Real Pickles is a worker-owned cooperative working to change the food system by making pickles! We recently transitioned our business to a cooperative in order to ensure that Real Pickles stays small, independent, and locally-owned. We are committed to securing our social mission for the long term. You can read more about our coop transition on Ferment: The Real Pickles Blog.
It all started when Dan began making traditional pickles in 1999 after attending a workshop at a Northeast Organic Farming Association conference. Excited about the benefits of locally grown food, he tried out pickling cabbage, turnips, greens, and other vegetables as a way to keep eating local through the winter. Dan also got inspired at that time by the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a researcher who traveled the world in the 1920s and 1930s studying the diets of indigenous peoples. Price found that people eating their traditional diets enjoyed a high level of health completely unknown in industrialized societies. Raw, naturally fermented pickles were among the food types common to traditional diets throughout the world.
Dan quickly became devoted to the craft of traditional pickling and, two years later, decided to go into business. The idea was to create not just any ordinary business. Real Pickles was to be, first and foremost, about changing the world for the better. As one of a small handful of businesses in the United States producing raw and naturally fermented pickles, Real Pickles was to supply people with an important, nourishing food that was not otherwise widely available in the food system. And, this new business was to be forever committed to helping to build a new food system based on high quality and minimally processed food, local/regional agriculture, and sustainable and organic practices. In support of such a food system, Real Pickles would buy its vegetables only from Northeast family farms and would sell its products only within the Northeast.
Real Pickles launched in 2001, purchasing 1,000 pounds of certified organic pickling cucumbers from Chamutka Farm in Whately, MA, and successfully selling Organic Dill Pickles to about 25 stores around western Massachusetts. The next season, Real Pickles began operating out of the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield, MA, a food business incubator with a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen facility. Created to support the local agricultural economy by providing a venue for making value-added foods with local farm ingredients, it was a perfect fit for Real Pickles. At the Food Processing Center, Dan - soon joined by Addie Rose - was able to steadily grow the business, adding products like Organic Sauerkraut and Organic Ginger Carrots, and expanding sales to stores first in the Boston area and then elsewhere in the region.
By 2009, Real Pickles had outgrown the Food Processing Center and we were ready to make the leap to our own facility (now solar powered!). By that time, we were annually purchasing over 100,000 pounds of certified organic vegetables from local family farms and turning them into six varieties of traditional pickles for sale throughout the Northeast. Since then, we've continued to increase our local vegetable purchases and are proud of our contributions to building a new food system.
We've demonstrated that there is a real and increasing demand for raw, naturally fermented pickles, and that a business as deeply committed to social responsibility as ours can work! In order to preserve our social mission for the long-term and to retain our excellent staff, we decided to transition the business to a worker-owned cooperative. After a successful community investment campaign, in May 2013 Real Pickles took the exciting step of converting to worker-ownership. We are proud to join the ranks of other cooperatives that are supporting local ownership, workplace democracy, and contributing to the cooperative economy!