I just returned from a farm conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Great Lakes Expo is a huge farm conference with lots of classes on fruit, vegetable, direct farm marketing and greenhouse operations. I attended a myriad of classes and even a bus tour.
The bus tour was a day-long trip through southwest Michigan, which included several stops at direct farm markets or farm stands. Two things became apparent almost immediately: 1) the Midwest has a huge U-pick culture for strawberries, blueberries, tart cherries, peaches, and apples (most of the farmers had farm stands and U-pick operations) and 2) no one on our bus was organic or even toying with becoming organic.
The other obvious and extremely profitable venture for these farms was donuts. Most of these farms confessed that 33% of their sales came from donuts. Round little donuts fried in Crisco (yuck) and dipped in a myriad of icings, sugars or glazes. You should have the heard the lively interactions on how to make the perfect donut. I would have never imagined all the nuances of making donuts, the amount of water, temperature of water, and grade of Crisco (super fry C being the white stuff of choice). Even the humidity could affect the quality of donuts. These farmers were giddy with the amount of money they were making off donuts. One farmer was happy to tell us that she at least added canned pumpkin to their, yep you guessed it, pumpkin donuts. All of the farm stand operators did farm; they just also sold lots of donuts.
Needless to say, Joelle and I were feeling a little out of place. After all, our passion is growing food –food with nutrients that will actually feed your body, not offend it. And all of the grocery items we sell have to be organic and at a minimum GMO free. We are not interested in selling any products that are not a part of the solution to America’s health crisis.
I know how hard it is to farm and get a crop from farm to fork, but donuts??? Ironically, one of the reasons Joelle and I travelled to Michigan for a farm conference was because Michigan agriculture is more similar to Western Washington agriculture. And since we are in the market for smaller scale farm equipment, we thought we would be able touch, feel and kick some tires on this type of equipment. We didn’t find a commercial dehydrator, but we did get to look at some postharvest vegetable washing equipment and some amazing harvesting equipment for potatoes, apples and strawberries.
But back to donuts, I am also considering building a commercial kitchen. So we can, once again, offer our customers an organic line of pies, muffins and sandwich bread. We have had the hardest time finding a partner that would be willing to bake for us. So as you can imagine, at a conference where DONUTS are the rage, there were a few purveyors of baking equipment. And being the opportunist, or entrepreneur, I got to think through the equipment I would need to start baking bread with people who use and also sell the equipment.
Now, hold on! We are still in the design phase and researching if it makes sense for us to make this investment. I could use your help, though. Would you let me know if you would be interested in having organic whole wheat sandwich style breads delivered to your homes?