On my way home from Winter Fancy Food Show 2020, which now feels like light years away, I crossed paths with Drew Speroni, Farmer and Owner at Early Bird Farm and Mill. The world has since been turned upside down, so I was overjoyed to get a call from Drew last month telling me of the company’s explosive growth as of late. Early Bird recently entered a partnership with Renaissance Specialty Foods, bringing its line of premium flour to Whole Foods Market locations in Northern California and Reno, Nevada.
“I felt slightly leery of suddenly taking on such a big account, but we were able to come to a fantastic agreement,” Drew told me. “To keep up with this increase in business, we ended up getting a new mill and a new building in Grass Valley. So, now we’re milling flour not only for our regular local accounts, but for our new Renaissance account.”
Right now, Early Bird’s Hard Red Spring Wheat Flour and All-Purpose Flour are available at the region’s Whole Foods stores. Drew teased that shoppers will soon have access to Early Bird’s White Corn Polenta and Signature Pancake Mix available in a 12 oz package. Several other Early Bird products are available at wholesale, and the company is looking to launch even more, including a line of popcorn currently in development.
Early Bird is also launching a podcast in the next couple of weeks, which will include interviews with farmers the company sources from; interviews with bakers who use its products; and conversations about the farm, soil, grains, flour, and the ministry around Early Bird Farm and Mill. Additionally, the company plans to launch a series of breadmaking videos that will be posted on its website and YouTube channel. With those initiatives, Early Bird is targeting consumers, retailers, wholesalers, and even foodservice operators. All of this, according to Drew, is expected to drive even further growth for the company.
“When we move toward expansion across other Whole Foods locations, we’ll need to partner with another grower and open up a new mill closer to Southern California,” Drew explained. “We feel strongly about supporting local and regional food systems because we believe it maintains sustainability along the supply chain. We're definitely pushing for more widespread distribution, it’s just a matter of bolstering our network as we grow.”
Prior to this exciting retail growth, Early Bird began distributing its white corn polenta to restaurants all over the Sacramento Valley in partnership with Produce Express. The company is also deeply rooted in its philanthropic efforts, a point of differentiation that stood out to me from my first meeting with Drew.
“In addition to our mills, we have a one-acre market garden used for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription boxes as well as donations to Interfaith Food Ministry. We've got some kids in our community who come on Tuesdays and Fridays to help us with this program,” he said. “Since COVID hit and we gained this huge account, we were able to hire some of those kids to help us work in the mill, providing them with a summer job and work experience.”
With a track record like this, there is truly no telling how far Drew and Early Bird Farm and Mill will go. Stick around for more exciting updates from Deli Market News as we report.