “I feel proud to bring history and authenticity to my customers. Salsa is always a part of every meal in Mexico. You get a touch of the history of Mexico through my salsa recipe.” Carmelita’s recipes sparked such creativity and inspiration in America as she now produces a variety of salsas and dips and delectable side dishes like pinto beans, lentils, black beans, and potato salad.
America partners with local farmers as much as she can to obtain fresh produce for Salsas Don Sebastian products. Her best seller is the medium “La Original” salsa. Mild, hot, and even “La Imposible” are options for each customer’s heat preference. The jalapeno dip is quickly becoming a local favorite with its creamy kick and versatility with a vegan version coming soon! The chimichurri’s smooth consistency and unique bright taste make it hard to save some for a dish versus eating every drop with a spoon! America’s favorite is her salsa verde, which she has perfected through charring fresh tomatillos and finding just the right acidity. Try the sampler salsa and dip pack and don’t forget to add the churros for dessert!
America learned so much through being transparent about what she didn’t know, embracing advice, tirelessly pursuing all marketing opportunities, and refusing to accept “no” or other discouraging words. She states, “You have to feel fearless. If I made it, anyone can, but you must be fully committed. I had managers at the stores teach me. I was not ashamed of what I didn’t know. You have to be open to learning and to being molded.” Now she wants to pay it forward and teach others, especially Latina women, who frequently approach her for advice on the best path to entrepreneurship. Stay tuned as she will no doubt be successful in this next endeavor!
Producer Spotlight: PastryBase
Jill Donaldson’s fondest memories include baking alongside her maternal grandmother Lilly. She lovingly describes her as a patient, kind, and generous person whom she admired for never judging others. They shared a sweet tooth which they happily fulfilled by baking treats together like Labneh cake (a Greek yogurt cake) and Lilly’s infamous chocolate butter cream.
With encouragement from her Sito (Grandmother in Arabic), Jill focused her studies on entrepreneurship at the University of Miami with an ultimate goal to work in the pastry food business. Sadly, Lilly passed her Sophomore year but she honored her inspirational role by attending L’Academie de Cuisine in D.C. to become a pastry chef. She still uses her trusty Kitchen Aid mixer from the seventies. She landed a crucial job at the celebrated Upper Crust French Bakery in Florida. This is where she honed her skills and consistently met the high expectations of the owner, who still works daily in her seventies!
Jill started noting some health challenges in her early twenties that she connected to certain foods. She experienced significant relief upon eliminating dairy and gluten. Soon she realized her options for treats that didn’t sacrifice taste were limited. So she set off to make the best pastry mixes she could that avoided the top allergens so everyone could enjoy them. The result of her determination and persistent testing and retesting is her line of LillyBean baking products that are vegan and free from gluten, soy, dairy, nuts and artificial colors.
Elwood Thompson’s quickly became the first retail store to sell her products and also served as a supportive marketing resource. Her relentless energy and work ethic led to the addition of an impressive array of stores like Good Foods Grocery, Libbie Market, Wegmans, and Whole Foods. RVAg Markeplace is proud to offer her scrumptious cupcake mixes in chocolate, lemon, and vanilla and her irresistible buttercream frosting mixes in chocolate, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Oh and don’t forget the popular gooey blondie mix!
What made these top retailers embrace her products and why did she win the 2019 Sofi new product award? Taste and versatility! Jill didn’t want to deprive herself of the ideal taste and texture of treats due to her food intolerances and she knew customers deserved the same. A variety of preparation options are listed right on the bag so customers can use their preferred source of milk and fat. Her website features tutorials and even creative ideas from customers. Try adding blueberries and lavender to her cupcakes for additional taste and color or walnuts and raisins to transform her cupcakes to breakfast bars! She also has creativity-inspiring cupcake baking kits for kids!
Jill feels fortunate to provide her baking mixes during this time of social distancing remarking, “Baking is comforting and people are doing more of it these days at home with family and friends. It helps to fill up your home with a yummy smell.” Her labor of love is reinforced when customers relay how meaningful her products are to their families. She states, “I am filled with pride and gratitude when a customer tells me the whole family loved it and especially when a parent says I baked one treat for the whole family versus something separate for one child with allergies.” Her products are made in an allergy free environment with precise guidelines to prevent cross-contamination. Her customers appreciate this attention to detail as illustrated in one review: “First vegan and gluten free bake that meets my strict allergy requirements, my simple and lazy cooking skills and they are AMAZING!!”
Jill is frequently experimenting with new tastes with small batches. You have her pumpkin spice cupcake mix to look forward to soon! Her baking mixes and cupcake kits are a great way to make someone feel special and to enjoy family time!
Producer Spotlight: Laurel Woods Farm
When Laurel Kargel was a child she desperately wanted a goat! She was optimistic about her chances when she skipped a middle school dance to visit a friend who raised goats. Upon pulling up to the farm, her Dad observed a huge goat nonchalantly standing on top of the friend’s family car and promptly declared, “No goats!”
Laurel’s interest persisted into adulthood but she focused her efforts and time on her horses and career, which included demanding jobs in management and sales within the gift industry. Twelve years ago she was down to one horse and decided to get two Nigerian Dwarf goats largely to keep her company. She chose this breed because they produce a large amount of high-quality milk with a good percentage of fat. She knew that one day she wanted to make soap with goats milk due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, but she didn’t know the full scope of the benefits she and her future customers would experience!
In the Fall of 2016 she took the leap and left her job as a sales rep and successfully sold her handcrafted goats milk bar soap in delightful farm animal shapes largely as Christmas gifts. She knew she was onto something and enthusiastically expanded her soap product line and named her company “The Traveling Goat.” She is especially proud of her Pup Sudz Goats Milk Dog Shampoo and the health and quality of life transformations reported by dog owners. Her website features the success story of “Meelo” who got permanent relief from allergies and associated hair thinning and itchy skin. This product has developed quite the reputation on local farms like Pacific Farms, where staff frequently say, “Just go get the soap” for everything from horse rain rot to poison ivy to skunk spray!
The Traveling Goat products are great for this sizzling summer and for spending more time in the great outdoors. Her Road Trip Moisturizing Spritz and Wash is a wonderful all-in-one cleanser and lotion for hikers and campers and is safe for rivers and streams. Laurel put this product to the test during her time in the dry heat of Arizona, where she found she needed no additional lotion. Her Bug Sudz Moisturizing Spritz has a refreshing lemongrass scent and repels mosquitos, ticks, and biting flies. Her products contain natural ingredients with an olive oil base, shea butter and vitamin and mineral-rich goats milk. Laurel points out another benefit: “My products end up saving you money. I don’t need additional astringents, special face cleansers and lotions. I also have more room on my shelves from eliminating so many cleaning products.”
Laurel worked hard to learn all about goat care and had important mentors along the way. She knows that farm fresh high-quality goat milk from happy healthy goats is the key to the beneficial properties of her products. Her herd now includes six does, two bucks, and five baby goats. Her goat Faith is the inspiration behind her logo. One goat, Nancy, is a rescue LaMancha who came to her pregnant, malnourished, and unable to walk properly on her back legs. She may need a little extra support and attention due to chronic hoof deformity, but she is a thriving lovable, protective member of the pack who loves to run, spin, and play. Her goats know their names and never tire of their sliding boards and Princess Palace!
Laurel is thrilled to report she and the goats and her two dogs will be moving Laurel Woods Farm to a new four acre property in Beaverdam in October! It’s such a great time to support this farm, your health, your pets’ skin health, and even your pocketbook by adding her remarkably versatile goats milk products to your cart! Check out her full line-up on the RVAG Marketplace.
Producer Spotlight: AR's Hot Southern Honey
When you combine spicy peppers with honey, you get a tasty treat with endless possibilities! Ames Russell used to mix hot sauce with his honey to put on homemade meals like fried chicken. His wife teased him about his messy concoctions and asked him to find a way to put it together in one simple bottle. He set out to do just that and started by researching a wide variety of honeys and peppers. He found just the right combination in a blend of clover and wildflower honey with the ever-popular de Arbol red chili pepper!
It was a hit at home with his family, as well as relatives and friends who received bottles at Christmas time. When holiday supplies ran out and the pleading continued to roll in, Ames developed AR’s Hot Southern Honey! He had a long career of successful entrepreneurial endeavors in the sporting goods field as well as I.T. work, but he wanted to pursue something that would tap into his current passions and creative side. He put his full focus into his products and now customers are enjoying them across 25+ states!
What makes his hot honey products so irresistible to so many? Ames describes it this way: “Honey has ageless appeal and is a healthier way to sweeten foods. My product has all the trending tastes of spiciness, southern cuisine, and honey.” Ames recalls one of his first promotional events when at the end of the long day, one last visitor remarked that it was the best thing she’d tasted all day. After four years he still maintains his genuine enthusiasm, stating, “I love seeing the unexpected delight on people’s faces when they try my products!”
Recently Ames expanded his product line to include a peach hot sauce, a unique spicy honey peanut butter and a bourbon barrel aged hot-hot honey produced through a partnership with Ironclad Distillery! In response to repeated requests for a honey with even more punch, he began using habanero peppers in his hot-hot honey and has received rave reviews!
He appreciates the farmers market venue and how the community is always excited to sample his products and share their positive feedback and recipe ideas. Customers love to use his versatile hot honey as a glaze on seafood, meats and roasted veggies. They use it in a morning latte and an evening toddy. It doesn’t get much better than drizzling it on warm cornbread and even ice cream! Ames adds, “I guarantee my hot honey will rock your ham biscuit!” The AR's Hot Southern Honey website is full of recipes for his products including grilled peaches with honey ricotta, slow cooker honey lime ginger pork, grilled honey glazed salmon, and honey lime shrimp tacos!
See why AR’s Hot Southern Honey won the 2019 Richmond Magazine’s Elby Award for “Best Local Product-that local food or beverage the rest of the nation should know about” and why Virginia Living Magazine honored Ames with a “Made in Virginia 2018 Food Award.” Time to spice up your honey, add zing and interest to your meals and drinks, and try out some new products and recipes!
Producer Spotlight: Wild Earth Fermentation
When you meet Grant Collier, it’s immediately clear he is passionate about fermenting foods. It’s a perfect fit for him as he can simultaneously support the livelihoods of local farmers and the health of his community. His own personal health journey led to the development of Wild Earth Fermentation in 2015.
Upon graduating from college, Grant found himself experiencing poor gut health. Turning towards natural ways to deal with discomfort, Grant discovered the benefits of fermented foods to be beneficial to both his mind and body. He learned these foods are a strong boost and tool in a comprehensive approach to wellness. He states, “You have to cultivate a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive.” Growing up, he ate healthily but fermented foods were never introduced to him at the dinner table. Therefore, he had to seek them out and learn how to make them on his own.
Grant describes the progression of his passion by stating, “Interest quickly turned to obsession upon learning how tasty, fun and satisfying it can be to add fermented foods to meals. They can provide freshness, acidity, and crunch!” In establishing Wild Earth Fermentation, Grant ensured their product line provides something for everyone, including a diverse variety of hot sauces, pickles, sauerkrauts, chow-chow, and kimchi! Right now they are working hard to deliver products full of seasonal produce grown in central Virginia.
For Grant, this endeavor is all about agriculture and small-scale farming remarking, “It’s the hardest and most important job I can think of. This is our way to contribute and be a part of the local food system.” They use local, naturally grown produce in their fermentations. Doug and Judy of Dragonfly Farm in Cumberland County have had a long-lasting production relationship and provide cabbage, bok choy, and hot peppers to Wild Earth. Grant and his wife Bri help to harvest at the farm when they can, adding to their knowledge of agriculture. John Bryant of Old Tavern Farm represents another growing partnership supplying such produce as cabbage, cucumbers, dill, and other veggies for kimchi.
In the past couple of years, Grant and Bri have begun using vegetables and herbs grown at their home in the Fulton neighborhood of Richmond. You can feel good knowing the produce they use in their fermented products is from sustainably-minded local farmers and even some vegetables from their own backyard!
Customers frequently return to the markets to report they can feel a difference in energy level, GI tract functioning, and even concentration abilities when they eat these foods on a regular basis. It’s an especially critical time to seek nourishment from our community of growers and Wild Earth Fermentation wants to help foster that relationship!
Producer Spotlight: delli Carpini Farm
The way food is grown impacts its quality, taste, and nutrition. This is what drives Dominic Carpin’s farming, as well as an innate respect and admiration for the land in which he grows his diverse bounty of veggies, fruits, and herbs.
In his early twenties, he had no way of knowing that his small Oregon Hill backyard garden he shared with his roommates would one day lead to a thriving 12 acre farm. Back then, Rodale’s Organic Gardening Encyclopedia and Elliot Coleman’s books served as initial educational resources. He gained additional experience by working in the Garden Center of the Great Big Greenhouse and did some landscaping work for them on the side.
He gratefully connected with multiple mentors through the years, including the staff of Great Big Greenhouse and later, Southside Nursery. He learned from books and seminars from farming experts like Jean Martin Fortier, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Pam Dawling. He eventually opened up a rare plant nursery in Bon Air while gaining farming experience by growing vegetables on numerous friends’ properties.
Upon starting a family, he left the farming field to work for about fifteen years at a number of large banking corporations. While he didn’t prefer working indoors at a desk, it provided financial stability and benefits that were critical to family life. The year 2014 marked a turning point. His three boys were grown, he had divorced, and he was laid off for the third time in his corporate career. This challenging time inspired him to return to his calling, but on a larger scale.
Dominic now farms on 12 acres and describes his farming practices by stating, “I plant by the moon and use the almanac religiously. I think having the lowest impact on the land leads to the most nutrition.” At delli Carpini Farm, he avoids using plastic and relies on a gravity-fed irrigation system. With no high tunnels, he grows seasonally and promotes the health benefits of eating with the seasons. He has implemented regenerative practices like cover cropping and no-till to support the soil microbiome. He’s intentional in his efforts to attract beneficial insects, devoting 10% of the farmland to meadows. He never uses pesticides or herbicides, relying on OMRI listed organic certified inputs to improve the soil and combat pests or disease. All of his seeds are GMO free and most are open-pollinated heirlooms.
When asked about his favorite crops to grow, the list quickly became lengthy! Dominic loves everything in the onion family, as well as red and blue potatoes, super-food purple sweet potatoes, mustard greens, carrots, and a variety of peas and beans. He likes Italian varieties of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. He enjoys introducing customers to produce they’ve never tried before like Jerusalem artichokes, mustard flowers, broccolini, upland cress, and fava beans. He set aside growing space for what he affectionately calls his apothecary garden, where he grows herbs with diverse uses like wormwood, tansy, anise, hyssop, and nettles.
The trial and error aspect of farming appeals to Dominic, as he is always trying new growing strategies and crops. He also loves foraging among the plants that grow wild at his farm like elderberries and blackberries. Dominic prioritizes the health of his soil and plants, which translates into great tasting, healthy, naturally grown food for customers. Add his diverse summer offerings to your cart! The Best of the Farm Vegetable Box is a great way to experience a little taste of delli Carpini Farm!