In the early 2000s people seriously began reconsidering their relationship with food. In particular, how our modern industrial food system had become the source of many social and economic ills.
A food movement was brewing with a slew of micro-innovations across the country – food trucks, urban farms, locavorism, craft brewing, window-farming, roof gardens, and so on. The country was in a deep recession, with real estate taking a big hit. It was in this context that the idea for Kenari was born.
We aspired to design a model for a massively scalable local food system.
Our vision was expansive, our goals ambiguous, but our purpose was clear – to create vibrant neighborhoods around food. We started by prototyping in our own neighborhood on an 11-acre piece of land. Our process was open and collaborative, gathering stakeholders of all stripes around the table: city councilmen, urban designers, backyard farmers, real estate developers, educators, and neighbors.
The idea of having a working farm in the middle of a neighborhood was an appealing one to all – a productive green space that would serve not only as a source for fresh food but also as an educational resource for children and their parents. The challenge was the economics. Land in the middle of suburbia was expensive and selling fresh produce was not lucrative business.
Many ideas were explored and we went to market with one: Kenari-branded food products, such as sauces, jams, drinks and relishes, whose core ingredients are grown at local urban farms, community gardens and hobbyist backyards; products made within the community using family recipes, and distributed via established retail channels.
Like many innovations, ours failed. The reasons were many – timing and under-capitalization being two of them. But the lessons learned from this venture are ones that I still savor and employ in my work today as a strategy consultant.
Team Leaders: Jonathan Hosseini, Zia Khan