Not in Kansas anymore, LI foodpreneurs keep the faith

Fresh idea: The unique 1610 Bakehouse bread stand, among several innovative pivots by Long Island foodpreneurs.

Last weekend, I found myself wandering the neighborhood on a last-minute treasure hunt with my daughter. At 7 years old, she portrayed the most adorable Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and the rest of us followed suit – as the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and even Toto (yes, the dog joined in).

Through COVID-19, homeschooling and even the forced reinvention of Halloween, she has never stopped searching for that somewhere over the rainbow.

I see this same unbridled and youthful force – this pure will – in many food entrepreneurs, quietly innovating and building their businesses. It’s widely known that some of the largest companies in the world have started from humble beginnings; Microsoft, Mattel, Apple and Disney all kicked off in the garage.

But what about the shed, the parking lot and, of course, the home kitchen?

If you’ve never tried 1610 Bakehouse’s sourdough, you’re blowing it big time. Aiyana Edmund is carving out an East End niche with her beautiful, blistering loaves, lovingly handcrafted inside a shed on her family’s Calverton property.

Kate Fullam: No place like home-based businesses.

With no storefront to showcase her wares and not enough dough (literally and otherwise) to keep up with demand at local farmers markets, Aiyana is paving her own way – a unique pre-order and pickup system at her very own bread stand.

Homeslice Pizza made a major pandemic pivot, from catering South Fork beach parties to cranking out frozen woodfired pizzas for home delivery. Entrepreneur Terry McGuire and his team do a lot of the prep work inside the East End Food Institute’s commercial kitchen, with the cooking done in a woodfired oven set up in the parking lot.

The pies arrive frozen, but fully cooked and just a few warm minutes from ready. Always eager to tinker with mechanics, McGuire built his own woodfired oven atop a retired military trailer in 2017. Now, with the frozen pizza business heating up, he’s planning to scale up with a new production facility.

Rachel Stephens of Sweet Woodland Farm needed an efficient way to dehydrate ingredients for her tisane tea blends and herbal salves, but couldn’t afford to buy a commercial dehydrator. So, she essentially built one herself, constructing screen racks inside a greenhouse.

Dry hard: Actually, it was pretty easy for innovator Rachel Stephens.

The drying happens on a homestead farm in Hampton Bays. But Stephens is also a networker: She grows the herbs and flowers she uses in her teas and other products at the Peconic Land Trust’s Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm, located in Southold.

These are just a few examples of food entrepreneurs taking matters into their own hands, quite literally, to answer the challenges of the pandemic and solve other problems. Their pure passion, purpose and desire to nourish others – familiar themes throughout our industry – should be celebrated and supported.

This season, as you prepare to celebrate the holidays in a new way, please support our local producers. Pick up ingredients from a local farm, invest in a small-business startup, gift-shop at the EEFI’s Virtual Farmers Market.

Or just share some words of encouragement. Let’s all be like Dorothy: Never lose hope, always follow your dreams and, if you can, help someone else who’s trying to follow theirs.

Kate Fullam is the executive director of East End Food Institute in Southampton.