For Tess Beatrice, 22, a passion for health and baking was always in her blood. But the 2008 Saugerties High School graduate says it took traveling with her mother last summer to inspire her to become a professional baker. The two women were on what Beatrice calls an “existential trip up the West Coast” when they came up with the idea for Beatrice to introduce her baking abilities, under the moniker Sow Good Bakery, at the winter 2012 Saugerties Farmers Markets.
Not junk food
When Beatrice was younger, she suffered from an intolerance to lactose, gluten and heavily processed sugars. “I make food for people with similar health problems,” she says. “More and more people are developing health problems because of our industrialized food system.”
For Beatrice, it was important to create treats that she felt were nourishing. Part of that was creating several products that are raw – meaning unprocessed and uncooked – or that at least use some raw ingredients. “Raw food is the antithesis to the processed, industrialized food industry,” she says. “It keeps ingredients whole, intact, nutrient dense and as close to nature as they can possibly be. They are kept unrefined and therefore their energy can be most fully absorbed by that of the consumer.” She believes that raw ingredients are also often safer for people with intolerances like her own.
All of Beatrice’s products are gluten and refined-sugar free. In lieu of cane sugar or corn syrup, Beatrice sweetens her baked goods with maple syrup, coconut sugar, raw honey or Medjool dates. “For breakfast this morning, I had some treats leftover from the Saturday market,” she said. “It’s healthy, wholesome and cleansing. It’s stuff you can really eat anytime.”
Many, but not all, of Beatrice’s products are also appropriate for vegan and Paleo diets.
Growing up on the farm
Beatrice grew up on organic Cody Creek Farm in Saugerties. Her family bought it in 1992, and her father has been the lead farmer ever since. “I ate kale before it was hip,” said Beatrice.
According to her, this upbringing instilled in her an appreciation for local, fresh ingredients. “I get inspired by what we’re growing,” she says. As an example, she came up with the idea for a raw brownie with salted caramel and thyme, because thyme was growing on the farm and she simply wanted to use it.
This week, she’s made macaroons with lavender harvested from Cody Creek. Her vegan chocolate cupcakes come garnished with fresh mint springs from the farm as well.
Going to market, and beyond
The first product Beatrice introduced to the market was a gluten-free banana bread with raw cacao powder, homemade chocolate chunks, raw honey and extra virgin olive oil. “This is really just a trial run,” she said. “I wanted to test the waters before investing so much money. [If it didn’t work out] I would still do this, but maybe not professionally. Fortunately, the community has been receptive.”
With the success of her banana bread, Beatrice moved on to macaroons, blondies, cupcakes and truffles. But she wasn’t about to rely solely on the quality of her products for sales; she created a keen marketing strategy of using wordplay in her product names, just as in her company name. A love of alliteration birthed the ever-popular Brown Butter Blueberry Blondie, and a knack for combining unique flavors and clever rhymes manifested in the Shiso Miso Truffle. Beatrice says, “I always have to do something different.”
Success at the Saugerties Farmers Market soon led Beatrice to grow her business to other venues. In February, she introduced Sow Good to Sunflower Natural Market in Woodstock. A few months later, Sow Good began to appear on shelves at Lucky Chocolates on Partition St. Two friends from New York City – Louise Mojica and Aemen Bell – also helped Beatrice bring Sow Good to Commodities Natural Market in Brooklyn. They negotiated with the store owner on Beatrice’s behalf, and personally deliver Sow Good products on their regular trips to Brooklyn. Beatrice pays the couple in Sow Good products.
Sow Good as a springboard
So, what’s next for this young entrepreneur? Beatrice says she dreams of one day owning a “bed and bakery” — like a bed and breakfast, with a twist. In addition to a bed, and baked goods, this dream business would offer cultural events as well. She envisions an establishment that could host live music, yoga, group meditation sessions and community pot luck meals. Beatrice also wants to provide her guests with something she calls food therapy, at the heart of which lies “mindfulness eating.” She says eating should involve all the senses. A therapeutic approach to food aims to help the eater resolve food anxieties and feel good about food. According to Beatrice, food should be valued and appreciated for its pleasurable properties beyond what nutrients are biologically necessary for survival.