Welcome to the launch of Agrilicious. My team and I are very excited to have reached this day, and we're equally pleased that you can join us in this important undertaking. Our hope over the next several weeks, months, and years is that we’ll all look back on this as the beginning of a fulfilling and beneficial relationship.
I'm Duane, co-founder, tour guide, blog poster, and sounding board. Let me borrow a few moments of your valuable time so you’ll understand a bit about who we are, why we're here, and what you'll find on the inviting road to Agrilicious.
Our aim is to create something in Agrilicious that you'll find worthy of visiting, again and again, so that, before you know it, you'll have the urge to deepen your engagement while benefitting from the local food experience-while, together with the Agrilicious team, helping to grow the family-and-farmer community connection.
Agrilicious is a Social Purpose Corporation. Our mission is to promote the positive short and long-term benefits of local and organically grown foods, along with the benefits of family farming and sustainable agriculture. We'll track down the experts to provide the latest and best information in and around the food movement, while putting you in a position to make sound choices based on transparency and facts. As a general rule, we are not bomb-throwers or wild-eyed revolutionaries. The team and I are not interested in promoting squabbling politicians who tend more to make speeches than actually get anything done, and we certainly have no interest in telling you how to eat, what to eat, or when to eat it. We are here to present you with the information in an informative, fair and concise manner so you can make sound decisions without having to sort through generalities. We believe by simply raising your awareness, you will find yourself, as I find myself, consistently asking—where does my food come from, why isn't it grown locally, or what’s in this dish I’m eating. Like many of you, I want to be healthier. I really do. I want better health for myself, better health for my family, my friends- and yes, better health for you. However, full disclosure, I don't always make good food decisions. I'm not a vegan nor vegetarian. I'm 100% carnivore who loves a good gut bomb (i.e. hamburger) as much as a good bottle of red. Worse, I certainly have my own weaknesses and cravings. Whether they might lead me to a Gene and Jude's Hot Dog or a Zeek's Thai-One-On pizza, I am now able to at least convince myself that if I am aware of my food choices, I will be better equipped to make smarter and healthier food decisions more often. By doing so - I put myself in a position where I can give into my impulses periodically (vs. routinely) without completely derailing my good intentions! Well…it makes sense to me anyway.
Any-hoo...the plan here is to introduce you to the best local farmers, food hubs, food delivery companies, restaurants (focused on locally sourced menus), and leading suppliers of products and services that support local farmers. We will work to provide family farmers a larger stage - in front of a highly motivated audience that craves farm fresh food in their communities. We will develop simple to use feature and functionality to make accessing local food and farmers accessible and seamless for all, while leveraging data and technology to present the very best the marketplace has to offer, including accessing the best recipes, menus and much more!
Agrilicious is INCLUSIVE. We're putting up a big tent here. We do recognize this is a new and different approach – and if the length of this blog is any indicator – I'm hoping we will learn to explain it all in a more succinct manner. It is time for the mainstreaming of the food movement. Young and old, we need the curious, the foodies, the farmers, and the Locavores. We crave innovation – new ideas, never say die entrepreneurs, new farmers, and new technologies. The success of one partner, one farmer, one food delivery company or one website will help the many. We are in fact – all in this together. Agrilicious is about creating a sustainable network of credible businesses and partners within the food movement chain who are qualified to meet the demands of informed customers who are tired of being told that all of the so-called natural products (with labels reading like a chemistry set) are supposedly good for them. This effort is about getting all of the players in the food production and distribution cycle on the same page and at the same table, from the farmer to the produce delivery company working with the farmer-to the service providers, suppliers, restaurants, and grocery stores that support and feature local farmers—and to the meal-kit services, distributers, educators, and food industry advocates and experts. For a sustainable network to be successful – it takes work – and yes – it must be sustained.
Back in the day, growing food was something that involved the participation of most Americans, and the connection between farmers and individuals was a critical part of daily life. Our task is to help restore that connection. As much as I wish I could be a farmer, I simply don't have the knowledge, the skill-set, or the resourcefulness. I wish I did but honestly I can't fix a running toilet. Where we can contribute is through technology, creativity, my team, our relationships, community outreach, and business competence with relevant partners with significant reach. This talent is an ingredient we can leverage to help all of those who came before us and those who are on the front lines today to contribute to the restoration of the food cycle connections and the advancement of the food movement – and to take our food economy back. Now is the moment for a little clarity on the subject of locally grown food. Factory farming has driven many good farmers - our neighbors, off their land. This in turn paved the way for the development of artificial fertilizers, overused and noxious pesticides, the genetic engineering of seeds that would repel insects, and the genetic manipulation of produce to achieve longer shelf life. All of this tinkering with nature has led to an increase in hospitalizations as a result of food allergies, and has even led to a reduction in the varieties of produce. To us, it doesn’t make sense.
Backstory: During my early years in Escondido, CA, I was a typical kid with no farm connection whatsoever. Every day, the seven kids in our family sat down promptly to dinner at 6:00 P.M., and none of us ever wanted to sit on the left side of Dad, who was the first to fill up his plate before passing it on to the right. My food choices away from the dinner table included beef and bean burritos from vending machines at Orange Glen High School and cheeseburgers and chili fries from Char Burger across from the ball field. Farming? I didn’t know the difference between a parsnip and a turnip. Later I grew into the standard model of an adult American male with a generous helping of Yankee drive and ambition. I stumbled along the way, mightily in fact, but learned through hard work, perseverance, those occasional life kicking you in the behind moments and, by surrounding myself with a good team – we could pull off just about anything. With the right people and support around you, at work or at home, success is possible. So behold, one day twelve years ago, I woke up to find myself a frog prince. I had managed to lead a team of talented Internet misfits to the ultimate success. What a country.
Fast forward to 2013; my boys are ten and sixteen years old. Life seems to be moving far too fast. Between the vines, tweets, secrets and snapchats - I can't keep up with the electronic worlds they inhabit. Their devotion to their devices and the latest video games and apps is endless – but I count myself lucky, they are great boys in large part because they have a great Mom. I worry about their health and the ready availability of fast-food and unhealthy snacks, about irresponsible marketers and advertisers who invent jingles and jargon to convince us that unhealthy practices like chemically spraying food increases crop yield, makes the food cheaper, and makes it good for you. I’m worried that the former backbone of the food production cycle, the American farmer, is being squeezed out as an unnecessary element in the equation. I'm worried that we've stopped asking questions like—what's is in this food product? Where is it from? Who grew it? Are these Cheeto-looking things really All-Natural and good for me?!?
February 3, 2013, Super Bowl Sunday. I do love a good commercial, but it's hard to believe that a Dodge Truck Commercial provided one of the seeds that would grow into Agrilicious. It really did; it was a commercial about farmers, a commercial in praise of the land, family farms, faith, and hard work. The powerful message featured appealing farm scenes with narration by the late, great Paul Harvey who was describing God's reaction when he looked down at his creation. God decided that what this bountiful land needed was a caretaker. He created a farmer—a hardworking, dedicated family man or woman, a steward of the land, the animals, and the produce raised on that land. I was hooked.
That spring after considerable nudging from Cindy the co-founder of Agrilicious, much of my time was filled with reading Mother Earth News, learning more about Joel Salatin and his Polyface Farm, the Food Tank initiative and other groups out there doing terrific work. I was thirsty for information and was surprised that, in spite of the size of the food movement and its relevance to all of us, every single one of us, the amount of information and access to family farmers online was still very limited.
During mid-afternoon on the 20th of May, a powerful tornado, a mile and a half wide and with winds exceeding two hundred miles per hour within the swirling storm system, leveled sections of Moore, OK. When I arrived in Moore, I wanted to help – I had no idea what to expect. My hands were soft, my boots and gloves were new, shiny and clean thanks to Amazon Prime. I had nothing more to provide than a strong back, a firm handshake, and a receptive ear. Nervously approaching the community center where volunteers gathered each morning - I felt that I stood out like a sore thumb, yet, I received the same appreciative welcome that was given to the more capable rescue workers. I teamed up with an Army ROTC group Cameron Comanche Battalion from Lawton, Oklahoma, a young couple from Atlanta, a Dad and daughter from Oregon and a local named Serenity - who had come home from Ft. Worth in her community's time of need. Being with the volunteers and working with and for the victims of the tornado was both emotional and inspirational. I've not worn the boots since Moore - yet seeing them in the garage with my gloves stuffed in them gives me sense of connection to the good people of Oklahoma.
End of summer - I spent a long holiday weekend on a mini road trip touring Iowa and Illinois. I spoke to family farmers, visited the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, numerous restaurateurs, and even a great small winery in Madison County, the Covered Bridges Winery.
Standing in a corn field near the intersection of Francesca Ave and Roseman Bridge Rd, (yes, it's true!) the wind whistling through the field, the scents of the field intoxicating as I took a deep breath and soaked it all in. That moment was every bit as spiritual as if I had been reverently sitting in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. I can't explain the feeling. It was certainly new and overwhelming to me – and I liked it.
I returned from Iowa focused and intent on putting pieces of the band back together, one by one, the members of my team, some who have been with me for more than twenty years were back on board and ready for our next adventure.
After a long grueling work filled (wet) Seattle winter, Spring has now sprung and Agrilicious is here. What is it? What has the team created? Well, honestly, it's a little bit of everything. We aim to be at the heart of the food movement providing an exciting way to participate in the local food experience while expanding the family-and-farmer connection. The go-to source for all things local food. We believe if we do this correctly – together - we can make a difference in these important ways:
Your role here will be critical, I encourage you to get involved. If you're the sharing type – share the names of the organizations you respect and follow – we'll promote them. Tell us your story, or, about your local farm heroes, perhaps about your family farm. We will benefit when we share these stories and celebrate the lives of our local food and farm heroes, past and present – all over this great country.
We'll have some fun along the way - we'll raise awareness, support our communities, we'll enjoy better tasting food, share new recipes and we'll be healthier for it. We'll work to hold our big chain grocers and restaurants accountable to our local community and farmers. We'll pull in some guest bloggers, seek out the experts and we'll work diligently to gain the support of quality centric like-minded partners who will help us contribute to this movement – and to grow Agrilicious.
So...let it be so - we're off and running. This is only the beginning. If you think we're on the right track, please tell your friends, co-workers, and family. Get signed up...follow us on Twitter - If you can help in any way, please reach out to me.
Here to help.
Support The Cause. Make Local Food Choices. Seek Farmer-Direct Connections.
Next Post: Redneck Crazy. Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Teresa, Sheri, Dan and Joel Salatin