Every time we had visitors from out of town our family would pack up and do the standard Ilavarasan San Francisco tour. This would involve driving to San Francisco, sitting in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, getting out at the Golden Gate Viewpoint, taking some pictures in the freezing wind, and then heading to Fort Mason for a trip to Ghirardelli.
We would wait in a packed line that snaked through the plaza. When we finally got to the end everybody would be so hungry that we would each order individual giant ice cream sundaes drenched with chocolate fudge.
After about five bites everybody realized how heavy their sundae actually was and we would beg each other to help finish what they ordered.
We ended the day stuffed beyond measure swearing off chocolate for good. I’ve lost count of how many times we did this loop, but every single time we made the same mistake at the Ghirardelli.
This past weekend I took a trip back down to San Francisco, but this time at a different chocolate factory.
My partner arranged a guided tour of the Dandelion chocolate factory located in the Mission district to celebrate her father’s birthday.
As we walked through the factory floor I was blown away. In the middle of the Mission district, blocks away from some of the bars I used to frequent, was a full fledged factory.
It contained a huge amount of raw material, heavy machinery, and a skilled workforce that was able to pump out sustainable, high quality products.
The tour itself was amazing. A lead chocolatier guided us through each step of the chocolate making process.
He showed us the base cocoa pods and walked us through how they eventually became the bars we held in our hands. Although it wasn’t great for our health, it felt good to eat chocolate that was local.
With its high premium on land values, the Bay Area is no longer a hotbed for manufacturing, specifically food product manufacturing. Still, the Bay is home to a number of sustainable food factories that prioritize environmental sustainability and social responsibility in their operations.
These factories are taking innovative approaches to reducing their environmental impact, while also supporting local communities and promoting social equity.
One example of a sustainable food factory in the Bay Area is the Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma, which is a certified organic dairy farm and creamery that produces milk, yogurt, butter, and ice cream.
The creamery is committed to reducing its environmental impact by using renewable energy, conserving water, and reducing waste. The milk is sourced from organic family farms in the region and its farmers are paid a premium price for their milk, which helps to support the local agricultural community.
Another example is Numi Organic Tea in Oakland, which produces a range of organic teas. Numi is committed to sustainable sourcing and production practices, and sources its tea from Fair Trade and organic certified suppliers.
The company also uses eco-friendly packaging materials and has implemented a number of energy-saving measures in its facilities.
Based in Oakland, Hodo produces organic, non-GMO tofu and other plant-based products. They prioritize sustainable sourcing and production and have implemented several sustainability initiatives, including using renewable energy sources to power their operations.
Shopping for food produced locally is an important way to support the local economy, promote sustainable agriculture, reduce environmental impact, and even build community connections. You might just run into someone who crafted your favorite chocolate bar.
By supporting local food producers, we can help to create a more sustainable and resilient food system that benefits both people and the environment. These are just a few that I’m familiar with, there are others around the Bay if you take the time to look.
Editor's Note: The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan, who grew up in Pleasanton. After a career in tech, he took a sabbatical to be a community organizer. He has continued to work in tech and shares his thoughts on the people, places and events that make up and shape the Tri-Valley.