Burlap & Barrel is a Public Benefit Corporation building new international spice supply chains that are equitable, transparent and traceable. Read our latest annual Social 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 spices and other foods with terroir that are grown organically and sustainably 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- Established industrial food supply chains are slow, opaque and outdated, spanning enormous geographic, cultural and economic distances.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 small and scrappy team, supported by our network of partner farmers around the world. Want to get in touch? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ethan Frisch | Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Ethan is a native New Yorker, entrepreneur and activist around food systems and social justice. He leads Burlap & Barrel's sourcing, culinary and advocacy work.
Ethan has worked in kitchens as a line cook and pastry chef in New York and London, and was the Co-founder and Executive Chef of Guerrilla Ice Cream. He left kitchens to become a humanitarian aid worker, got his Master's degree in International Development 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.
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 Chef Instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City, and 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 & Co-CEO
Ori is an experienced social entrepreneur and the co-founder of Burlap & Barrel, where he leads the company's domestic operations, eCommerce and finances.
Ori's family moved to Baltimore, Maryland from Israel when he was 5 years old. He developed a love of all things food as a kid, learning to cook Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes from his parents. He firmly believes that tahini can improve most dishes.
Ori's entrepreneurial journey started in his teens, when he started a business (poorly) DJ'ing parties. Many other entrepreneurial initiatives followed. Ori first teamed up with Ethan to start Guerrilla Ice Cream, an activist ice cream cart that received a frenzy of media attention, in 2010.
A few years later, he co-founded Sindeo, a venture-backed mortgage company that provided home loans in an open and transparent way. Sindeo raised $32m and helped its customers secure more than $500m in home loans with record-setting customer satisfaction scores. Ori took the startup from idea through acquisition.
Ori's happy to be back in the food world, where eating is an integral part of his job.
Kathryn Boyden | Customer Spice Support
Kathryn is a counselor, farmer and indigenous language activist. She has worked as a researcher on the organic farm project at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and on organic farms in Sunol, CA. She had a whole life in the Bay Area, in California, which she left to become a language activist and farmer in Oklahoma where she worked growing her tribe’s traditional plants and crops for their heritage seed program.
She currently enjoys working with people as a Career Specialist for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, addressing dislocated workers needs and helping further their vocational education and employability. As well as instructing tribal youth in speaking their language. Having spent her young adult years in San Francisco and Berkeley, California, she also benefited from incredible restaurants and fresh farm fare. As a foodie and gourmet home cook, she prefers high quality, high vibrational vegan and vegetarian foods.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of California Berkeley, a second Bachelor’s in Cherokee Education, from the Northeastern State University and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology: With a Depth Emphasis from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.
Bayley Freeman | Operations & Communications Manager
Bayley is a native Vermonter living in southern California. She's a self-taught home cook who discovered Burlap & Barrel after a transformative taste of Zanzibar Black Peppercorns. In her kitchen experiments, she leans heavily on Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (claim to fame: she's quoted as a reader-fan in the inside cover of the new yellow edition). She loves to travel and taste new tastes.
Bayley grew up with a dad who cooked dinner every night and parents who published a healthy cooking/eating magazine, and she's always been drawn to the world of spices. From 2011-2013, she lived in Hangzhou, China, with her family, and traveled all over Asia. She's also spent time in Central America and Mexico, where tacos al pastor featured heavily. She speaks Spanish and a little Mandarin. Her favorite food is Uyghur hand-cut noodles with lamb, and her spices are the warm baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and ginger).
When she's not cooking, you'll find her going for a hike with her dog, reading and doing her best to raise two children.
Carolyn King | Customer Spice Support
Carolyn comes from a checkered past, as a journalist, correctional social worker and comedian. But, she's always been a true foodie, a cook and a creative. Quick with a joke and a smile, she's happy if she can make you laugh.
Jake Agans | Director of Operations
Jake started his career in packaging development and has subsequently branched out to broader supply chain roles. First gaining experience working with large CPG companies, and then moving to smaller food companies to implement processes and build teams to support profitable and sustainable growth. Jake has a passion for the outdoors and sustainability, which he believes go hand-in-hand.
Hiking and rock climbing are his pursuits of joy. Traveling and trying new foods are an essential part of his life. Jake grew up in Michigan, landed on the East Coast after graduating from Michigan State, and now proudly considers himself a New Yorker.
Jake is a lover of all things hot and spicy. Cobanero Chili flakes are now a staple in every dish (especially on a slice of New York's finest)!
Ren Rossini | Culinary Partnerships & Communications Manager
Originally from Oregon, Ren grew up with an unmanicured garden where flowers, herbs and vegetables intermingled with an incredible cook mother and a father who has a miraculously green thumb. As a result, her love of food started at a young age and has not faded since.
She is a food lover by birth and a butcher and salumi-maker by trade. She worked as a butcher and production manager in San Francisco for six years before deciding she wanted a more holistic understanding of salumi-making and traveled to Tuscany to work on an organic farm. There she participated in all aspects of raising, slaughtering, butchering and preserving the Italian heritage hogs before coming back to San Francisco and applying her skills in the restaurant industry.
Jennifer Boada | Customer Support & Creative Content
Born and raised in New England, Jennifer (Jenny) has consistently been on the move since early adulthood, doing her best to experience all the world has to teach.
She worked for over a decade in health care as a surgical nurse, nurse practitioner and first assistant. While she occasionally misses the operating room, she is thoroughly enjoying the current ride.
Jenny loves to travel and has a passion for photography and all things creative. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and trying new foods, has a weakness for a good book, and feels most at home while outdoors hiking, gardening or in the ocean (preferably in a good sunbeam). She will rarely turn down the opportunity to learn anything new and never turns down a fried egg or anything spicy.
She has lived in various spots throughout the United States and is currently based in Japan with her husband and two children. She holds a Master of Science from Vanderbilt University, and happily joined the Burlap & Barrel team in 2021.
Susan Sisarran | Customer Support
Born in the beautiful twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. Always an adventurous eater since my father cooked for an airline and was an avid hunter, and my mum made 3 homecooked meals a day. I lived a laid-back, carefree Island life, spending my holidays and summers “in the country” with my cousins at their cocoa/coffee/citrus estates. Majored in Agricultural Science in HS and have always loved being out in nature. I was always the child bringing home stray cats.
Migrated at age 22 to Queens NY. Worked full-time during the day in the fine arts publishing industry while studying nights and weekends to obtain a degree in Business Management with a minor in Geology. I developed a love of different cuisines while working as an Executive Assistant to the CFO of a large NYC company where lunches were serious business. Friday nights were for people watching in Times Square and often taking in a Broadway play or going to a museum. Weekends were spent with my then fiancé (now husband) camping, horse-back riding, white-water rafting with family/friends and of course eating!
Moved to Virginia in 2006, got married, started a family, mellowed quite a bit as a stay-at-home mum for more than a decade to a son, a daughter, a chatty parrot, a lovebird and a large Rhodesian Ridgeback/Koon hound. My home can seem like a zoo sometimes – and a forest, as I am an avid gardener, growing figs, grapes, and lots of herbs. I watch way too much food tv and am obsessed with cooking competitions! I dream of being on a cooking show, but that may never happen as I am a sloth in the kitchen lol.
I am a self-professed eggaholic, can’t live without chili and make a mean hot-sauce. I love cooking in general but equally love eating out, especially Thai food. My bucket list includes hang-gliding and travelling to Europe and Thailand.
Jane Scruggs | Wholesale
Originally hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas Jane has spent the better part of the past decade diving deep into the world of horticulture and urban agriculture through various training programs all around New York City.
After enrolling in the horticulture certificate program at the New York Botanical Garden, Jane couldn’t wait to get her hands in the dirt so she started volunteering at the Edible Schoolyard. There she found a mentor and a space to test out everything she was learning in her classes at NYBG. Shortly thereafter Jane took a position as an Americorps with the New York Restoration Project where she gained invaluable knowledge of NYC native plants and trees. Jane quickly realized her true calling was in growing food so she left NYC to try her hand working a full season on an organic vegetable farm in North Carolina. Once back in NYC and always ready to learn more, Jane decided to enroll in the NYC Farm School urban agriculture certificate program. Since completing her certification with Farm School, Jane has been farming on rooftops in NYC for the past five years.
When Jane isn't farming you can find her volunteering at the Kelly Street Community Garden near her home in the South Bronx, growing food and giving it away to community members, facilitating yoga classes, or playing with her cat Chloë.
Alyssa Melendez | Operations & Supply Chain Manager
Alyssa's love for food and agriculture began at a very young age, cooking with family and visiting her Abuelo's campo in the Dominican Republic and her Abuela in Puerto Rico. After earning a B.S. in Environmental Policy, she spent a year in Hood River, Oregon with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working on food access and outreach programs in collaboration with community leaders, migrant workers, and farmers. From this experience she developed a passion for food sovereignty and ecological justice. This work inspired her to pursue a M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment (AFE) at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, where she gained a deeper understanding of the food system and the injustices that occur across supply chains. Since graduating, she has worked on an organic vegetable farm, as an avocado supply chain manager, and is now excited to continue to create sustainable and equitable supply chains in the world of spices.
Alyssa currently lives in Boston, where she was born and raised. She loves to travel every chance she gets, especially to taste new flavors. Outside of work you can find her cooking, playing guitar, gardening, hiking with her energetic cattle dog and spending time with family and friends.
June Xie | Content Specialist
June was born in Beijing and grew up all over Queens, NYC. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2011 with an English lit degree that she's still trying to find a use for. She's loved floating in the vast world of food where she gets to learn about life through flavors, cultures, and human connection. After spending five years cooking in restaurants and four working in food media, she's looking forward to exploring what else is out there to eat.
Laura Harrison | Director of Wholesale
Laura grew up in New Jersey, where she started working in food at her local ice cream shop when she was 14. This experience sparked her obsession with the food industry and with soft ice cream in particular. In addition to her passion for food, she loves to travel and has visited over 25 countries. She has backpacked through South America and Southeast Asia and has also lived in Prague, Czech Republic, Oaxaca, Mexico, and Portland, OR.
Laura returned to her east coast roots about 10 years ago, moving to Brooklyn, where she worked with mission driven food companies focused on offering unique and high quality products. She recently moved to the Hudson Valley with her husband (and dog Freya) where they just finished restoring a 1790 home. She now spends her free time cooking, gardening, hiking, and seeking out soft ice cream when the weather is nice.
Samantha (Sam) Tully | Wholesale & Partnerships
Samantha (or Sam!) started her first business in elementary school when her parents agreed she could get her first horse (but only if she could pay for it.) Through her love of horses and after many weekends spent baking horse treats to sell around her small Georgia town, she discovered at a young age that she loved business just as much as she loved animals. Sam has an extensive big-box retail background as well as experience gained from various small-business ventures over the years. She thoroughly enjoys all aspects of business management and has a particular soft spot for the relationship-building and community that comes from working with different customers and accounts.
A self-proclaimed history buff and “food nerd,” she enjoys learning about the history of heirloom varieties. She thinks it’s pretty neat that you can (almost) travel back in time by growing and eating the same varieties of foods that existed hundreds of years ago. She is currently in the process of building a homestead in rural Kentucky where she hopes to begin a permaculture food forest with her partner, Jey, who is a musician and the real cook of the relationship. They currently have a rescue Catahoula named Scout.
Special thanks to Seton Rossini for design and illustration, Muntaser Rajabi for design and labels, Jacquelyn Morris for our original logo and label design and SOGA Design Studio for stunning product photography.
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.