A couple of our Circular Economy Leaders Network members partnered this year to find creative solutions to potential food waste. While their ingredients were always locally sourced, the CultureBox team stepped up to serve as a "safety valve" for farms' excess produce this growing season. They took in the surplus, including leftovers from farmers markets and experimental crops, then used them to craft new and exciting preserved products!
After one of Plant Chicago's June markets, Dulce of Cedillo's Fresh Produce found herself with 15 pounds of extra radishes. Rather than let them go to waste or accept the financial loss of donating them, she connected with CultureBox. Sam Smithson, their Culinary Director, was selling specialty kombucha and other fermented goodies just a few tents down.
"The safety valve idea came about after a day of volunteering at our friends Finding Justice Farm in Bronzeville. We saw how farmers struggled with supply and demand becoming so volatile as a result of the pandemic. We can only imagine how disappointing it must be to put so much love and care into growing something but having your demand dry up in an instant. Farmers are the caretakers of our land and the ones who fill our bellies and provide us with energy - such a vital function means they should be able to operate comfortably and without stress!
We didn’t feel like we had the footing to be a part of the solution in reducing farm waste until we entered Plant Chicago's CELN and were given the support and network to flesh the program out. We were so incredibly lucky to get connected with Dulce. Her passion and warmness resonated with us and really solidified our resolve to continue and build this program out so we can serve more amazing local farms like hers next season!"
- Michaela & Sam, CultureBox Directors
The USDA reports that an astounding 30-40% of our food supply is wasted. While consumers' irresponsible shopping accounts for a large portion of this waste, so do our big box grocery stores. When we operate at the small business level, unfortunate situations like these can be more easily turned into opportunities. And thus, Finger Snacky Radishes were born! The fermentation process extended the life of the radishes and the profits were shared by CultureBox and Cedillo's, thereby keeping money in the community and food out of our landfills!
What an amazing example of circular economy in action!