Live Chat
09.06.2012
24
answers
GASTROGNOME Anya Fernald
CEO
Belcampo Meat Co.
Location San Francisco, CA
Website www.belcampoinc.com
About Anya has developed her expertise in sustainable food and business management with over a decade of hands-on experience. At Belcampo, Anya is responsible for leading a group of innovative agricultural companies that are figuring out how make good food the old fashioned way on a larger scale than ever before.
chat ended at 13:00 pm EDT
...but check out a recap below!
  • Q:
  • Any parting words of wisdom?
  • A:
  • There are just going to be more and more opportunities in food, it's a good moment, our time has come.
  • Q:
  • How much do the people in charge of hiring at Belcampo look at resumes? Do you have any resume or cover letter tips?
  • A:
  • We definitely look at resumes. I myself do not know if I've ever gotten a job from a resume, so I am not sure I am the right person to ask. I guess my point is: come get to know us, come to meat-ups, introduce yourself, come to the job fair on the 13th, that kind of face time is way better than any cover letter. If you can’t do that, tell us about your passion/interest in your cover letter, tell us who you are, give us examples.
  • Q:
  • Certainly you've had great mentors along your career journey. Can you give examples of any mentors you cherish and how they've helped guide you along? Do you have any suggestions for those looking for mentorship that may not be able to receive it at their current company?
  • A:
  • Definitely have had some great mentors, people who told me I could do whatever and to follow my gut, that built my confidence early on. Michael Dimock from ROC definitely a mentor, Margo True who's now an editor at Sunset was a real mentor, Todd Robinson who's the investor in Belcampo is another major mentor. For mentors, don’t approach people asking them for a broad mentorship relationship, that feels heavy and if you're busy it's a lot to ask. Ask to have lunch once a month and do something nice in return! Mentors more than anything help you get connected, make it worth it!
  • Q:
  • Do you feel that it's worthwhile to quantify the impact that Belcampo has on the environment - in regard to animal welfare, human health, or environmental health, as a marketing tool? Or do you think that your energy is better directed at growing your company and letting its success speak for itself?
  • A:
  • The latter. We are quantifying to the degree we can given the tools that are available. To really do it well, we would have to spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think this would be an awesome and fundable project for an NGO, and I would welcome the possibility to open our books and collaborate on that project were it to happen.
  • Q:
  • Good food tends to cost more to produce and therefore command a higher price. What is your strategy to balance cost and accessibility? And, in more general terms, how does good food become more accessible to those who may not have the financial means to buy good food?
  • A:
  • The Good food movement cannot solve all problems at the same time. I think that making good food more accessible is a problem that has a huge scope - it's about policy, politics, agribusiness - it's like the lone warrior taking on an army! The gap will close because the system must break - the system that subsidizes cheap calories is deeply flawed, that system needs to fracture and fail, that will happen slowly over the next 10 -30 years I think. In the meantime, the good food world needs to focus on vertically integrating to produce food more efficiently and to corralling resources from the USDA to rebuild an infrastructure of small-scale processing that will allow quality foods to be produced more affordably.
  • Q:
  • Hi Anya my name is Frank Ulbrich I sent an email about teaching Sustainable Local Foods in public shools and local colleges. What is the best direction to get the schools attention?
  • A:
  • Frank - It has been a long time since I have worked in schools! For teaching, I would try to integrate into the curriculum slots where they do not have all the testing pressure - like at afterschool programs. I would also reach out to 4H if you are in a rural or semi-rural area, they are all about farming and are increasingly interested in sustainable/quality food.
  • Q:
  • I love artisan food, and want to help other people who want to make them, since my skills do not lie in making them myself. After interacting with so many small producers what are the top needs that these small businesses have? (I'm in college and trying to gain experiences that will be of real use to real businesses). Thanks.
  • A:
  • Financial analysis and financial management is a key skill set. Not the sexiest thing to do, but the most useful right now.
  • Q:
  • I know you're a champion of all artisan food, but do you see any clear gaps in the US market? Any products that you'd like to see more of in the states?
  • A:
  • I think there's opportunity in quality ready-made foods - one step away from dinner. Not exactly artisan... I also think original versions of comfort food will continue to grow - it's time for a quality artisan liverwurst for example.
  • Q:
  • You mentioned wanting to bridge the gap that still exists with the non-believers. How do you approach these people? How do you attempt to get through to them?
  • A:
  • You approach them by being friendly and non-judgmental, and with a product that's easy to parse - i.e. they should know what to do immediately with your product or know how to buy something immediately in your store. No one wants to be stared down by the guy behind the counter because they pronounced something wrong.
  • Q:
  • You've now spearheaded several large scales events (like Slow Food Nation and a few Eat Real Festivals). What advice do you have for people that want to host their own large scale sustainable food events?
  • A:
  • There's plenty of space for innovation in large food events. I think the era of the super spendy event is ending, people are tired of walking around with a warm glass of viognier and a shrimp on a toothpick. Advice: make your event cheap or free, integrate sponsors in meaningful ways, give ownership over content and character of the event to people on your team and in your community so they are inspired to help and get something out of it.
  • Q:
  • I've noticed a cohesiveness to all that you do (i.e. you have great design). Is there a specific company / person with whom you work on design? And what (approximate) costs does good design add to your business / projects?
  • A:
  • Design and looks matter a lot to me. I think sometimes the food movement falls into the same trap of early environmentalist causes - reinforcing how they are outsiders by not prioritizing polish. I think you're more likely to reach more people if things look tight and your message is concise. We work with about 3 companies at any one time. We usually hire a super top-tier company to develop a master set of design guidelines and invest relatively a lot in that and then use less expensive subcontractors or internal talent to produce materials based on those guidelines. One key thing I've learned is: spend time on a creative brief. Give your designer the guidelines they need to deliver what you need, they can’t read your mind.... that will make your investment more worth it! For a full brand ID, I would pay between 5 and 25K depending on the scope. For graphic work in general, 75-150/hour depending.
  • Q:
  • Many people in the food world think that large-scale, corporate ventures are not compatible with the values of sustainable food. Do you think this is true? What's the best way to get involved with larger, private companies trying to make the shift to sustainability?
  • A:
  • I don’t see the incompatability - even when I was working for a super scruffy non-profit, I never thought that big always = bad. Now that I am the CEO of effectively a small multinational, I am ever-more convinced of the rightness of this opinion. I think bigger companies can weather better the natural shifts that happen in agriculture (droughts, hurricanes, food safety issues, etc,), so to have bigger companies doing the "right" thing, that just means more companies doing the "right" thing in the long term. Best way to get involved....don't use your talents to help companies that are not actually doing meaningful work, get involved with companies that are growing and that impress you with their integrity. Show them your integrity and alignment in meaningful ways (Want to work for Belcampo? Come to an interview having eaten every grassfed burger in San Francisco and tell us which you liked best and why.)
  • Q:
  • What advice do you have for a young professional with solid work experience who wants to make food a part of their career, but hasn't had direct experience in the food world/business before?
  • A:
  • Get some experience in food.
  • Q:
  • As a mover and shaker in the food world, you must come across all sorts of interesting up-and-coming projects. Any that you want to share / that we should check out as eager food lovers?
  • A:
  • Projects: I love Iso Rabin's new commercial kitchen in SF.
  • Q:
  • You've tackled a lot for such a short life-time (so far), but are there any major goals that you have with your work? Any outstanding projects that you would love to see accomplished in your lifetime.
  • A:
  • I want to do something bigger for quality food than what's been done so far. I want to bridge the gap that still exists with the non-believers. I think Belcampo's going to achieve that.
  • Q:
  • What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment in your career thus far?
  • A:
  • Probably building up Eat Real from a small idea around my dining room table into a festival that brings 100,000 people a year to Oakland to celebrate good food. That taught me how important it is to go with your gut if you think you have a good idea to share with the world! Plus, we do it on a tiny budget, in downtown Oakland, with thousands of hours of volunteer labor. It's a beautiful feeling to walk through that festival.
  • Q:
  • Are you Hiring?
  • A:
  • Yes. Visit goodfoodjobs.com for all our listings :)
  • Q:
  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion for food into a business, but they're not sure what kind of business?
  • A:
  • 1. Passion is important. So is opportunity. Balance those two.
    2. Find partners whose interests complement your own (i.e. someone who likes accounting or at least can do it in a pinch).
    3. Do something bold and meaningful. Don’t get too caught up in marketing buzzwords or trending. What makes breakaway success is dedication and individuality.
    4. We probably have enough micro-batch jam companies.
  • Q:
  • What kind of experiences led you to start Belcampo? What was your path to get to this point?
  • A:
  • Belcampo brings together so many pieces of my background.... it's a combination of my business background and my happy-generalist's understanding of many products. I was challenged with Belcampo to find a way to invest money to ensure that a group of agricultural properties - big organic farms in California, Uruguay, and Belize - could make money. What I found was that the key is to own the full chain to the consumer, so that's the type of business we are building in each of those geographies.
  • Q:
  • Hello Anya. What was your food background before starting Belcampo?
  • A:
  • I worked in dairies to start out with, then got a job for the EU in Sicily doing business development with traditional small producers of Ragusano cheese. From there, spent a bunch of years working for Slow Food in Italy managing micro-investments for their foundation, and from there, back to the states, a few years in non-profits and then finally had enough and started my own company. It seemed to me by 2006 the energy in the food space was moving out of NGOs and into the for-profit sector. It was if people had been holding the flame for a while and the fire finally lit. I wanted to be part of that bigger change that resulted from that ignition.
  • Q:
  • We could not be more thrilled about the Food Craft Institute. What do we have to look forward to with it over the next few years?
  • A:
  • I want Food Craft to bring more dignity and professionalism to food jobs and to improve the quality and availability of artisan foods. That's a big goal, but we're going slow and we have a plan - so, it's achievable.
  • Q:
  • In the past year you've transitioned from running your own sustainable food consulting business to being the CEO of Belcampo. What prompted your decision to move into that role? And were you sad to see Live Culture dissolve (for the time being?)
  • A:
  • Belcampo is a bigger platform than what I could have done with live culture. It's important to recognize an opportunity when you see one, Belcampo was that opportunity. I actually designed the business of Belcampo initially as a consultant and me and my team have a significant ownership stake in it, so it does not feel very different from running live culture. Just more resources, bigger stage, bigger goals.
  • Q:
  • When did you know that you first wanted to pursue food as a career?
  • A:
  • High school, definitely, maybe earlier. I did not have a specific plan of how/when/where.High school, definitely, maybe earlier. I did not have a specific plan of how/when/where.

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