Can prepared frozen foods be good for you, taste good and be good for the local food economy, too? Chef Michael Webb, a New Hampshire chef turned entrepreneur, has recently turned those skills into growing a frozen food company that does just that.
He originally joined a small start-up food company called Village Foods to help expand their retail product line. Today Village Foods produces 23 frozen family-size, "ready to bake" meal entrées shipped to 40 stores across six states. (Available at Harvest Markets across New Hampshire.)
As a one-time chef-delegate representing Slow Food Monadnock, Michael believes it is important for cooks, producers, farmers and consumers to come together to protect agricultural heritage as well as for all to benefit from the localization of food production and consumption. He explains, "I see food prices constantly going up. Rising fuel prices add into that. So buying food locally minus the fuel markup is a huge plus for the economy."
Michael is collaborating with the Cornucopia Project, which teaches sustainable living to children by connecting them to the land through organic gardening. This year they are growing butternut squash for him, which he will label "Cornucopia Project Butternut Squash Soup," enabling the project to earn money to continue their educational endeavor. One by one, he will be adding local farms so that eventually his entire frozen food business will support local producers. As he grows, they will grow and prosper.
"I knew there had to be a way to do the right thing and at the same time get a great product at an affordable price to the consumer. That is my goal. That is the big picture. Supporting the local economy by supporting sustainable farming while growing a profitable business. I see that as a good balance and leading a good life."
Hillary Davis lives in Peterborough. She is a food writer and has a weekly food blog at www.marchedimanche.typepad.com.