Whole Foods Local Forager Denise Breyley Names Her "Top 10" Local Producers
Jeff Gangemi Nov 18, 2011 The Beat 0 comments
Denise Breyley has one of the most coveted jobs in the local food world. As Whole Foods’ Local Forager in the Pacific Northwest and a 17-year veteran of the company, it’s her job to travel around Washington, Oregon and British Columbia in search of the next great local food products to sell at Whole Foods Market.
Breyley sees it as her mission to learn about the local community, find great local producers, and bring those products into Whole Foods’ stores. But more than that, she is dedicated to making food entrepreneurs successful. “Anyone can throw a local item on their shelf. My job is to make sure people have a good shot at being successful, that their products are actually going to sell,” says Breyley.
Another part of her mission: clearing up what she says is a misconception that Whole Foods isn’t somehow dedicated to supporting small, local producers. “Because they think we’re a big national company, people don’t give Whole Foods the credit that I think we deserve,” says Breyley. “Our stores probably carry more locally sourced and artisan products than any other retailer anywhere.”
A big reason for that misconception, Breyley says, is that many of the brands that Whole Foods carries – and helped launch over its 31-year history – have grown from small local producers into national brands. Brands like Muir Glen Organics and Stonyfield Farm, among many others, got their big break on Whole Foods shelves.
For those food entrepreneurs that see bigger as better, Whole Foods has established a Local Producer Loan Program, where small producers looking to grow their business can access $10 million in loan capital from the company. “No other retailer has anything like that,” says Breyley.
FarmPlate.com asked Denise Breyley to tell us about some of the best food artisans and producers in the Pacific Northwest. Here is her “Top 10” list:
- CB's Nuts (Kingston, WA) “Best peanut butter I have ever had.”
- Heidi Ho Organics (Portland, OR) “Vegan cheese that actually melts.”
- Mt. Townsend Creamery (Port Townsend, WA) “Great cow's milk cheese.”
- Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese (Doty, WA) “Small batches of sheep’s milk cheese from their own herd of sheep.”
- Unbound Pickling (Portland, OR) “Unbound by conventional flavor profiles.”
- Pleasant Valley Farms (Mt. Vernon, WA) “World’s best organic sauerkraut.”
- Fosse Farms (Raymond, WA) “Use local fruits to infuse the vinegar for their salad dressing.”
- Seely Family Farm (Clatskanie, OR) “They grow the mint for their mint candy.”
- Country Natural Beef (Vale, OR) “Family ranchers who have been in business for 25 years.”
- Willie Greens Organic Farm (Monroe, WA) “Organic farmer who is a chef by training – amazing quality.”
Photo courtesy of The Local Forager
Jeff Gangemi is FarmPlate's Director of Partnerships and Communications. A lover of both local and far-flung foods like soup dumplings and carnitas tacos, Jeff believes in the power of food, writing and entrepreneurship to effect social change.