Tierra Farm supplies lots and lots of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, granola, coffees and chocolate covered delights in all sorts of flavors and varieties to our Bulk department. They’re easy to miss, since they generally use zero-to-minimal packaging, and the packaged goods we do carry from them are branded with our own Brattleboro Food Co-op logo. But once you notice them, you’ll see them everywhere: in the Bulk bins, on the Bulk shelves, next to the registers, in the baby section. And you might also notice that all their product is organic, peanut free, kosher, and non-GMO, and if you taste their products you’ll notice they’re all REALLY GOOD. I fell for the Austrian pumpkin seeds when they were on sale a couple months ago…yeesh.
The founder of Tierra Farm is named Gunther Fishgold. Here’s a picture of him:
Gunther started out as a lobbyist for sustainable farming practices in the New York State legislature in the 90’s. He used the money he made from that experience to start a farm outside of Albany in a small town called Valatie, and named it after his dog, Tierra. The Tierra Farm products we are familiar with at the Co-op grew out of a side business he started to keep the farm profitable during the winter months, and it just grew and grew…and GREW. Last year they made it onto Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in the U.S., and recently saw a three-year growth of 45%. 45%!
And what’s really cool is that all that growth started with support from cooperatively owned and independently owned grocery stores. It’s shops like ours that initially carried Tierra Farm products, and Gunther remains steadfastly loyal to businesses of our kind. As a policy they only sell to co-ops and independent retailers – having products as high quality as Tierra Farm’s solely available at us small-fry shops gives us just a little leg up in that ongoing David vs Goliath battle. Thank you, Tierra Farm! We need all the help we can get on that front.
I recently had a conversation with Annabel, Tierra’s Account Manager for our region. Here she is:
She explained that because they don’t use a distributor, and purchase foods directly from farmers, they know their product from the beginning to the end of the supply chain and everything in between, from the fields and orchards all the way to the store shelves. Brands that use distributors don’t have this level of control – perhaps their cashews sat in a warehouse for a few months while a middleman waited for them to sell, for instance – those once-yummy nuts would become not-so-great. This never happens with Tierra Farm. Also, all their products are manufactured in small batches – they call it “craft organic”. They never use any bogus ingredients, all their nuts are dry roasted, and there’s no added sugars…except for one product they’re trying out, which Annabel said they made an exception for because it was just too delicious: banana chips that are fried in coconut oil and sweetened just right with cane sugar…rules are made to be broken! Apparently all the Tierra employees are bonkers for them.
And speaking of employees, what’s it like to work there? Apparently, it’s pretty amazing. That farm that Gunther started with is still there on the company’s property – they grow fresh produce that’s used to feed their employees an organic lunch every day, and, according to their website, have “access to a fitness center on the farm grounds. Full time employees also enjoy traditional benefits such as health insurance, for which Tierra Farm covers all premium and reimburse for all co-pays, as well as dental and vision coverage, and a 401(k).” Dang. They were named as one of the best places to work in the NY Capital Region in 2017 by the Albany Business Review. And speaking to Annabel, I got the impression that perhaps the best thing is that she’s working for people who inspire her with their passion and deep belief in their business, how it’s run, the quality of their products and, most importantly, their relationships.
Also their human resources director is an ordained Tendai Buddhist priest and cofounded the Head Temple of Tendai Buddhism in North America with her husband. COOL!
And a couple more awesome tidbits: over 70% of the electricity they use is generated from solar panels, and they recycle over 60% of their waste. And the packages you’ll find with our BFC logo in bulk are made from over 50% recycled material and are recyclable themselves. And one of their delicious trail mixes is named Festivus. What’s not to love about Tierra Farm?!
by Ruth Garbus