Hi, my name is Pam Armstrong. Two years ago I retired from corporate life and started a small organic baking business with my family. My two daughters and their four daughters helped. We had lots of fun and sold lots of tasty goodies, but in spite of working and selling as hard as we could we struggled to make the business work financially. In the course of meeting and learning about many other local small-batch food sellers, I found out that ours was a typical scenario. Many small-batch food producers make incredibly delicious food with amazing passion, but few actually turn a profit for their first 3-5 years. Many go broke trying, despite working overly long hard hours.
Another issue I thought about: Both as a parent and a grandparent, my elementary-school-aged kids and grandkids have brought home a fundraising catalog of items every year, most priced too high for the quality offered, for me and other relatives to buy from, with part of the proceeds going to our child’s school. Frankly, I have never found anything I really wanted in these catalogs, yet I have always felt obligated to purchase something so my child can get credit and the school can benefit. Many other parents have echoed my concerns as well. How about offering parents products for school fundraising that they really want, like good locally made foods?
So our new family business was born to innovatively meet two needs at the same time:
Support struggling but excellent local small food producers by representing them and selling their products, thereby also keeping more dollars in the local economy.
Create a way for parents and others to contribute to improvements in their child’s education by purchasing local good and healthy foods they want and like.
We have a strong family legacy of supporting local food producers. My grandparents had a business selling nuts and dried fruits grown by several small farmers in their local Gilroy, California area in the 1920s and '30s. They sold and shipped boxes, bags and crates of their products all over the country. They called their business Mrs. Armstrong's California Fruits and Nuts. We're proud to carry on what they started and have therefore named our business after theirs: Mrs. Armstrong's California Natural Pantry. (See my Grammy, Hazel Armstrong, in the photo below.)
The goal for our new business is to create a triple bottom line: Build a profitable business that outlives us, promote sustainable local food production and a healthier local economy, and support local schools. We aim to revolutionize our communities, one school at a time.
We screen and sell foods made by local small business food producers. We sell these foods to parents and their friends and other relatives, with a substantial percent of proceeds going to their child’s local school. Foods we choose for our list must be all-natural, preferably certified organic, and preferably eco-friendly packaged. Many of our vendors’ products are made from locally grown produce, such as garlic and tomato sauces. We also emphasize good nutrition, for example dried fruits and nuts, sold directly to us by the growers.
All of our products will eventually be available for purchase on this website as well as through a printed catalogue that will be distributed to parents at sponsoring schools. (Visit our Indiegogo campaign, now live at xxxx, to donate to our goal of creating a terrific print catalog and doing a great job of finishing building out this website.) To further promote our products, we will have samples of them at tables set up on school campuses at key school functions, where families will have the opportunity to both taste and purchase them. When we have the funds to completely build out this website, it will also showcase the producers of the foods we offer.
Our product list currently includes several types of everyday pantry items such as excellent pasta sauces, a unique set of garlic sauces, a truly amazing sun-dried tomato ketchup, specialty mustards, small batch jams and organic fruit spreads, dried fruits and nuts, nut butters, granolas, olive oil and flavored vinegars and salad dressings, chocolate and caramel sauces, dry baking mixes and more. And we’re adding more products every week. (Catch a glimpse of some of our pantry products on the Gallery page of this site.)
We also have gourmet gift sets on our product list. Currently we are selling our Chocolate Covered California gift sets on the CCC Gift Sets page of this site. All feature beautifully packaged artisan chocolates made in California. Within the next few months we will be adding other specialty food gift sets, featuring foods such as locally made award-winning olive oils, fruit-flavored balsamic vinegars, chocolate dipped/covered fruits and nuts, unique small-batch jams, and more. We’re excited to offer some of our best collections of food gift items packaged in our unique recycled old-growth redwood boxes, made from trash-piled old fence posts and barn boards by a local fine wood craftsman, Patrick Burns. These gift sets are much nicer than the typical ‘gift’ items available through most school fundraising campaigns.