It all began with a simple strawberry.
While at the local farmer’s market one Sunday, Merrilee Olson, our Founder and CEO, went to buy a popular and rare variety of strawberry from Nancy Skall, a legendary Healdsburg farmer. Despite these strawberries being so popular that they sold for twice the price of any others, Merrilee learned that at the end of the day three flats of unsold berries were marked for the compost bin. Shocked that such delicious fruit would go uneaten, Merrilee asked Nancy if she could instead help her turn the berries into jam which she could then sell. That summer, Merrilee created the first batch of jam from the special strawberries.
After some research, Merrilee discovered how common it was for farmers to compost produce they couldn’t sell. Often, this was perfectly delicious produce which went unsold primarily for cosmetic reasons. In the United States, more than 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables we grow never make it off of farms because they aren’t ‘perfect’ enough for grocery stores’ standards, which results in billions of pounds of produce going to waste every year.
And voila — the idea for Preserve Farm Kitchens was born. Merrilee had rediscovered a way to reduce food waste with basic food preservation techniques while helping farmers thrive. Using her culinary skills cultivated over decades in the food industry, Merrilee has helped farmers throughout Northern California to utilize the whole harvest by taking excess or imperfect produce and transforming it into foods people love.
Preserve Farm Kitchens has grown well beyond strawberries: we also work with tomatoes, figs, mandarins, cauliflower, peppers, chiles, apricots, pears, onions, and more. Meanwhile, our product line has grown beyond preserves to also include sauces, condiments, fruit syrups and even Bloody Mary mix.
Our mission is to support small, local farms by utilizing the whole harvest to make gourmet food products. To achieve this, we fill the infrastructure void with right-size processing kitchens, then we partner with small family farms to directly source local ingredients. The result is local, fair-trade, sustainable products that our customers love.