Made by hand: Female producers remain true to themselves

by Lynn Bakeman

This article was originally published in March 2018

firefly kitchens producer
Julie at work in the Firefly kitchen


PCC has a symbiotic relationship with the companies that source food and other products for us. In some cases, if they weren’t ready to make the leap into wholesale, PCC mentored their growth. In turn, PCC learned and gained so much from them.

We wanted to know how female producers handle growing pains, so we reached out to several who have been growing right along with us. In competitive markets, growth can be accompanied by tough decisions, such as replacing workers with automation or purchasing less expensive raw materials. The stories below are of producers who worked hard not to cut corners. These women share a commonality because their products are made by human hands — not by machines — and are crafted to benefit people and not merely to profit from them.

Here are just a handful of our producers and a glimpse into their stories.

Angelique Saffle, Bodyceuticals

“Artisan work is a very special and mindful practice.”

“The love and intention of what we do is hugely important. Our organic, botanical-rich body products are used on everyone from newborns and those with compromised skin, to those at the end of life. Life is a miracle. We care about our customers and want our products to show our love and gratitude.”

Bodyceuticals is not just a family business, it’s a lifestyle that Angelique inherited. Her father grew a special grape appellation on the Greek island of Samos before opening a renowned bakery in the Pacific Northwest. Her mother was a pioneer in the health food industry more than 30 years ago, stocking organic products before “organic” was well-known.

Angelique remembers a sign on the wall of their family business: “The friendship of those we serve is the foundation of our progress.” Deeply ingrained in her is the belief that with passion, conviction, joy and desire to serve other people, they become partners and friends.

“Thankfully, there are stores like PCC that provide education and a safe place for people to learn. They really partner with their vendors and we treasure our friendship of more than 10 years,” she notes.

Angelique’s passion grew into a farm where she and her family could use natural products to help heal others. Vertically integrated, they touch the entire lifespan of their products. They manage the soil, plant, grow and then produce, including holistic beekeeping on the farm apiary.

They keep things small batch and handcrafted, made with love and positive intention. “The energy is different when you use a product that is artisan-crafted,” Angelique explains. “We get back more than we could ever give with the knowledge that people are helped or feel better about themselves because of a product we make.”

Kaili McIntyre, Olivia Superfree

“When I know better, I do better!”

This knowing is behind Puget Sound’s first premium gluten-free baker who keeps quiet about what her food doesn’t have … until you’ve tasted it. Then she springs the surprise that almost any objectionable ingredient or potential allergen is simply not there.

People who love good food have been beating a path to Kaili’s door for her inventive menu and delectable breads. An intuitive baker with a perfectionist streak, she had to think like a chemist to figure out why food behaved a certain way when baked.

Lightbulb moments at 2 a.m. and ‘eureka!’ kitchen accidents resulted in substitutes for ingredients that were causing inflammation and irritating her, those she loved and her customers. This experimentation and sleuthing was back in 2000, when people were just starting to question why they sometimes felt horrible after eating. The validation she received from these desperate people spurred her on to keep growing and evolving.

PCC has evolved with her: sampling, then gladly stocking new products, providing UPC codes at the start, and then, when she was bursting at the seams fulfilling store demand, providing the impetus to catapult her into new space.

Kaili’s growth has been achieved without automation. “To this day, we squeeze and zest the lemons, grind vanilla beans and hand-form all our bread. Everything is handmade… we’ve got sub-assembly down!” Kaili laughs.

You have to taste Olivia Superfree products to discover what you’re missing — or maybe should be missing — from your diet.

Makena Phillips, Shepard Moon Concoctions

handcrafted by humans

“We make powerful and therapeutically effective products but we do things differently,” states Makena. For one, the company namesake and co-founder is a dog. Shepard Moon’s dogma is to keep it simple and be loving, joyful and helpful in everything they do.

Makena’s bath remedies and lotion therapies come in ecofriendly, biodegradable coffee bags in contrast to the clinical appearance of other personal care items. “I’m a healer, not a retailer!” she explains.

For 19 years, Makena has been a hands-on healer making products for her own clients, naturopaths and other practitioners. Without a business background, she never felt confined by the reality that expansion may be difficult. “Want products in your stores? Let’s do it!” she exclaims.

“I love that PCC has a strong vision of community. It supports local and goes above and beyond to help companies like mine. I see all relationships as partnerships and it’s always been clear that our growth will happen in magical, delightful, connected ways. Every decision is tethered to healing. It would be more profitable to use machines, but our remedies are all handmade by folks devoted to a path of growth through healing others using only pure, therapeutic-grade ingredients.”

Shepard Moon believes that healing can be found in bathing. Slow down, make it okay to get less done, and be mindful about taking care of yourself — all inside an unassuming brown bag.

Lisa Jacobs, Jacobs Creamery

“I often wonder where this intuitiveness for curd comes from but figure that I was a cheesemaker in a previous life!”

“My entrepreneurial father instilled in me the importance of not letting anyone else reap the benefits of my diligent work ethic and intelligence. I always heard I could do anything I wanted, so I simply overcame any hurdles and followed my passion.”

People assume Lisa came from a long line of dairy farmers or fromagers, but in truth she got excited about the process from reading a book. She remains awed at what can be done with a tank of milk, bacteria, heat and time.

“Cheesemaking is not for lightweights,” Lisa explains, “but it allows me to be independent and mix creativity with science while keeping me strong and healthy. My cheese is crafted with the love I have for the art and for the enjoyment people have when they eat it. It’s hard to get excited about something you don’t know, so I describe the flavor profile — rich, creamy texture with sweet, grassy notes — so people are educated and prepared for tasting.”

Lisa loves working with PCC. “The cheesemongers call with a question so they can educate the customer personally. They really care about offering good products and I feel very fortunate that Jacobs Creamery is among them. I’m definitely passionate about cheese and know I’ll never master all the subtle nuances that can improve its taste. I’m a simple cheesemaker always striving to make better cheese.”

Julie O’Brien, Firefly Kitchens

“We do the long slow part so it’s fast food for you!”

Firefly Kitchens wants you to shine from the inside out. “We put the people back in food production,” Julie explains. “We’ve done the hard work of chopping, shredding and mixing by hand with month-long fermentation so you can simply open and eat health-in-a-jar.”

Julie’s enlightenment began more than 10 years ago when the self-professed “health nut” got her mind blown in nutrition class, hearing a lecture about fermented foods and their health benefits. “Probiotics, enzymes, fiber, vitamin C… I couldn’t believe this wasn’t mainstream knowledge.”

Natural fermentation with raw, unpasteurized food produces an exquisite, bright, fresh flavor – nothing resembling the tart vinegar pucker of fast-processed, shelf-stable food. “PCC offers tastings and incorporates our kraut into deli salads and dishes because they understand the value of offering healthier foods to customers and we are so grateful for their support!” says Julie.

There are more than 100 trillion bacteria in the human gut. Julie’s Classic Kraut has been measured at 100,000,000 Colony Forming Units (CFU) per gram and each jar holds 425 grams. Is your mind blown now, too? Once Julie realized how many suffering people could be helped by this “nutritional goldmine” of probiotic brilliance, she made it her mission to share.

Julie sums up what is truly the mission of all our producers. “Owning a sustainable company where we’re improving the health of people in our community, supporting farmers, creating jobs, that’s the ideal goal.”

At PCC, our mission is to help organic, local supply chains thrive and we are honored to support female producers who maintain the human touch of quality that nurtures our customers.

Lynn Bakeman is an established writer who believes everyone has a story to tell. With a background in both science and writing, she’s curious to learn how things work and eager to tell people about it. Lynn has a son battling an autoimmune disease and his experience has opened her eyes to the importance of knowing how food is grown, sourced and processed.

Also in this issue

A farm crisis is everybody's crisis

As debates on the reauthorization of the 2018 Farm Bill are already underway, we share words of wisdom and warning from the former president of the National Family Farm Coalition. One key: we’re all in this together.

In the stores

All PCC brand vitamins and supplements are 25 percent off this month! Some of our vitamins and supplements are specially designed to support women’s health.

Diversity and inclusion

At PCC, we highly value diversity and inclusion and are working to implement these values in numerous ways.