Thursday, June 12, 2014

Creating a 'smart grid' for regional foods

Not many people know that Wisconsin is now the second largest vegetable growing state in the nation (behind only California) and that we typically plow under (waste) more than 1/3 of the total crop each year. This is  because there is no system or facilities in place to process those foods for year-round use. Some years it’s fully half the total Wisconsin crop. 

It’s crazy dumb - and highly wasteful, especially given all the issues around helping family farms succeed, as well as food insecurity for many consumers.

Our model is upending regional food systems, creating new ways to market and preserve the value of regional foods for all involved.  A common problem with farm markets we’re helping solve is little understood by many consumers. If produce doesn’t sell at these markets, farmers don’t usually have anything they can do with what’s left and it often gets thrown out. 

In our case, we bring fresh local produce to our own markets.  If it doesn't sell but still tastes great, we can take it from our markets to our Innovation Kitchens. My friends there can freeze it, puree it, pickle it, dehydrate it, etc. 

Our system turns great regional foods that would be otherwise wasted - still perfectly delicious and nutritious - into regional ingredients or foods that can be used year round. I’ve been calling it our virtuous cycle. I don’t know of any other regional foods organization that can claim this kind of capacity. 

We're working hard to change the system and wire up a 'smart grid' for regional foods.  We're scaling up and making it work.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Our delicious new startup

I've been away from posts about startups because I'm doing one.  

It feels like it's going to be my best effort yet.

One problem we're solving:  How do you create and serve markets for sustainably raised local and regional foods in areas with limited growing seasons?

The solution we're offering:  Help regional family farms find markets for their fresh produce, but also lightly process and freeze so that consumers, restaurants and food service folks can offer delicious local and regional foods year-round.

With the help of an investor dedicated to creating new options for regional and local foods, and a great business partner, we've launched Innovation Kitchens LLC.

I'll continue posting about entrepreneurship and startups, but I'm going to bring our work at Innovation Kitchens into this blog with some frequency.  

My specialty is not just opening new businesses but also utilizing those new enterprises to create new markets that solve real-world problems.

This is going to be a great ride.

As part of this effort we've just opened a unique new produce market located in Middleton, WI.  We'll serve consumers of course, but our Middleton Produce Market will also serve as a 'tasting room' for wholesale customers who can order bulk quantities of local and regional family-farm raised produce for serving on their menus year-round.  If you'd like to see the news from this specific part of our venture you can like us on Facebook at 'Middleton Produce Market' (below).  

This photo is from our first offering - wonderful, juicy local strawberries.  Yum.

Our plan is for the Middleton Produce Market to be the first of many.  I hope to be able to share news about a much bigger venue shortly.

Stay tuned!

Innovation Kitchens LLC.   Web

Innovation Kitchens LLC.   Facebook

Middleton Produce Market.  Facebook