Farm To Table Kids
What was the inspiration behind Farm To Table Kids?
When I had a child and decided to become a stay at home mom I asked my neighbor to bring his tractor to my house and open the ground for a huge field so I could grow veggies. Growing up my family always kept a garden as a source of food and I wanted to have that for my children as well. So I planted a big organic garden (on a large enough scale that it could withstand the inevitable wear and tear of children pulling premature carrots and green tomatoes). My friends would often come by and ask if their child could see the garden and pick a few things. Enough friends asked if their children could play in the gardens that I started a Tuesday Farm Club at my house and before you, I knew it about 30 people were showing up to play in the garden and make healthy farm to table snacks. We always harvested in the field, did a craft and made a farm to table snack…I so loved all the people that came to the early days of Farm to Table Kids garden club…it was truly the coolest little secret society in Cumberland County! The Garden Club got too big to host at my house and I went to the Sea Dog restaurants and asked them if they would be interested in letting me build raised bed gardens for their chefs in exchange for letting me offer free garden classes to the community. My core mission then was the same one I have now, to provide fun, hands-on experiences for children in the garden & kitchen to inspire their curiosity and taste buds. I tell kids all the time, just try the veggies you pick, you don’t have to like it but just try it (every time they are at least proud to try it and sometimes even like it).
In 2015 Farm to Table Kids won the prestigious Entreverge Award by Propel and the Portland Chamber of Commerce. I finally felt like all the hard work of building gardens, building communities to support the gardens and a recognized brand was coming to life and my business was on its way to success - 10 days later my 3-year-old son was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Everything stopped. I moved to Massachusetts with my son and daughter and for 2 straight years my son battled stage 4 cancer at Dana Farber and Boston Children’s Hospital, my daughter started kindergarten, and we fought an unimaginable battle…Joey is OK now. We moved home to Maine in the winter of 2017. When we moved home I really wasn’t sure what my career path would be. I have a strong successful career background in marketing that I could go back to. But I was still recovering from Joey’s battle. I was solely focused on my children's’ transitions back to Maine, entering new school systems and trying to guide them back to living a “normal life” - but I am a single mother of two children and Joey still had/has a lot of medical follow-ups so I needed to define my career plan. Time with my son and daughter is the top most priority for me to live a happy life and when I prioritized that I knew that picking up the pieces to put Farm to Table Kids back together was the right thing to do. It would be harder than getting a '9-5 reliable salary with health benefits job’ but it would allow me the time to be with them and build my schedule around theirs, plus, Farm to Table Kids was born from my passion of farming with children, I had to at least make an honest try at starting it back up.
So Farm to Table Kids 2.0 was born! I jumped in wholeheartedly (with friends by my side to push me when I needed it, and I needed it!). I grew the garden club to a 7-week full summer program for kids and established it as a 501c3 non-profit. This summer the Farm to Table Kids Camp at Skyline Farm will welcome over 90 kids to the farm as part of our summer camp program. And the Farm to Table Kids all natural baking line is now available at select specialty stores in Maine (Le Roux, Rosemont Markets, and Pineland Farms).
So long story short - the inspiration behind Farm to Table Kids has always been my Kids. Farm to Table Kids has evolved right alongside them as they grow and interests and needs change - but Farm to Table Kids is about giving children the opportunity to be curious about food, to know where food comes from, to see, touch, taste and feel the nature around us. That has always been the priority, and now with my son’s health history giving children the knowledge to grow and source local organic foods and make healthy choices is even more of a priority to me and my company, Farm to Table Kids.
What are your key products and can you describe the production process?
The Farm to Table Kids Baking Line is comprised of all-natural baking mixes and sprinkles. The Baking Mixes are Maine Strawberry Cake Mix, Maine Strawberry Frosting, Maine Blueberry Cake Mix, Maine Blueberry Frosting, and a Classic Sugar Cookie Mix. Farm to Table Kids mixes are different from others because each mix gets its vibrant color and flavors from dehydrated organic berry and vegetable powders. Each mix has a little pouch with dehydrated vegetable and fruit powders - it's fun to bake the mix with kids because when they add the powder they can see the instant effect it has on the color and taste of the batter (its get them excited and thinking about the power of food). As an example, the Strawberry cake and frosting has a powder pouch of organic strawberry, organic beetroot, and organic vanilla powders) and creates a wonderful pink color and true strawberry flavor.
The other product in the Farm to Table Kids Baking Line is the Garden Sprinkles - baking sprinkles made from organic vegetable powders. All the colors of the baking sprinkles are made with vegetable coloring (carrots, beets, cabbage, etc.). They still taste like a candy topping but the kids think it’s cool that the color comes from vegetables they would otherwise not be so excited about.
All the ingredients in all the Farm to Table Kids products are made with organic flours, wheats, sugars, vanillas, and powders. I just have not had the time or financial resources to go through the organic certification process but that is something I am committed to pursuing once Farm Camp season is over in the fall.
Where do you source your ingredients from? How are you involved at the local level?
As a farmer and Maine artisan supporting local companies is a priority when I source my ingredients. I use a local distributor to purchase my ingredients. I presently use King Arthur Flour (based out of VT) but I am testing Maine Grains for use in the mixes - I would like to switch to their product as long as it yields the same end result for the baking mixes. I use a lot of beetroots in the powder packets for the mixes and in the coloring for the Garden Sprinkles and I actually grow and dehydrated a lot of my own vegetables from my farm. I also use a local artist for my brand design and Yarmouth Printing and Graphic for my label production. Keeping all points of my business at a local level is important to me. Maine is an authentic market with savvy customers and business owners, the more you can activate the community around you the more people will support you.
How has Farm To Table Kids changed over the years and what is your vision for the future?
I touched upon this in the first answer but looking forward: I would like to have Farm to Table Kids Camp grow on several levels. Now that it is a 501-c3 non profit designation I would like to apply for grants to offer a scholarship program and build a new Camp Pavilion, and continue to spread the word about Farm to Table Kids Camp Inc. and increase participation into full day and half day offerings for young and older ages to enjoy different aspects of what the farm experience has to offer through the eyes and interests of young and older campers.
As for the Baking Line - it is currently undergoing a brand refresh and will be renamed to Farm Kids Naturals. Once the farm camp season is over I aim to dive back into the baking line aspect of my business and increase the stores that carry the Farm Kids Naturals baking line. With the intense starts and stops that my business has experienced, I have not yet sold the Baking Line in the baking months (it just became available in stores in May) so I am excited and hopeful for a successful holiday baking season (fingers crossed).
What do you wish more people knew about your company?
Farm to Table Kids, both the summer camp and the baking line is a product of passion and dedication. I’ve been hosting some form of kids garden education for 9 years now, and the baking line was born from when I sold cupcakes at local Farmer’s Markets dating back to 2008. I owned a small cupcake business called Tulips Cupcakery and I sold my organic produce and cupcakes at Freeport, Yarmouth and Portland Farmer’s Markets and supplied about 14 local businesses with baked goods. I’ve been on this path for a decade and in that time I’ve had children, watched my son battle stage 4 cancer, survive, move 3 times for medical reasons, divorce, and start over. I have a very successful professional career background that I am proud of and can hopefully lean-on if I need to, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far and every single day when I’m at the farm with the kids I make a connection with someone and I know I’ve found what I’m meant to do. I excel at a lot of things, but I’m exceptional when it comes to inspiring kids to think in the garden and kitchen - it is what I love and I feel lucky to have found that. Now my plan is to work really hard to make sure I can keep doing it.