Next we get a sneak preview to our upcoming full bee show with Rob Keller, founder and owner of Napa Valley Bee Co. who is working to restore the bee population to where nature needs it to be for a healthy planet.
Jesse Solomon | Founder + CEOEmmer & Co.
Jesse Solomon founded Emmer & Co. to rebuild our agriculture system by starting with the right sources. Jesse is an avid outdoorsman who started hunting so that he could connect directly with his food and know he was eating the purest, most natural meat. With Emmer & Co. Jesse wants to provide that “as close to wild as possible” experience for as many people as possible by going back to heritage sources; meat that has the most amazing flavors, is the best for the animal, the healthiest for us, and allows the land to thrive.
Jesse has a significant amount of experience as an entrepreneur and investor. His first company, Booklr, was acquired in 2014. Prior to launching his own ventures, Jesse established a Middle East office for an international hedge fund, where he sourced and managed investments across the region. This came after working in the sales and research divisions for HSBC in London, Hong Kong, and Dubai, where he spearheaded the bank's efforts to enter new emerging markets. Toward the end of his time abroad he was living in Africa, obsessing over how to create a sustainable agriculture system in Ethiopia. Jesse received his BA with Honors in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.
About Emmer & Co.
Emmer & Co. is rebuilding the poultry industry with 100% heritage chickens; the best tasting, most humanely raised birds that existed before the industrialization of agriculture. Their birds take at least 112 days to grow - 3-4 times longer than the industry average - and naturally develop strong balanced muscular, skeletal and immune systems. Emmer & Co. birds are raised entirely outside on unrestricted, lush pastures.
Emmer & Co. has partnered with family farms in Northern California who share our environmental values. The growers have a holistic approach to farming, and their pasture rotation techniques allow the soil, vegetation and the natural ecosystem to prosper.
In the not-too-distant past, our eggs came from our own back yards, our meat came from our local butcher, and our fish from our nearby river. Everything we ate came from someplace, or someone, we knew. There was no such thing as eating "local" or eating "organic"—it was just called eating.
Emmer & Co. believe in rebuilding a bond with honest food by mending these simple connections with what you eat, working to ensure that everyone can eat chicken as it used to be—all over again.
Emmer & Co. flocks are the oldest continuous strain of standard-bred heritage birds in the country, and have been maintained by dedicated growers for generations. By starting with the best, truly delicious, naturally growing birds, lost infrastructure can be rebuilt, and provide great economic opportunities for the farmers while enabling them to raise chickens they’re proud of.
Firstly, New Hampshires were brought to market, but as Emmer & Co expand operations, they'll introduce some of the other incredible birds—breeds like the Plymouth Barred Rock, Cornish, the Silver-Laced Wyandotte and the Delaware.
Every day more people are choosing heritage. The vision of Emmer & Co is of a rebuilt poultry industry and regional centers of production. They never want to be centralized in one location, instead partnering with family farms that share a commitment to the best husbandry practices, environmental stewardship, and incomparably high welfare standards.
What is a heritage bird?
A heritage bird must fit four specific requirements designated by The Livestock Conservancy. All of Emmer & Co.'s chickens are certified standard bred by the American Poultry Association (APA)—the oldest agriculture organization in the U.S. The APA defined its original standard breeds back in 1873. If you see a bird labeled as heritage without the APA seal, it doesn't meet the first requirement of heritage.
TO BE CERTIFIED HERITAGE, A BIRD MUST:
BE AN APA STANDARD BREED.
Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations; and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage Chicken must be produced and sired by an APA Standard breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.
LIVE A LONG, PRODUCTIVE OUTDOOR LIFESPAN.
Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for 5-7 years and roosters for 3-5 years.
Heritage Chicken must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating. Chickens marketed as Heritage must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
3. LIVE A LONG, PRODUCTIVE OUTDOOR LIFESPAN.Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for 5-7 years and roosters for 3-5 years.HAVE A SLOW GROWTH RATE.
Heritage Chicken must have a moderate to slow rate of growth, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 16 weeks. This gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.
And the flavor?
Only heritage genetics allow for slow, balanced growth. Letting muscles naturally develop, in sync with all other facets of the bird's growth, leads to incredibly tender meat with rich boldness and mouthwatering umami—the same savory taste found in oysters, truffles, or a perfectly seared steak.
You'll also taste the love of the farmers, who dedicate their lives to caring for the birds. It's a fact—happy chickens provide happy flavors. The joy with which they lived is reflected in flavors that are vibrant and complex.
Rob Keller received his MFA from UC Davis in 1999, where he became interested in incorporating bees into his art practice. As the owner of a small bee business, The Napa Valley Bee Company, his goals are to build a community of beekeepers in his area that practice responsible, sustainable hive management with the bees’ best interest in mind. These days the bees are working less for Rob’s art, and he’s working more for the bees – becoming one of the leading sustainable beekeepers in his area. Rob currently manages three large scale apiaries in Napa Valley and teaches beekeeping at The Solar Living Institute in Hopland and San Francisco, Nimbus Arts in St. Helena, and Napa Valley Adult School. He lives in Napa with his wife and nine-year-old beekeeping-son Davis.
A few words from Rob:
My mission with bees is simple; they come first. I don’t hustle my bees for honey, pollination, wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen or publicity. I look after the bees. They are under tremendous environmental stress. I don’t medicate bees, but rather let them build their own disease resistance. I rear queens responsibly from the strongest local stock I can isolate. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to not only my managed colonies but the feral population as well. I understand that they’re not “my bees” they are “our bees” and open mating affects all the bees in a three mile radius of all my apiaries. I do my best to keep any used comb or honey inaccessible to other bees in an effort to prevent spreading pathogens. I work with the bees, not against them. I believe the backyard beekeeper will be the one that survives the species. I simply love bees and believe that they will thrive if cared for properly!