2021: Year In Review by Co-Founders Adam Thatcher & Sharon Prince

Grace Farms Suset

As we end our inaugural calendar year of business at Grace Farms Foods, we are taking time to reflect on all the learnings, accomplishments, and challenges we faced starting a new philanthropic venture.  We launched Grace Farms Foods earlier this year with a single mission and three long-term goals.

Our mission is to make the world a more just, sustainable, and peaceful place - one delicious chip, sip, and drip at a time.

Our three long-term goals are:

  1. Share the experience and inspiring story of Grace Farms through our signature cookies, coffee, and tea.
  2. Demonstrate and educate about ethical and sustainable sourcing of 'at-risk ingredients' like cocoa, sugar, vanilla, tea, and coffee.
  3. Create a profitable business that contributes all its earnings to fund Grace Farms Foundation's work to end forced labor worldwide.

Here at the year-end, we'd like to take this opportunity to share the progress we have made towards each of these three goals.

Goal 1: Share the experience and inspiring story of Grace Farms through our signature cookies, coffee, and tea.

Grace Farms is an incredibly beautiful space physically, but also a magnificently inspiring space metaphorically.  Grace Farms, in its essence, is a gift to the local and global community. 

A place, open and welcoming to all, that invites you to experience the beauty of nature and architecture in subliminal congruency.

Grace Farms Building Sunset

A gift of hope and inspiration that proves collaboration, generosity, and determination are values that can achieve the seemingly impossible.

However, we recognize that as a physical place, the gift of Grace Farms could only be experienced by those who enter the 80-acre site located in New Canaan, CT.  With Grace Farms Foods, we set out to expand beyond the physical limitations of a place by sharing the signature food and drinks that are enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors each year with everyone.

We worked tirelessly design packaging that captured the essence, and somewhat dreamlike state, of Grace Farms. We partnered with a talented German artist by the name of Elisabeth Moch to create iconic watercolor renderings of the River building and landscape.  We intentionally selected hopeful, bright colors for each product to capture the vibrancy of Grace Farms through all four seasons.  

We expanded our line of coffees to introduce two new Single Origin coffees, redeveloped our cookie recipe for large scale production, and developed five flavors of herbal teas.  Each category and product having its own set of challenges, we obsessed to constantly improve the taste and packaging throughout the year.

We started by offering our products exclusively through gracefarmsfoods.com.  We learned through trial (and error) how to pack the products so they could be shipped around the country efficiently without breakage.  We are still perfecting this.

Following an article by our partners at Fairtrade America, Amazon's Climate Pledge Friendly team reached out to us, inviting us to join the inaugural cohort of purpose-driven brands that Amazon would support joining their marketplace.

  Amazon has been a new conduit for reaching audiences of shoppers who would never have otherwise learned about Grace Farms.

When Grace Farms reopened to the public in early-September we were ecstatic to see the response from visitors to the new set of products that could be enjoyed and purchased onsite. 

Grace Farms can now be found in local retailers such as Walter Stewart's Market (New Canaan), Village Market (Wilton), The Market at Pound Ridge (Scott's Corner), and Nature's Temptations & Ridgefield Organics (Ridgefield).

Grace Farms Foods Products

We had a busy holiday gifting season which included the delivery of more than 1,000 gift boxes sent around the United States, many with endearing gift notes from people who wanted to share Grace Farms with friends and family.  Like many businesses we've faced supply chain challenges like long lead times and increased prices for transportation.

In 2022, we will be expanding to more retail and grocery locations and continuing to grow our e-commerce business. 

Share your ideas and network if you think Grace Farms would be great fit somewhere!

 

Goal 2: Demonstrate and educate about ethical and sustainable sourcing of 'at-risk ingredients' like cocoa, sugar, vanilla, tea, and coffee.

Starting a business is difficult.  Creating a business that is 100% not-for-profit owned is significantly even more challenging.  Establishing a 100% not-for-profit owned business that is created to demonstrate and educate about the charitable purposes of a private operating foundation (as far as we are aware) has never been done before.

Since the beginning, Grace Farms Foundation has reinforced that Grace Farms' stake in the ground is ending modern slavery and gender-based violence.  Grace Farms Foundation works to generate new ways to disrupt forced labor through its Justice Initiative and the Design For Freedom movement.  Privately, the Foundation supports survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.  All this, while constantly advocating for ethical and sustainable supply chains across all industries that respect people's liberty, rights and our communal planet.

Around the world there is an estimated 25 million people trapped in modern slavery. 

Modern slavery is not apparent, but reveals itself in many different forms.  Ultimately modern slavery is the exploitation of vulnerable children and adults through coercive action by those who stand to profit from their exploitation.  Vulnerable populations include those in poverty, civil unrest, lack of education, and a myriad of other reasons.  Forms of exploitation include work without pay, inability to travel freely, and even sex trafficking.

Grace Farms Foods was created as an opportunity to demonstrate what we are advocating for: ethical and sustainable supply chains.

We set out to shine a light on ingredients in the food industry that are 'at risk' of forced and child labor and prove daily staples we all enjoy like cookies, coffee, and tea could be ethically and sustainably sourced.

In order to do so, we partnered with suppliers that follow a rigorous code of conduct to ensure ingredients are sourced and traded to be free of forced or child labor.  We supplement this code of conduct by partnering with third party certifiers like Fairtrade America to audit the supply chain of 'at risk' ingredients for additional confidence.  Fairtrade America has been recognized by the Fair World Project as the gold standard of third party certifications.  We proudly display the Fairtrade logo on our products to help consumers quickly recognize our commitment to responsible sourcing.

In partnership with Fairtrade America and chef Silvia Baldini we released the first and only Fairtrade certified cookie in America. 

Fairtrade chocolate chip cookies

We also released two single origin coffees that are Fairtrade certified and sourced exclusively from women-led co-ops in Indonesia and Colombia.  In the spring of 2022 we will be releasing two new black teas that will be Fairtrade certified as well.

Our herbal teas include Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients by Fair Trade USA.  We are in the process of moving all our third party certifications to Fairtrade America by the end of 2022.

On top of this, Grace Farms Foods is waiting for its final review to become a Certified B Corp in early 2022.  Certified B Corps are a small but growing number of businesses that place people and planet at the core of their mission and are legally registered as a Public Benefit Corporation.  We are excited to join this community of businesses working to use business as a force for good.

 

Goal 3: Create a profitable business that contributes all its earnings to fund Grace Farms Foundation's work to end forced labor worldwide.

The double impact model of Grace Farms Foods is to not only demonstrate ethical and sustainable sourcing, but also use the profits from the sale of the products to financially support Grace Farms Foundation's work.  In order to do so, we must become profitable by selling enough food products to cover the variable and overhead costs of running the business.

Grace Farms Foods is 100% owned by Grace Farms Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, which means all the profits of the business are returned to the sole shareholder. 

Design For Freedom Website

When profitable, Grace Farms Foundation has committed to using the profits from Grace Farms Foods to fund Design For Freedom by Grace Farms.  Design For Freedom is a movement to build awareness of and end forced labor within the building materials supply chains our schools, hospitals, libraries and museums.  Similar to the food industry, millions of adults and children are trapped in illegal forced labor to source the stone, metal, wood, and composites used in the buildings we inhabit everyday.  What makes this movement so important is the fact that few people are aware forced labor exists within the architecture and construction industry, yet it is prevalent within more than a dozen materials in our buildings.

Like most new businesses, Grace Farms Foods has not become profitable yet.  We are working to build brand awareness, expand our market, and drive incremental and repeat sales.  Every purchase of our delicious cookies, coffee, and tea helps us get closer to achieving our last goal and fulfilling our mission.

 

Conclusion:

2021 has been a year of incredible learning, growth, and impact in a competitive market.  We have proven that food shouldn't just taste good, but it can do good, too.  We are committed to achieving our goals through our innovative and exciting philanthropic model of business.

In the coming months we will publish and share our 2021 Annual Business Impact Report which will provide even mored detail on our Business Impact KPI's, outputs, and outcomes.

We want to thank you for being part of this exciting journey and helping us share Grace Farms with the world next year and many years to come!  Thank you!

-Sharon Prince and Adam Thatcher

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