It’s usually something that happens in life, or something someone says that causes us to make a big change. For me, organic ideas were first planted in my mind from my sister Kathy. I remember seeing Silent Spring by Rachel Carson on the bookshelf in our bedroom. She was in college and I was in my mid-teens. I paged through the book and got my first look at the devastating magnitude of chemical use in agriculture. Kathy had just finished college and moved to the other side of the state, where land was abundant and fertile in the hills and valleys of the “driftless” region of Wisconsin. Through her actions, she taught me about self-dependence and living off the land. She had goats and chickens, a garden and a little A-frame house that she heated with the wood she split. I loved it, but was deep into my high school happenings and heading in my own directions.
In my early twenties, living the young family dream, I had my first ¼-acre vegetable garden. It felt satisfying to grow food for our family and eat things fresh from the garden. I subscribed to Organic Gardening and Prevention Magazine, canned tomatoes, bought a chest freezer for other veggie harvests, and learned the art of making bread (sometimes it got the name brick bread, but delicious none-the-less).
Life moved along and ten years later Stephen and I were living in a paradise setting in the Caribbean having taken jobs as underwater photo pros with our scuba careers in full swing. In our first remote location, we were able to find luscious fruits and vegetables from a Haitian farmer in the Bahamas. We would buy a full bunch of bananas at a time and hang them for ripening, which they did over the course of a few weeks. After a couple of years, we moved to an island off the coast of Venezuela, much further south. A jet came to the island only once a week, bringing new tourists, and taking the past week’s passengers back home. It wasn’t a fertile island, more like a desert, with wild goats and thousands of flamingoes living in the salt pans. We could buy our produce from the farmers that brought their little boats filled with fruits and vegetables from the mainland.
While in the Bahamas we had an epiphany regarding the foods we ate, and we went through a major lifestyle change choosing a vegetarian diet. As we read books like Diet For a New America and Diet for a Small Planet, we learned more about animal agriculture and commercial agriculture in general, and wondered about the unregulated use of chemicals on the foods we were eating. After a time away from “home” we were longing to head back, and the decision was made to return to our fertile Wisconsin roots and start an organic CSA garden.
Stephen and I, along with our 3 cats, found the quaint village of Cambridge, outside of Madison. There we met a wonderful new friend and mentor, Paul, with whom we sat around the kitchen table and discussed our possibilities of working together. Paul lived on the 80-acre family farm his parents had farmed before him. They had farmed commercially with chemical use coming into their practices for many years. When Paul’s wife died of cancer a few years earlier, he truly felt it was from the chemicals they had been spraying and eating, so he turned his land and mission into a chemical-free, organically run farm. Paul was 70 years old at the time and had the steam of a 30-year-old. We traded our help on the farm for a plot of land to call home and put in our one-acre garden. Together we had many great experiences. One year we hand planted a few acres of asparagus plants, another year we experimented with 20-acres of popcorn while at the same time starting our seeds, planting our garden and developing our CSA program which included 12 families in Cambridge and Madison. We collected seaweed from the local lake, hauled and shoveled horse manure from the local stable, and made small mountains of compost. Paul’s apple orchard was meticulously sprayed with garlic and cayenne twice a year and together we built our hoop houses to extend our growing season. It was an organic-growers heaven.
Paul took us to many organic meetings in SE Wisconsin where fellow farmers discussed the organic movement and methods. We took seminars at the Michael Fields Institute, a prominent research and education center for biodynamic farming in East Troy Wisconsin. We were sponges for all we could absorb in the organic farming/gardening realm. We began teaching cooking classes out of our home and then at the local tech schools. People were waking up to the food system and how they could make changes in their own choices to improve their health and the well-being of the Earth. Soon we were seeing the impact we had on many more people reaching out to learn about clean eating. This led to that, and we were once again moving, this time to De Pere, Wisconsin to open a vegetarian cafe and cooking school through a nonprofit we started, called EarthHeart. We’ll leave that story to another blog, and skip ahead to the now.
Our new life in food manufacturing is reaching more people than ever. We are thrilled to have a certified organic snack-line that uses no chemicals and no genetically modified organisms. There is no land or water pollution, no chemical residues that harm insects or birds, as in that first eye opener, Silent Spring. We make clean food, coming straight from the farms and orchards that grow our ingredients.
Our organic certifying partner, MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) is a conscientious organization that monitors accounts closely to assure all regulations are being practiced. When you see the USDA Organic seal on food items, look for the certifying agency that has given their approval to use that symbol. Without a certifying agency listed, that item might not be regulated as certified organic. Also keep in mind that a legit USDA symbol means there are no GMO’s in it, as they are not allowed in any certified organic ingredients. The best part about organic is the Earth being free from the chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides being sprayed day after day, that end up in our water and soil, affecting all of life. Organic is the core of everything we do, because we honor and respect all life. Thank you for concerning yourselves with the organic way.
When Gorilly Goods was first looking for walnuts to use in our Original variety, we called Fillmore Farms in Gridley, CA. This family business is dedicated to using organic, Earth-friendly methods. They were right in line with what we were looking for. Brit answered the phone and so pleasantly gave me the information of the types and grades of walnuts available. It was a gift to be able to be in the circle of businesses receiving these clean, nutritious top quality nuts. We’ve been using them ever since that first phone call and hope to evermore. So we thought it was about time you get to know where those delicious walnuts in our snacks come from. Take a look.
Q: What prompted the Fillmore Family to go into the walnut business?
A: We have historically grown many different crops -- each with varying demands for labor and equipment. Walnuts seem to be the best mix of labor and equipment to suit our family farm at this time. They also happen to be really healthful and taste great!
Q: How long has your family been growing and processing walnuts? Are many family members involved?
A: We have grown walnuts for many years (possibly over 50) but in commercial quantities only for the last twenty or so. We have been commercially processing for about six years. Our family has grown a number of tree and open-field crops in the last 100 years we have been farming in Gridley (1917-2017). We have several generations of Fillmores involved in the business, depending on time of year and labor demands. We fluctuate between 6 and 12 family members directly involved. Everyone seems to get involved at harvest time!
Q: How old is a walnut tree before it produces usable nuts?
A: English (or Persian) walnuts are almost always grafted to a black walnut based root stock. From the initial sprout of the seedling until the first real harvest is usually around seven years. Younger trees will produce a nut or three, but not in commercially useful quantities. They are also still very fragile, so cannot be harvested mechanically.
Q: Has the growing/picking/sorting process changed through the years?
A: Yes indeed! In the early days of walnut cultivation in California, farm workers would harvest the walnuts by knocking them from the branches with poles and picking them up by hand. Over time the pole knocking evolved through several methods of tree shaking to the machines we use today. We also pick up most of the nuts from the ground with machines, saving hours of back-breaking labor. I'm not sure we would have chosen to have a walnut farm 100 years ago! The processing equipment has also changed dramatically. I don't know what my grandfather would have thought about our laser sorter, but I certainly appreciate it.
Q: What are the challenges of weather for walnut growing?
A: Walnuts need a Mediterranean climate with enough cold days in the winter and enough warm days with water in the spring and summer. Too much of either at the wrong time can destroy or dramatically reduce a crop or an entire orchard. Fortunately, our family settled in an area of California well suited to walnut production and it currently has the weather we need. Variations in the weather such as a late frost or too little rainfall over winter can have a significant negative impact on the amount and quality of the crop.
Q: What is most rewarding about the Fillmore Farms business?
A: Our happy customers! Seriously, it is very rewarding to be able to work together as a family to provide a quality, healthful product to people who value it. The positive feedback we get from customers brightens up our days and makes the work worthwhile.
Thanks for the recipe idea, Basil Bandwagon Natural Market!
1 organic sweet pototo
dash of sea salt
1 pk Hillside (Savory) Gorilly Goods
sprig of parsley
Place sliced sweet potatoes on the shelf of a toaster oven and toast twice.
Top with your favorite topping.
We used mashed avocado with a little sea salt, a sprinkle of Hillside Gorilly Goods, and a sprig of the last of the garden parsley.
Next time we're going to slice up another and make refried beans with Baja (cilantro, lime and chili's), and a sprig of cilantro.
These are so easy, delicious and full of nutrients.
This is the cilantro bed after the first snowfall this morning. Still going strong.
We were lucky enough to be one of 10 businesses to land a spot in the inaugural year of the FaBcap Accelerator Program. Many companies applied, and 10 were chosen one year ago. Our program completed this past week, and besides the business guidance, it was a joy and inspiration to become friends with fellow entrepreneurs. Their dreams and plans are all exciting we hope everyone receives what they are looking for to further their success.
We received expert advise as we mentored with Brad Rostowfski, FaB Director of Industry Growth, and Tera Johnson, Founder of Tera's Whey and Food Finance Institute. Both were a tremendous help as we all are moving forward with our growth plans. Shelley Jurewicz, Executive Director of FaB has brought many tremendous business networking opportunities and speakers to the industry meetings and socials. We urge all Wisconsin manufacturing businesses to join and get involved with the FaB organization. Thanks to all of you at FaB for the opportunities to make business growth happen.
For those interested in applying for future Accelerator Programs, check this link: http://www.fabwisconsin.com/news/303296/FaB-Wisconsin-to-run-second-accelerator-class.htm
I've decided to get out of bed each morning instead of laying there until the last minute before I HAVE to get up. I plan to take the bit of extra time and do something worthwhile. Today is "write a morning blog" day.
It's back to school week in this neck of the woods. Even if we aren't heading back to "school", it always brings a feeling of a new start. Time to learn new things of interest. A seasonal time of change for all of nature, including us. I'm looking forward to continuing to learn more about nutrition, digestion, positive health, and good things to eat. I'd like to learn something from you, too, such as: "What flavor do you think would be delicious in an upcoming snack?"
We're soon to be packaging our 3 new varieties this month (more on that later). Now that those recipes are tested and in the books, it's time to create a couple more. Our family loves Taco Tuesday or Taco Wednesday, sometimes Taco Friday.....so maybe a taco seasoned raw-vegan crunchy snack? Send us your fav flavors, a fun pic, or shoot me an email.....we love to make yummy snacks. We've got all the equipment, let's crunch it up together.
Remember - We make all these snacks with one thing in mind - us. :) (haha, bet you thought I was going to say "you"). We know if we make the foods we absolutely love and would choose to eat ourselves, then they are ready for you. We like to eat good tasting food as much (or more) than most. We are never satisfied with mediocrity which means we appreciate and strive for those foods that make our stomach smile. When something is THAT good, you can actually feel the joy happening in your belly.
Enjoy your week ahead. Happy back to school time to all the kids and big kids. Learn something interesting and share the good stuff. You are here to bring something meaningful to this world. Thanks for your Gorilly support and input.
~ Chris, co-founder, maker
Our coconut really counts.....
It starts with wild coconuts. After picked, the coconut is removed from the shells, and washed in pure, filtered water (no chlorine is present). The coconut is then shredded and slowly dehydrated at 98.6°F (37°C). The result is shredded, raw coconut that tastes great, has a wonderful texture, and contains the nutrients found in coconut.
The other coconut.....
Most shredded, dried coconut available online and in food stores is actually desiccated coconut. Chlorinated water is used to clean and sterilize the coconuts once they are opened and peeled. The coconut meat is grated, often lightly pressed to remove some of the milk (moisture) and then it is dried in huge ovens at temperatures between 170°-180°F (76°-82°C). Coconut sold in grocery stores is made from this desiccated coconut by soaking it in corn syrup, propylene glycol and sodium metabisulfite to preserve it.
There is a huge difference between raw dehydrated coconut and most store-bought sweetened coconut flakes. We're thankful to have a supplier that delivers this nutritious coconut to our facility. ❣️
Perhaps you've heard about the benefits of soaking and sprouting nuts, seeds, grains, & legumes? We've been doing this personally for the last 25 years, and use this method to activate the seed/nut ingredients in all Gorilly Goods.
Nature has set it up so raw nuts, grains and beans will lay dormant until the growing season. They have enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid in them to keep them from sprouting until just the right moisture content is present (rainy season/soaking). If an excess of raw nuts and seeds are eaten without soaking first, these inhibitors can put a strain on the digestive system. Soaking neutralizes these enzyme inhibitors, and makes the nuts easy to digest.
Soaking also increases the bioavailability of important nutrients (B vitamins) and activates helpful enzymes that increase nutrient absorption. Proteins become more readily available for absorption and the soaked, activated nuts will neutralize toxins in the colon, helping keep the colon clean.
The nuts and seeds in Gorilly Goods are all soaked/sprouted to the point of living activation. There are different soak/sprout times for each variety. We work within the guidelines and advice of our state Department of Agriculture inspectors.
Years ago we met the SproutPeople, who we knew from our days at the Madison Farmer's Market in Madison, WI. They moved back to San Francisco to continue their sprout business, and by the looks of their website, we see they are still "sprouting specialists". If you would like to learn about and begin your own home sprouting, we highly recommend this company to help get you started. They've helped answer many questions that are ever present in the natural foods world about how to "soak" and "sprout".
Soaking: Some nuts don't sprout to the tail growing stage. These are called soaks. They are activated just as with sprouting, but don't need the tail to prove it. These include most nuts, If you are soaking and sprouting at home, follow your seed suppliers directions on times and temps.
REMEMBER: Once a seed has soaked up it's fill of water, it is Alive! It is now a nutritional phenomenon, with its own enzymes - it will take nothing but will only add to your body. We are used to sprouts having tails, but they don't have to. You can eat any soaked seed and know that you are giving your body an amazing nutritional gift.
"Sprouts are a powerhouse of nutrition, they have been grown for over 5,000 years by many civilizations for many reasons - Eat More Sprouts and find out for yourself how good they are!" ~ SproutPeople
Good Harvest is a store with a whole lot of good going on. We were there on Saturday for a Winter Health Fair. Local health professionals were sharing their knowledge, local companies were sharing tastes of their wares. The store was geared up for a festive day, and they delivered an impressive variety of activities.
We are always happy to sample out our goods. It's a great satisfaction to witness others getting as excited about Gorilly Goods as we are.
Heard the words "husband will like these with his smoothies", and "sending to my athlete son in college". :)
Heard the words "taking these on the plane with me", and "we'll take pictures of us on the beach in Mexico eating them". :)
The carts filled, the shelves emptied. We introduced so many to the simple organic snacks we love.
We did some shopping after and have to say, we would drive 50 miles to get to your beautiful store and well stocked organic produce section.....and our favorite, the olives bar! Waukesha/Pewaukee Area is so lucky to have you.
Our Gorilly Goods Team headed out in force yesterday to 4 Outpost Co-ops for demos. Outpost is running a great sale through the rest of February on all varieties.
It was a first time demo for some of our in-house staff. Becca, who manages the Gorilly Goods production room is a natural. Once she got comfortable in her demo shoes, who better to hear from about the incredible ingredients, than the person that puts every batch together! Having been working almost full time at Reallygoods for over a year, she has been absorbing the company culture and really gets the bigger picture of goodness coming from the Gorilly Goods brand. She has become Chris' right hand in production. Becca shares samples and her beautiful smile in Mequon.
Mark, our versatile Reallygoods guy, who works in the office, warehouse, and production in Jackson, also did his flagship demo in Bay View. Cody showed him the set-up ropes and they were off to an evening of spreading the joys of Gorilly Goods eating and all that comes with it. Mark started working with us by volunteering to be a banana peeler one day. 1000 bananas later he heads up logistics and jumps into production when his help is called on. He's a gem of a rock.
Aubrey headed to Capitol Drive with Stephen for her debut demo. She came back and when I asked how it went, the first thing she said was "The people are so nice. All of them, the employees and the customers." What a great experience, to be among nice people while sharing good things. Aubrey, a graduate from UW Madison, shares her wonderful energy with all. She has been a great help as our developing Brand Manager, and also in production.
Karen set up her post at the State Street location and slipped right into her comfortable being-with-people mode to share samples and friendly talk with all the shoppers and staff. Karen's Down to Earth Chef business fills her with great knowledge and passion for food. I've taken her fun and informative cooking classes - really yummy! Her enthusiasm is friendly and laid back. She has been a great ambassador for Gorilly Goods.
Needless to say, we are grateful and appreciative of these special people and their excitement for Gorilly Goods. They share their pure honesty, as you taste and share yours. We love when you stop, and we really love when you "get" the goodness that comes in and with Gorilly Goods - and then grab some for your basket!!
We'll be back at those 4 stores again today....Karen in Tosa, Becca in Mequon, Stephen in Bay View and Chris is at the Captol Drive location.
Outpost has been in the Milwaukee area since the 70's. Chris remembers being a member at a really small place (did it have a dirt floor?) with local produce, and a handful of natural products. The years since have turned that strongly rooted community of like-minded people into 5 beautiful locations along with some satellite stores in hospital settings. Great job to the Outpost collective!
Outpost was the first "major" store to give our Reallygoods business a chance. Now that we've been in business for a few years. we can see that a store's decision to bring in your product is your key to success. Without that outlet, we would be stuck. It's a competitive market to get space on a shelf. We've always felt our most support and strength came from our local Wisconsin coops. Birds of a feather shop together.
Gorilly, our inspiration, is thrilled with it all. One of my most memorable conversations during the weekend so far was with William, an Outpost employee, who was shopping. We had collaborated the year before on an idea, and as a result, GG had made a donation to the Wauwatosa High School Play, Tarzan. He told me that after the play the cast members were given the experience of getting to spend time with the Milwaukee Zoo primatologist, learning gorilla behavior. Learning fun! That led our conversation to telling William we have now partnered with the Dian Fossey International Gorilla Fund with 2% of our proceeds. He seemed delighted about that, which instilled me with delight to remember that special part about our business. We make these snacks, and then sell or give them away, to provide people good tasting, healthy nourishment. Helping protect another species through those sales is another heart warming part of the business.
Look at these gorilla twins that were born in the area that the Fossey Fund protects and studies. Twins are really rare! What a sweet photo!
Photo from the Dian Fossey International Gorilly Fund
Hope to see you today, or another day soon. ~ Chris
After reading Eckhardt Tolle's statement that 2016 is the year of conscious awakening, I was filled with joy. Imagine, the majority of people becoming aware and at peace with life - as is. And then imagine everybody else seeing the joy and hopping on board. That's what the world needs now. Let it begin with us. We will share our conscious selves with your conscious selves as we continue building our business. Thanks for being with us - your Gorilly friends :)