Wild Wednesday


Hello and happy Wednesday! My feature this week is a super awesome lady named Emily who is a fellow foodie and entrepreneur just like myself!  After a day of casually experimenting in her kitchen with ingredients she had on hand, she wound up with a wonderful product too good to keep to herself.  

When I heard how similar her story was to our Wild Squirrel beginnings, I knew that I had to interview her!  

1)    Can you explain when and how your company began?  How long have you been in business?

Farmer Freed officially launched in Spring 2012 and unofficially began in the Summer 2007.
It all started when I purchased a nine tray Excalibur dehydrator in the Summer of 2006 and dehydrated roughly 200 pounds of Early Girl Dry Farm tomatoes.  When I started working at Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo the following spring, I suddenly found myself with an abundance of organic culinary herbs. I tinkered around by dehydrating the herbs and one evening took a handful of the dried herbs, blended them with the dish of Kosher salt  sitting on my stove, and the very first culinary salt blend mixture was born.
I did what most budding food producers do: I made a larger batch of the culinary salt blend and gave it to friends to taste and try out. It turns out my friends liked it too and within a few days, they were telling me all of the uses they found for the culinary salt blend and hinted at wanting more. So I made more and more and more salt, and now Farmer Freed produces five different culinary salt blends. 

2) How has your current job with Jacobs Farm/DelCabo, Inc. shaped your approach to business? 

Working at Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo is a really fun way to dig in the dirt professionally. I help manage six ranches and three green houses which is over 300 acres of organic culinary herbs and edible flowers. The motto of Jacobs Farm is “Healthy Soils, Healthy Plants, Healthy People” which is also the backbone of Farmer Freed. Every part of the growing operations at the farms focus on sustainability and building healthy soil structure for the next season.

3)  Please explain how your upbringing has influenced your approach to food and health.  How does that carry over into your everyday life?

I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA which is about 90 mins north of San Francisco. The fish man delivered fresh fish, local milk came to our doorstep, and we often ate lunch at a natural cafe called “Revelation” which served hummus on whole wheat bread with alfalfa sprouts. My mom believed in natural foods (the word “organic” wasn't hip on the scene yet) and we purchased produce at the farmers' markets. My parents volunteered at the local coop stocking shelves with natural peanut butter and soy margarine, and there was practically no sugar in the house growing up.  I didn't crave sugar growing up because I wasn't surrounded by it and have always preferred savory to sweet.  My mom was an excellent influence and all those years of raising a child on natural and pure food have paid off as her daughter is now an organic farmer and artisanal culinary salt blend maker. To this day, I still don't crave sugar except for my addiction to Kettle Korn and even that has a large salty component to it.

4)    Can you explain your salts and what makes them so unique? 

There are currently a lot of culinary salts on the market and many offer similar additions like citrus and chiles. However, Farmer Freed focuses on using organic and local ingredients from farms located along the California Central Coast. I personally know all of the growers, their families, and the land that they grow on. What sets the Farmer Freed apart from other salts on the shelf is the seasonality of the ingredients featured in the culinary salt blends. When I see the Meyer lemons on the trees beginning in January, I know it's time to start making Pucker Up Citrus Salt. When the last dill harvest happens in November, I gather all I can to make the Dilly Goat Salt last until the next wave comes back on in early summer. Making and creating seasonal dependent culinary salt blends requires a lot of pre-planning and the dehydrator runs year round. 

5)  What has the R&D process been like?  Who were the first "taste testers" and what has the reaction been? 

The first tasters were my friends, who are farmers and live in Santa Cruz, followed by friends in the Bay Area. My adoptive Israeli family got in early on the taste testing because Liat (sister) is a professional chef, Ya'ara (mom) is one of the best home cooks I know, and salt is one of entire family's essential food groups. From there, I just kept giving out the salt blend samples and asking people for feedback. I'm currently at a crossroads of trying to figure out which type of salt, sea salt or Kosher, to use in the culinary salt blends.  I give a sample of the Everyday Herb Salt, made with local sea salt, with every internet order and ask for feedback as to which salt mixture the customer prefers. So far the opinions are 50/50 on sea salt vs. Kosher salt so I've stuck with the Kosher salt. 

6) Where do you think your entrepreneurial spirit came from? 

I am an only child and grandchild on both sides of my family. I had a lot of friends growing up but most of the time it was me, myself, and I, so I learned to entertain myself. My parents never pushed me to do anything and so all my drive to succeed in school, extracurricular activities, and special projects came from within. Sometimes I wonder where I get the strength to work on Farmer Freed after long days in the field. I've realized I must have a reserve tank of energy deep inside me that is somehow fueling the ability to create a company that I truly believe brings so much happiness to people's taste buds. 

7) What is the best and most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?

Farmer Freed is currently a one woman band. I am the culinary blend salt maker, accountant, sales team, IT department, mailing and logistics department, all things marketing and PR, and the list goes on and on. The most challenging part is when I have to do something that I have no idea how to do and cannot afford to hire outside consultants. I've learned a lot along the journey thus far and thankfully most of my mistakes haven't been too costly. The best part? That's easy. When people tell me the love the culinary salt blends and their friends and family love them too. There's nothing like a compliment that will keep me going for miles.  I've learned if you dehydrate it, mix it, blend it, and whirl it around in the big metal bowl, they crowds will come!

8)  Besides making wonderfully tasting culinary salts, what do you want your company to represent? 

Farmer Freed represents farming organically and sustainably, as well as using quality local and seasonally grown ingredients in all of the culinary salt blends. Farmer Freed believes deeply in giving back to the local and national food communities, local businesses, surrounding farms, as well as financially supporting Jewish female farmers. If the culinary salt business were to end tomorrow (crossing my fingers it won't because there are so many exciting things on tap for 2013), I would want people to know that Farmer Freed represents a dream of creating great tasting culinary salt blends that incorporates local and seasonal ingredients into your food. As Grandma Freed always use to say before every meal, “Eat it in the best of health.” 

For more information visit farmerfreed.com! 

Thanks Emily for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions!  It was such a delight to learn more about your passion for sustainable food and educating people about supporting local farmers.  Your salt blends look and sound incredibly fresh and delicious.  I can't wait to incorporate them into my cooking :-)

All the best, 

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