Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blog Action Day: Good food. Good business.

Many of my days of late are spent studying “Business for Good” at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Seattle. Recently I was lucky enough to join a small group of people in involved in agriculture, the food biz, and sustainable business in Mexico to experience an excellent example of what it means.

It is just more satisfying to do business when everybody wins. That is exactly what happened when self-confessed Napa-based bean lover, author, cook, entrepreneur, and all-around cool guy, Steve Sando aka Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food, teamed up with Xoxoc, a Mexican family-business dedicated to business, community, food, and family based on their rich Mexican heritage of food and culture.

The Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project that grew out of this partnership involves creating a market for heritage beans, Xoxoc products that are based on the native xoconostle tuna, a kind of prickly pear fruit, along with related foods and handmade Mexican products. They are even working with the famed Diana Kennedy to bring a hard to source chile to the American marketplace.

By the standards of big industrial business, the kind of market we are talking about is tiny. But when you look at the big picture, the impact is really impressive. Bringing customers unique and top-quality products that taste great is always front and center. Yet un-trumpeted, and behind the scenes, there is something equally powerful going on.

Steve profiles the great food elements of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project here and here, and the meals, mezcal, cooking classes, and all-around good times from our trip on his blog here. I’m going to take a different tack, and share what it means from the perspective of energy, green building and real wages for real people.

The Project means that there is a group of hardworking families, like the farmers of Maguey Verde, a small village in Hidalgo State, Mexico, who can now make a living raising heritage beans. Their market niche was quickly being replaced by industrial agriculture and its focus on one or two commercial varieties. Instead of risking a season’s worth of time and effort, just to take the beans to a commodity market that does not prize unique varieties or chemical-free agricultural methods, and where buyers pay the lowest possible price, the Xoxoc farmers can focus on quality, tradition, and production, knowing that their crop is pre-sold. The growers benefit, and so do consumers, who get access to dried beans so fresh and tasty that leading chefs and high-end food magazines extoll their virtues.

Being able to sell your crop is about more than maintaining a family tradition of crops suited to the natural conditions, and grown without irrigation, on communal ejido lands with horse-drawn plows instead of machinery. It translates into things like villages that come together and have enough money to maintain a shared well that for the past couple of years has brought running water to people’s homes. It means the possibility of being able to send your daughter to school past the 6th grade. The 2-horse plow is pretty cool too.

According to Yunuen Carillo Quiroz, one of our gracious hosts, a force-of-nature, and, one of the driving forces behind Xoxoc, they could have built a standard sort of industrial processing facility. Instead they chose to go sustainable, where beauty and good design counts, and the ratio of environmental impact to economic and cultural value is better for everyone involved. They chose traditional construction techniques and materials so they could keep the traditions alive with experienced craftsmen supervising and teaching their methods to laborers unfamiliar with old ways and indigenous materials. Those laborers left with a paycheck and new “old” skills they can bring to the next project and the one after that.

In contrast to the often dark and ugly buildings in the area, the Xoxoc buildings look great and they are designed to make the most of natural daylight. This is handy, especially since the receiving, processing, and packaging areas are not wired. That’s right – the only electricity in the entire facility is for a cutting edge solar-powered dehydrating unit where the xoconostle fruit is turned into dried treats.

Everything else, from washing and peeling the fruit, to sorting and cleaning beans destined for the American market, is done by hand. Doing it this way keeps capital costs down. It also creates good jobs for 11 women, many who are single mothers raising families in an area where employment and money are both in short supply.,

Like every business everywhere, it takes persistence, hard work, and a good sense of humor to make it happen. And where some might say the goal of business is to squeeze a dime out of every nickel, for me, the businesses that do good while doing business are the ones that capture my heart.

PS For more interesting reads, check out Blog Action Day.Link

13 comments:

  1. This sounds like it was a fantastic trip. I love the quote "It is just more satisfying to do business when everybody wins." I'd love to try one of these products. Are they available anywhere in Seattle?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Marcy. I understand that Picnic, in Seattle carries Rancho Gordo Beans http://www.picnicseattle.com/ Steve is also planning a book event there sometime this Fall, though the date hasnt been announced yet.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am very thankful to all your team for sharing such inspirational information.
    survival food healthy

    ReplyDelete
  4. How to make ice cream - Yuuummmm....ya, here is the recipe foe delicious dessert. This is really very simple, even kid can try this..!!   Ingredients • Vanilla or any other Flavoured essence 1.5 tea spoon • Cornflou...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow very entertaining post. Ive notice that there are many Cheap 1300 Numbers that giving to a business to give them many clients. Most busineses are using smart numbers to easily remember by their clients most especially on restuarant and food businesses.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is rather really useful moreover as motivational information on my legs. I’m merely a first amount of time in blog site and looking for greater guide much like your publishing.

    linemarking melbourne | line marking melbourne

    ReplyDelete
  7. Uncover these choice food items good for eye like a bust from the boredom of classic eyes health and fitness food items. Health Food
    Find out about a foods to help you out to stop your development of dried up eyes symptoms.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This blog publish a fantastic topic on Good food and good business. I like this product in this blog so much.
    Texaso Insurance

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very nice article
    If you are looking nice and healthy food? just visit our side http://eatlikegreek.wordpress.com
    Learn free many healthy food Recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anyone wants to dwell a protracted lifestyle and enjoy this towards ideal and never continue to be put towards your bed or perhaps your controls couch. To get that extended life and also freedom inside lifestyle well being is critical. Good health is usually looked after simply by having a good diet just like greens, dairy and also healthy proteins in the well-balanced diet. Vitamins and minerals tend to be an important element with the increase and also wellbeing with the body. Meals rich in fibers maintain your bowels sensation lighting simply by staying away from constipation and so staying away from parasitic organisms through entering your colon. click here

    ReplyDelete
  11. Recent time food selection is very important. If you want healthy body then you need fresh food.

    broadband in data communication

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am a beginner in the market and I don't know much about the market From where I could get basic knowledge of the market? commodity tips

    ReplyDelete