Bill Manning of High Desert Foods is the epitome of the organic apples-to-applesauce businessman. He's the sort of guy who cares about the broader societal and environmental impact of what he produces, yet he also appreciates that increasing the market value of a food product (heritage turkeys, bison, grass-fed beef and, sure, fruit-forward jams) is the quickest way to bring it back from near extinction.
Shortly after the Michigan-born ecologist bought a Durango, Colo., produce farm in 1999, he realized that simply selling his organic fruit the old-fashioned way wasn't going to make ends meet with the low profit margins. As he says on his website, "For small-scale farmers who are trying to compete in an economy that values food for how cheaply it can be produced, the principle of 'in diversity there is stability' translates into two strategies: first, having a diverse crop mix; and second, turning some portion of our harvest into 'shelf-stable' products."
For that shelf-stable side, he launched High Desert Foods with the help of Deborah Madison (yes, that Deborah Madison). Technically, Manning makes jams, only legally he can't call them jams because the jars are packed so full of fresh fruit. Ah, the red-tape breakfast table fun. Still thinking about starting an artisan food business? Manning (and Madison) both have plenty of advice.More »