We’re trying again on some shiny moments in a tough 12 months, and requested every member of our group to call just a few of their favourite tales. That is one in all Robert Chappell’s.
The COVID pandemic hit quite a lot of companies laborious — together with farmers in South Central Wisconsin. Already on shaky financial footing, farms abruptly discovered themselves with no farmers’ markets, eating places closing down and dairy costs reaching all-time lows.
Enter Kingsley Gobourne.
In his day job, he oversees range and inclusion for UnityPoint Well being’s 35,000 staff in three states. He was additionally the one Black child in his class at Pecatonica Excessive College in Blanchardville, a village of about 800 folks nestled within the Pecatonica River Valley, on the border between Iowa and Lafayette Counties. It’s an agricultural neighborhood, and Gobourne has remained pals with the farm children he grew up with — lots of whom nonetheless work on their household farms. So he heard concerning the powerful instances they had been having and thought maybe he may leverage his gross sales expertise to assist out.
Seven months later, Artemis Provisions and Cheese is promoting $20,000 value of beef, pork, poultry, eggs and cheese each month.
“This wasn’t actually a plan,” Gobourne stated in an interview earlier this week. “We had some folks in Iowa (County) and Lafayette County that had been hurting and there have been those that I knew. I used to be related.”
Gobourne and his spouse determined to start out small, making an attempt the concept out among the many staff at a Meriter clinic — one of many clinics within the UnityPoint community.
“We really did it at one clinic simply to see what sort of merchandise people would love. And we’ve used that to assist construct what our menu will appear to be based mostly on what folks had been focused on,” Gobourne stated. “And what actually began as only a pilot at Meriter … has actually developed into this nice alternative that my spouse and I now have been spending time and making an attempt to determine, how will we maximize it?”
Now that it’s beginning to take off, Gobourne says he’s working with the City League of Larger Madison, the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce — Artemis participated within the MBCC’s Black Restaurant Week in August — and SCORE to kind a marketing strategy.
“It was like, ‘Hey, Kingsley, we now have a cow moving into and we now have a few thousand kilos of meat, what can we do?’ And so that you simply form of reacted,” he stated. “And now we’re to the purpose the place, okay, we had been doing quite a lot of reacting, let’s plan this out and we generally is a little bit extra environment friendly and profitable.”
Gobourne stated the rising firm is making an attempt to “do every thing, and possibly that’s an excessive amount of,” and “making an attempt to determine what we do greatest.” Proper now meaning they’re promoting produce bins for pickup and supply each two weeks, pre-cooked dinners and present bins for customers, whereas shifting into the wholesale house, supplying eating places and groceries, and offering personal eating experiences for households.
Thus far, Gobourne is working with three farms — Greenfield Farms, Pecatonica Valley Farms, and Leonard Household Farms — in addition to Brunkow Cheese, positioned in Fayette, close to Darlington. However they’re in search of extra.
“As we develop, there are totally different areas that we are going to want companions for and there are areas that we need to develop in,” he stated. “We’ve been talking with different creameries as a result of we’d prefer to entry some several types of cheeses. Brunkow’s well-known for his or her cheddars and goat cheeses. We’ve been working to attempt to discover a place that may make Swiss or Lindberger and another choices as nicely. We’re how we are able to determine extra poultry farmers and form of develop that out as a result of poultry is likely one of the areas that we’re rising the quickest. We’re actually, actually enthusiastic about that.”
Gobourne famous that native, antibiotic-free produce is nice in your well being — and for the native economic system.
“Once you purchase your rooster, that cash goes proper again into Wisconsin farmers, who’re in flip, will get to spend that greenback once more right here in Wisconsin,” he stated. “All that cash is churning in our economic system. It grows our economic system. There’s additionally this chance to develop jobs, and it’s additionally to develop jobs for underrepresented folks. I used to be speaking to somebody the opposite day they usually stated, ‘You recognize, Kingsley, we now have distributors on a regular basis. You’re the primary black distributor that we’ve met with.’”
Coming at it from that perspective additionally has Gobourne interested by getting his product into the arms of these underrepresented communities.
“One of many issues that I’ve been making an attempt to determine is, how do I get what I’ve into the arms of communities in danger? They’re those which have the toughest time affording natural, free vary rooster, grass-fed beef, and all these different merchandise,” he stated, noting that it’s additionally a matter of entry — grocery shops in Black and brown neighborhoods usually don’t carry these sorts of locally-grown produce.
Regardless of being one of many only a few Black folks within the wholesale meals distribution enterprise, Gobourne stated he’s been welcomed.
“I’ve not run right into a state of affairs to this point, knock on wooden, during which folks haven’t welcomed the merchandise and welcomed me and given me an ear to talk and to share what we’re doing,” he stated. “I really feel it’s simply a part of Southern Wisconsin, ihe Midwest, no matter you need to name it. Folks do need to deal with everybody pretty.”
Produce packages and present bins can be found to order at Artemisprovisions.org, together with cooked rooster and different gadgets for Christmas dinners and different events.