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Archive for the ‘Who We Are’ Category

Kiko’s Food News, 4.11.14

Is it just me, or is there more interesting food systems reporting out there than ever before? Hard choosing only a few this week!

The president of the World Bank made a harrowing prediction that battles over water and food will erupt within the next 10 years as a result of climate change: (The Guardian)

American chefs are becoming known not only for their food, but for the stands they take on political issues; from refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, to requesting that a woman not breast-feed at the table, these can have serious business implications: (New York Times)

While urban food growing may not be the key to feeding our cities’ booming populations, it surely inspires “food empathy”, which leads people to make healthier food choices, buy more seasonally, recycle more and waste less: (Huffington Post)

We know that organic agriculture is better for the planet and that organic livestock have better lives, but this article assesses whether organics do more good (in the form of better nutrition), and less harm (in the form of fewer contaminants and pathogens) when we eat them: (Washington Post)

New York City’s Food Bank uses feeding people as an inroad to helping them become financially stable; they helped file 48,110 returns claiming $81.2 million in tax credits and refunds last year, for those who can least afford to lose them: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 4.4.14

If you’re feeling jaded about star chefs or the ubiquity of supper clubs, watch this 15-year old chef mastermind an haute-cuisine restaurant out of his parents’ San Fernando Valley house: (New York Times)

Spoiler Alert, a mobile app coming out of MIT’s business school, uses a sharing economy model to redirect landfill-bound waste to people in need by connecting every major player in the food-supply chain: (Bloomberg)

High-tech silk stickers made of edible protein may soon be used to tell us when food is no longer safe to consume; whatever happened to good old sight, smell and touch? (Ag Funder News)

The complications of immigration policy are exemplified in California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them illegal; farmers there feel that immigration laws prevent them from fielding a reliable work force, crippling their business: (New York Times)

All of you entrepreneurial, big ideas types will probably want to make sure you’ve checked out this roundup of the “Ten Most Innovative Companies in Food”: (Fast Company)

As McDonalds and other chains commit to selling only sustainable beef, the multi-industry Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is trying to give shape to what the term actually means: (Bloomberg)


An Interview with Eleanor Gerber-Siff, Head Florist for Bi-Rite Market

Eleanor photo

If you’ve ever passed by the front of Bi-Rite Market and wondered who is behind all of the incredible flowers, bouquets, branches, and seasonal greenery we offer, the answer is Eleanor Gerber-Siff. I sat down with Eleanor to talk about her approach and learn about the producers behind the movement toward local, organic, and sustainable floral.


Eleanor, who are you and what do you do?

I work for Bi-Rite Market as the Head Florist and Floral Buyer for Bi-Rite, covering both our 18th Street and Divisadero Street Markets.

Is that what you’ve always done for Bi-Rite? What is your background in flowers?

I’ve been working in flowers for about six years and I’ve been with Bi-Rite for about a year and a half. Before Bi-Rite, I worked in different flower shops and did some freelance work, including floral arrangements for weddings and events. For about a year and a half before I started at Bi-Rite, I worked with Rebekah Northway, also known as The Petaler, an incredibly talented local floral designer.  My work with her was focused on large-scale arrangements for her restaurant accounts.

Before I started working for Bi-Rite, the flowers we sold here were coming in through the Produce Department. There was no full-time staff devoted just to flowers. The Department just wasn’t up to par, and it didn’t make sense, considering how beautifully displayed everything else in the store is. I saw that there was an opportunity for Bi-Rite to make use of a full-time florist, and I convinced our Produce Buyer Simon and Sam Mogannam to let me be that florist. I haven’t looked back since!

How do you source the flowers we sell at Bi-Rite?


I go to the San Francisco Flower Mart every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and order directly from vendors. Going to the market is a huge part of maintaining relationships with those vendors, and it helps me trust that they know their product and that I can rely on them. Because I maintain close relationships with them, I’m often able to get good deals on great flowers.

Plus, seeing the same people three times a week is fun!  The Flower Mart is a whole micro-community that operates for the most part before most people are even awake!  The market is housed in a big cement building at 6th and Brannan Streets in San Francisco, which takes up almost a whole city block. It doesn’t look good from the outside, but once you get inside, it’s filled with the most beautiful and unusual flowers and greens.

Having a market where I can pick things out personally is important because the good product varies from day to day. I work with what’s available and looks great, rather than sticking to a set list of specific flowers I’m going to buy.

I also work with several farms that grow flowers and also sell us lots of other kinds of produce. That’s a special thing about working for Bi-Rite; I have access to these great local farms and the amazing flowers they grow. The Flower Mart doesn’t source those flowers, so I feel fortunate that I can get them for our guests. These farms are organic and use sustainable growing practices, so their flowers are better across the board – better for the people that grow them, better for me and my flower crew, and better for our guests. They’re creating a new flower economy based on principles of sustainability, and it shows in the flowers! They tend to be happier and more beautiful. An organic flower looks better than one that’s been sprayed with chemicals, and you don’t have to worry about sticking your nose right in there. I get to communicate with our flower farmer vendors several times a week, and that’s a good way to feel connected to something that’s growing – to stay close to the person who’s growing it.

There are three farms from which I get the biggest volume of flowers. Thomas Farm, in Aptos– they’re Certified Organic and grow mostly flowers.  Full Belly Farm–also Certified Organic; Bi-Rite gets lots of produce from them and they’re super awesome people. And Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma. They’re not certified organic but they use organic growing practices.

We work with some smaller farms as well – Blue House Farm and Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero and Little City Gardens, which is actually in San Francisco – it’s a two-acre organic farm right here in the city. These farms grow some really unique fresh flowers.  Last year, Fifth Crow Farm had some Chinese Forget-Me-Nots that blew my mind.

How do you select the flowers you stock?

flowers1I’ve found I have a “Spidey Sense” about flowers. That’s part of what I bring to this job. I follow my intuition and in a room full of flowers, I pick out what I feel our guests will be most excited about.

My job is exciting because I also get to work directly with a bunch of local flower farms – our guests are cool and they respond to that. That’s something I want to educate more people about, because most of us aren’t necessarily thinking about farm-direct or organic flowers.  Many Bay Area folks think and care deeply about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.  I’d like to increase awareness about the benefits of local, organic flowers to ourselves and our community.  Organic, sustainably grown flowers promote the health and well-being of the people that are growing the flowers and of everyone who comes into contact with them.  What’s the first thing you do when someone hands you a bouquet of flowers?  You stick your nose in it and take a big whiff!  You don’t want gross chemicals in your lungs or in your home. Because they are not food, there is far less regulation on the chemicals people use on flowers than on produce, and this is especially true of flowers shipped in from countries outside the U.S.

What kinds of flowers do you personally like, and how do you prefer to arrange them?

My favorite flowers are ones that have a wild look to them.  Things that are slightly weird, too…or off, or crooked, or have a weird seed pod – I just like things that are unusual! I love that nature makes strange stuff and I like things that are a little bit ugly as much as I like things that are pretty.  Right now I’m really excited about all of the insane Ranunculus we’ve been getting in, especially the ones we get from Full Belly Farm in Guinda, California.

Every day that I work, there’s always one single flower that’s the best of the day. My Instagram is full of those “one best flowers.” I admit I’m a flower nerd…I care about them, so I think about them all the time.

My arranging style is a hodgepodge of ideas and techniques I’ve gathered from different places I’ve worked, but also from just experimenting on my own. I know what I like and let that guide me. I know it when I see it.

What floral services does Bi-Rite offer? Do you have anything special planned for Easter?

We offer custom floral work for any occasion – weddings, parties, events, and gifts. This week I’m doing


flowers for a wedding as well as a dinner for 18 Reasons. We’re looking to do more stuff like that.  I love working with a client to create a beautiful event filled with flowers.

For Easter, we’ll have a table out in front of Bi-Rite Market 18th Street all day on Saturday, April 19th from 9am to 9pm. On Easter Sunday, we’ll be out there from 9am to 5pm. We’ll be doing custom floral arrangements in whatever way you need for your Easter celebration, so stop by and say hi to us.

We also make bouquets, pre-made and custom, and we have a wide variety of flowers for sale by the bunch and by the stem. Every single day you can see a beautiful array of flowers out in front of our 18th Street Market, and you can usually find me around there tending to the flowers and making floral arrangements.

I’m always available to work with our guests on anything related to flowers. And you can call either of our Markets to ask questions, place an order or try to track me down. Talking about flowers is what I love to do!

Kiko’s Food News, 3.28.14

Butter is back on the healthy list, thanks to new findings that no evidence supports the notion of saturated fat increasing the risk of heart disease; there’s actually evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging: (New York Times)

Since Wal-Mart gets more than half of its sales from its grocery departments, and low-income shoppers are a big part of its clientele, we can grimly connect the company’s dip in earnings to the fact that their customers are getting squeezed by Congress’s cuts to SNAP and other financial assistance: (Los Angeles Times)

Home buyers who crave open spaces and fresh food are flocking to “agrihoods,” where being a good neighbor means putting in time on the farm: (New York Times)

The FDA said that 25 of the 26 drug companies they’ve asked to phase out antibiotics that promote growth in farm animals have agreed to comply; this clears a major hurdle in the FDA’s push to combat growing human resistance to antibiotics because of their overuse: (Los Angeles Times)

I’m halfway through The Meat Racket, a new book I highly recommend you peruse; it weaves the story of a handful of companies, led by Tyson, that control our meat industry in ways that concern animals, humans, and the social fabric of rural America: (New York Times)


Kiko’s Food News, 3.21.14

I was disheartened to read about deceptive tactics employed by the National Restaurant Association to keep food service workers’ wages low; they recently hid their role in helping draft and circulate a statement signed by more than 500 economists urging the government to reject Obama’s proposed minimum wage increase: (New York Times)

But I was fired up to read about states that are capitalizing on a “heat and eat” loophole to avoid cutting food stamp benefits to families: (NPR)

Chipotle’s bringing awareness to global warming by threatening to take guacamole off of their menu due to changes associated with climate change; freezes and droughts could lead to temporary price increases on key ingredients: (Triple Pundit)

The UN’s hunger fighting agency warned that population growth, coupled with higher caloric intake of increasingly wealthy people, will cause us to run out of food unless the world boosts its food production by 60% by 2050: (RT)

And I leave you with four misleading packaged food claims to watch for in the grocery aisle–don’t be wooed by these marketing buzz lines! (Huffington Post)

Kiko’s Food News, 3.14.14

The new Farm Bill heralds a shift in the types of farmers who benefit from taxpayer dollars, reflecting lawmakers’ efforts to please constituents more focused on healthful foods; organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all fare well in the new bill: (New York Times)

In one application of the Bill’s safeguards for farmers, Obama has announced additional assistance to Californians impacted by the drought, including up to $100 million in livestock disaster assistance and $10 million for water conservation: (USDA)

On the darker side of food politics, we’ve seen the nation’s four biggest meat companies steadily hike prices and widen their profit margins since Obama took office; this article shows why the president’s antitrust plan has broken down under pressure from meat industry lobbyists: (Slate)

Researchers are studying whether antibiotics might promote growth in humans; evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs: (New York Times)

Safeway announced that it will be purchased by a private equity group that will merge it with Albertsons to create a grocery conglomerate of 2,400 stores and 27 distribution facilities–a real shakeup in California’s grocery chain landscape: (San Jose Mercury News)

Kiko’s Food News, 3.7.14

The recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef that came through a Petaluma slaughterhouse has led Nicolette Hahn Niman, one of our most vocal promoters of sustainable meat, to share her company’s story as evidence that slaughtering is the most serious bottleneck in the food chain: (New York Times)

A dating site revealed that men prefer to date vegetarians but women don’t, as it found that guys are 13% more likely to click on vegetarian women’s profiles, but that women are 11% less likely to click on vegetarian men’s profiles; date-seeking or not, let’s all just keep eating what makes us feel good! (Mother Nature Network)

California’s Prop Two, which requires that all eggs sold there be from chickens raised in cages twice as large as the national norm, is one example of how state-specific legislation that protects animals will burden farmers that must either spend millions to comply, or face being shut out of that market: (NPR)

A study found that obesity in children ages 2 to 5 has fallen from 13.9% to 8.4% in less than 10 years; here are some theories as to why this could be: (Washington Post)

From turnip greens to watermelon rinds and even orange peels, this roundup of fruit and veggie parts we don’t often think of eating makes me hungry to throw out less food! (Huffington Post)

Kiko’s Food News 2.28.14

For the first time in over 20 years, the FDA has announced proposed changes to nutrition labels! The new label will emphasize calories and added sugars, remove “calories from fat”, and increase most required serving sizes to reflect how much of a food we actually eat: (CNN)

A Humane Society video pulled back the curtain on the brutality of a huge Kentucky hog operation, where workers were shown gutting dead piglets and puréeing their intestines; the mix is fed back to mother pigs to immunize them against a diarrhea epidemic that has killed millions of piglets: (New York Times)

Small scale, organic growers are discovering that the FDA regulations which have been proposed to curtail food poisoning outbreaks would curtail many of their common techniques, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks: (Los Angeles Times)

A secret society of super-rich diners has been leaving shockingly huge tips for bar staff and food servers across the country; I see this as not only human generosity, but as compassion for victims of our country’s systematically low wages for restaurant workers: (BBC)

Restaurants are using cheap deals on oysters to get customers in the door so they will buy something else at full price; this is made possible by the rapid growth of oyster farms on the East and West Coasts: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 2.21.14

Obama announced the formation of seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to the fires, pests, floods and droughts that accompany climate change: (Huffington Post)

Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency, is inching its way into the food industry; small businesses consider it a welcome alternative to credit cards, which charge a 3% merchant fee for each transaction: (NPR)

Aronia, Gac, Monk and Buffaloberry are the funky names of the latest and greatest superfruits–check them out: (Los Angeles Times)

Some famous French chefs are cracking down on customers who take photographs of their food; I think the most compelling reason is the sad reality that people are capturing their dishes for posterity instead of the people they’re dining with! (BBC)

Another victory for the pressure of consumer demand, Chick-fil-A announced that within five years it will no longer sell products containing meat from chickens raised with antibiotics: (New York Times)


Kiko’s Food News, 2.14.14

Times are beyond tough for Cali farmers affected by the drought–especially organic farmers whose barren pastures and skyrocketing organic feed costs are forcing them to truck in supplemental feed from faraway states, or consider bowing out of farming altogether: (Food & Environment Reporting Network)

And with California’s reservoirs containing only 39% of their combined capacity, wine grapes are one of the most impacted crops; too much heat and not enough water leads them to develop off flavors, higher alcohol levels at earlier stages, and high susceptibility to sunburn and disease: (Huffington Post)

Co-ops popping up in gentrifying neighborhoods are highlighting social tensions through their signature policies; the requirement that members work a minimum number of hours might place community members on a level playing field, but the requirement to join can be prohibitive to people not used to paying for entrance to the grocery store: (New York Times)

If you’re going to NYC you might want to hit one of the awesome-sounding classes offered by the League of Kitchens, a new social enterprise that offers cooking workshops in immigrant chefs’ kitchens–tough choice between Lebanese, Bangladeshi, Greek and more! (League of Kitchens)

An insect-resistant type of corn is on the verge of being approved by the European Union; it would be only the third genetically modified crop to be authorized for cultivation in the 28-nation bloc: (New York Times)

Kiko’s Food News, 2.7.14

Responding to legal challenges over their use of the word “natural,” Pepsi has quietly replaced that word with “simply” in products like Frito-Lay chips and Quaker Granola; the ingredients remain the same: (Huffington Post)

Corn and bean farmers in the midwest are beginning to replace those crops with produce veggies to get in on the rising local food market; it’s exciting to hear that more money can be made that way due to rising demand: (New York Times)

Camel milk, which apparently has a “pleasantly surprising nutty, smoky, slightly Bratwursty flavour”, is being sold for the first time with coffee in the UK, although it’s been served for a while in the United Arab Emirates: (BBC)

Now that Food Studies is an increasingly popular offering at universities, the academic audience for food blogs and food writing is expanding; will academia have an impact on the way that food blogs are written? (Huffington Post)

Kiko’s Food News, 1.31.14

Or maybe I should call today’s issue “Farm Bill News”? 

On Wednesday the House approved a massive five-year farm bill, which includes nearly $1 billion in annual reductions to food stamps (SNAP) that will affect about 850,000 families across the country; the Senate is expected to pass the bill next week: (NPR)

Within the 900 pages of the bill is a nationwide program that will allow low-income families to double their food stamp benefits to buy fruits and veggies at farmers markets; the program provides up to $20 million annually in matching funds for five years: (Washington Post)

The bill also signals a win for animal welfare due to the removal of the dangerous King Amendment that would have threatened states’ powers to enact their own agricultural standards (such as California’s mandating larger cages for egg-laying chickens): (Sioux City News)


A group of “agrarian elders”, including some of the biggest rock stars of the sustainable food movement, met to document what they want to pass on to younger farmers; topics ranged from how they’ve structured C.S.A.’s to how they’ve marketed heirloom varietals to restaurant clients: (New York Times)

India’s growing taste for “exotic” veggies like broccoli, leeks and cabbage are making these more profitable for farmers there to cultivate: (BBC)

If you’re watching the Superbowl on Sunday, look out for this year’s Chipotle production: their new “Farmed and Dangerous” series will take a satirical look at industrial-scale farming to promote the company’s concerns about the humane treatment of meat animals: (New York Times)