Founder update: Why we don't use the word sustainable (August 2023)
Hi PB community,
I hope you’re staying cool out there. Between the Canada fires, devastation in Maui, and extreme heat all over the country, I’m feeling particularly inspired to more deeply orient our work and voice at Primary Beans toward stemming climate change.
It’s no doubt that things get tricky when you’re both a mission-oriented and small business with hopes of scaling. With more and more people caring about where their food comes from, it becomes tempting for brands to capitalize on the language and practices they think consumers gravitate towards. This makes it harder for everyone to discern what’s real and what’s been co-opted, what’s action and what’s merely talk.
For example, I recently caught wind of a newish brand sourcing single-origin ingredients fromaroud the world, including beans. It's entering retail in a big way under the main tagline “sustainably sourced,” paired with all kinds of third-party certifications.
Having spent a few years working in the certification space, the phrase makes me cringe. “Sustainable” is used so liberally, but no one really seems to understand it. It’s extremely challenging, if not impossible, to deem anything as truly “sustainable” given the complexities of different industries and supply chains – yet it has become a catch-all for every feel-good idea that a business might have.
And don’t get me started on certifications, which admittedly do help convey certain practices to the end-consumer, but who are they really for? For farmers, certification requires loads of time and resources. Certifications are ultimately a business too, where companies make a profit from issuing them.
Cooper Brossy and his dad, Fred, of Ernie's Organics in Idaho.
I’m not claiming Primary Beans is the golden standard – we still have so much work to do. But I am asking myself the hard questions of how we can do better for our ecosystem, farming communities, and the planet. And with that comes a sense of immense responsibility to continue to build our direct, delicious, and fully transparent supply chains and to invite home cooks to really pay attention to the brands they engage with.
Our work at Primary Beans hopes to go far beyond overusing the word sustainable (in fact, you won’t find the word on our website), and creating real connections between home cooks, farmers, and the earth.
This brings me to a fun project we just launched as part of our Bean People membership, and something I’m really proud of. We partnered with the USDA to get early feedback on a new tepary bean called Fortuna, developed by a plant geneticist in Puerto Rico to be climate-resilient, high in nutrition, and great-tasting (so an ingredient can have it all!).
In case you’re not familiar with tepary beans, they’re a traditional crop from the Sonoran Desert (my home turf!) and studied widely because they have the powerful ability to thrive under heat and drought conditions. Members received these cute little speckled beans in their last box, paired with backstories and instructions, and have been taste testing them so we can better understand how they can play a role in our kitchens. This is the type of connection and involvement in our food system that I believe inspires real change.
If you missed the chance to join our 2023 program, don’t worry – I’m thrilled to announce we’re cooking up a bigger and better membership experience for 2024, informed by a strong vision of how it can help further our tiny but mighty mission. We’re assembling a wait list and you can sign up here to be the first to receive news about the next iteration of Bean People.
Farro and chickpeas with dill-yogurt dressing
On a much lighter note, have you been eating beans this summer? It has been seriously hot in Seattle and I’ve found cold salads and protein from beans are the only things I’m craving for dinner. Plus, serving them to my toddler brings me so much joy. My Instant Pot has been a godsend for cooking beans without any heat (see our cooking guide) and I can’t highlight enough how easy and refreshing these recipes are:
- Hoagie-inspired pasta salad with chickpeas
- Farro and chickpeas with dill-yogurt dressing
- Aguachile beans
- Beans al limone
- Bean pâté
- Easy weeknight bean tostadas
- Peak-summer panzanella
Whether it’s through eating more beans, participating in our food system, donating to support wildfire victims, or simply being more aware of the forces impacting our climate – every small action signals how we want to show up for the world we live in. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for being a part of our real-time journey navigating the challenges of being a mission-oriented business :)
Wishing you a joyous, inspired, and cool rest of your summer,