Burlap & Barrel is a Public Benefit Corporation building new international food supply chains that are equitable, transparent and traceable. Read our latest impact report here.
Supporting Smallholder Farmers
We’re working towards ending inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers.
We do this by:
- Connecting smallholder farmers to high-value markets
- Educating consumers about the impact of product traceability on human rights
- Sourcing unique foods with terroir that are grown biodynamically and organically using traditional techniques
Mainstream conversations around food sustainability rarely consider the people involved in growing, harvesting, transporting, processing and cooking food. Sustainability is discussed in terms of environmental impact, or the comfort of livestock providing meat, dairy or eggs.
We believe that the standard measures of sustainability must evolve to consider the conditions in which the farmers who drive global food supply chains earn their livelihoods. Single origin ingredients draw attention to the unique environments in which incredible ingredients grow and to the farmers with the expertise and commitment to grow them well.
The Challenge in our Path
Our task is not a straightforward or easy one, but worthwhile things never are. There are several significant challenges to our direct sourcing model:
- Established industrial food supply chains are slow, opaque and outdated, spanning enormous geographic, cultural and economic distances.
- Economies of scale value quantity over quality, consolidating products grown by individual producers from different countries and making it impossible to trace foods back to their origin. The lack of traceability increases the risk of contamination and adulteration and reduces special products to bland mediocrity.
- Consumers in the United States don’t effectively utilize their buying power to fight against abuse of workers and demand equitable food sourcing practices and full traceability.
Building a New Global Supply Chain
Burlap & Barrel sources our spices directly from farmer cooperatives and small farms, bypassing brokers and middlemen who drive prices up and quality down.
We visit farms and spend time with farmers, learning firsthand about the economic, social and cultural factors behind their farming methods, and we support them to improve the quality, quantity, and value of their products.
The farmers that work with Burlap & Barrel benefit from:
- Purchase commitments to give farmers greater financial security
- Shared knowledge from across our global farmer network
- Support in expanding on-site value-added activities such as sorting, grinding, and packaging to increase farmer revenue
The commodity spice industry focuses on a limited set of spices, and grades those spices using outdated measurements largely unrelated to flavor and quality. We work with our partner farmers to identify unique varietals that are often overlooked by the industry – as well as valuable byproducts – to maximize their earnings.
Then we send trucks to the farms to create the shortest supply chain possible.
Thoughtful Sourcing + Shorter Supply Chains = Exceptional Ingredients
Our customers care about cooking with exceptional ingredients. They appreciate the distinctive flavors imparted by the specific environments where our spices are grown, and they understand the importance of supporting small family farms locally and around the world.
A deeper understanding of the provenance of coffee, chocolate, wine, and fresh fruits and vegetables has helped all of us make better decisions about how we eat, and how we use our buying power to advocate for better food for ourselves and our communities.
Burlap & Barrel extends that value system to spices for the first time.
Ethan (L) & Ori (R). Photo Credit: Nichole Sobecki for Popular Mechanics.
We're a tiny team - just two people full-time - supported by our network of partner farmers around the world. Ori and Ethan are good friends and longtime collaborators. Their previous project together was Guerrilla Ice Cream, an activist ice cream cart last seen on New York City streets in 2010.
Ethan Frisch | Co-founder | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ethan is a native New Yorker, entrepreneur and activist around food systems and social justice. Ethan has worked in kitchens as a line cook and pastry chef in New York and London, and as the chef behind Guerrilla Ice Cream. He left kitchens to become a humanitarian aid worker, and worked with NGOs including the Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan, Maries Stopes in Sierra Leone, and Doctors Without Borders on the Syrian/Jordanian border.
Ethan leads Burlap & Barrel's sourcing, importing and international logistics, as well as supply relationships with restaurants and manufacturers across North America. He is also an adjunct Chef Instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City.
He is honored to serve on the Boards of Directors of the Bond Street Theatre, which uses theater to teach conflict resolution and resilience in areas of instability around the world, Restaurant After Hours, addressing the mental health crisis in the restaurant industry, and the student-led racial literacy and justice organization CHOOSE, as well as on the Advisory Board of Fragments Theater, a youth theater company in Palestine. He is also on the Organizing Committee of the Queens International Night Market, and has been an adjunct lecturer at the City College of New York and an instructor with the Experiment in International Living's Leadership Institute.
He holds a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Studies and Education and Social Change from the City University of New York, and a Master’s Degree in Violence, Conflict and Development from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
Ori Zohar | Co-founder | email@example.com
Ori is a social entrepreneur from Baltimore, MD. Ori's family moved to the US from Israel when he was 5 years old, and Ori spent his childhood cooking middle eastern and mediterranean food alongside his parents.
With an interest in entrepreneurship from a young age, Ori pulled together the 3 CD changer/boombox combo that he got for his 16th birthday and started DJing parties. In college, he started a cap and gown rental business that got him a mention in US News and World Reports. After college, Ori joined the advertising world, working on communication strategy for brands like MasterCard and Unilever.
Ori's first social enterprise was Guerrilla Ice Cream, an activist ice cream cart, that he started with Ethan in 2010. A few years later, he launched Sindeo, a venture-backed mortgage company that provided home loans in an open and transparent way. Ori took the startup from idea through acquisition, and was awarded the Rising Star Award from HousingWire.
Ori leads Burlap & Barrels US operations and finances, as well as eCommerce and retailer relationships.
Our Founding Board Members are Burlap & Barrel's advisors, promoters and guides. Collectively, they’ve lived in dozens of countries and speak a whole lot of languages. Their involvement is as volunteers and they receive no payment nor hold any financial stake in the company. We're so grateful for their guidance and support.