The Fruit of the Matter
"Girl Meets Dirt was born of the land. Grew limbs through storms, gained strength with rain, rootedness with dirt under her fingernails. Seedlings rose, and bore fruit. And she watched, curious, hungry, craving a life anew, and learned the art of stretching bounty into winter. This is where the story begins -- with worn muddy boots and kitchen clogs -- a journey in stems, pear seeds, plum pits and apple flesh. A journey to the fruit of the matter and back, started on one island farmette."
I've been waiting all month for the January doldrums - which I've come to count on annually to refresh and get my head back on straight after the demands of fruit season into holidays madness. Well the rain has descended (and shows no sign of stopping), but the doldrums haven't. I think it's just where we're at right now as a young, growing business - on a remote island, with a complicated but very important sourcing mission. I often think about what it would mean to sacrifice some of our standards (hand crafting every jar with exquisitely sourced fruit in just 6 copper pots), because operationally at least, we'd be much better off/more efficient etc. But the fruit of the matter, requires that we continue to do just that.
And so we buck the trend. Having just returned from the Fancy Food Show, there are endless products out there to compete with, but very, very few, made with similar care and ingredients. We make it all ourselves (still) and eschew the lure of copackers (still), we pack it all ourselves (still, eschewing fulfillment centers), and we harvest a great deal of it ourselves too, from our island home. Because that's what makes it real for us, and keeps us picking, chopping, stirring and jarring -- dreaming -- and confident that we're making something you can't get from a factory. But we need you to believe that too - to taste the difference. I can't say thank you enough to our supporters and cheerleaders, who care about the way a thing is made, and where it comes from. We look forward to filling your bellies and enlivening your gatherings throughout 2020.
I include below some highlights of 2019 - and a peak ahead to what's next. 2019 was big. Big and hard and terrifying and exhilarating. I started this business in late 2013 with a hope and a dream and a passion for old varietals of fruit. There have been so many ups and downs since then - so many challenges, and many rewards. But 2019 felt like the culmination of so much sweat, elbow grease, laughter, and tears. It's scary to take the plunge and open your arms wide when opportunity knocks- but that's what we did. I'm so proud of this team.
Thanks for following along.
Happy New Year!
JANUARY: We brought home some serious medals from the Good Food Awards back in January (we won for 2 our of products in 2 categories and had 2 other finalists). Lemon Lavender Shrub and Shiro Plum with Mint Spoon Preserves won. We're also proud of our finalists Rhubarb Lavender and Shiro Plum Tree Bitters. Our Peach Tree Bitters was a Finalist for 2020 too. People always ask us a to pick a favorite- each preserve we make is perfected and suited to a perfect pairing - but these are a great place to start.
MARCH: Handpicked, our flagship store on Orcas Island, reopened in an adorable new space, giving our kitchen some much needed breathing room. Here we stock our full lineup along with our favorite products from all over the country (and world) like; Brooklyn Slate, San Juan Island Sea Salt, Mayana Chocolate and Big Spoon Roasters Nut Butter. We chop, stir, bottle, and ship every jar from the adjacent kitchen with a peek-a-boo window.
JUNE: Reach reach reach! We expanded our partnership into Oregon with Whole Foods! Our products continue to be available at Washington state PCC's, Met Market's, & QFC 's. Peek at our website for a more complete list of brick & mortar locations.
JULY: Happy Birthday to me with a feature in my dream publication, Saveur Magazine I've been a Saveur reader for decades - the inspiration between the pages along with weekly trips to the farmers market carried me through ten years in New York City in a career I didn't mean to get into but couldn't seem to leave. They made me want to do something meaningful with food, something with roots, something that connected me to others, something with a story that needed to be told. When I landed on Orcas eight years ago and gazed up into a tangle of 100 year old Italian plum trees, things started to fall into place. It was incredibly humbling to see my story on those pages, inspiring at least a few others, to follow their bliss too.
AUGUST: Taking Care of the Team
Running a small business is hard. Running a business on an island is even harder. Getting everything to pencil out often feels impossible. Since the very beginning I knew I wanted to grow a business to have full-time year-round employees, pay those employees a living wage, and as soon as I could, offer healthcare benefits. In September, we did just that. Of all that happened this year, it's this that I'm most proud of.
SEPTEMBER: Owning Local
It's hard to imagine the San Juan Islands unless you've actually been here. We had a big goal this year to share a taste of the islands more deeply across our home state and make our products more accessible at neighborhood grocery stores. Our launch with Safeway Albertsons statewide (featuring Cutting Preserves in the cheese kiosks and Shrubs in the liquor set) helped us do just that. We're grateful for this partnership!
OCTOBER: A visit from the Today Show!
This one hit us like a freight train. We spent a whirlwind 24 hours touring orchards, sampling apples, cooking jam and enjoying the fruits of our labors (with cheese!). And then they were gone- and I wondered: did that actually happen? After one last stop at our favorite orchard at the base of Turtleback Mountain Samantha, the Producer, turned and said: "There's so much beauty in the world that most people will never have the opportunity to see." Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share a spoonful of it.
DECEMBER: Taking a leap
As we take in 2020, we're gearing up for a big and long overdue expansion to our space- which will enable us to share the wonder of heirloom fruit and the magic of this island, further and deeper (and not pack pallets on a gravel driveway up a hill in the rain!!!). We are beyond excited to triple our footprint. We'll share the highlights on Instagram if you want to follow our journey. But for now, know that we are humbled and grateful. 6 years in, from a start selling jam at the Orcas Farmers Market made in borrowed kitchens with fruit from my very own property and a baby on my hip- to a company of 10 employees (in a seasonally driven economy), it feels frankly unreal. And you made it possible.
Thanks for believing in us and giving us a chance. Thank you for valuing sustainable food systems, equitably and exquisitely sourced ingredients, history, terroir, and a living wage for all of our team.
Cheers from all of us on the Jam Squad!