Fixing the Food Chain from Farm to Summit

While a lot of us spent the early months of 2020 learning to make sourdough or finally giving in and downloading TikTok, Jane and Louise Barden decided to change the way we eat in the backcountry. Farm to Summit, the company the Barden’s founded, set out to create a dehydrated backpacking meal that was as delicious as it was fresh and nutritious. The goal was to bring fine dining, environmental conservation, and farm fresh ingredients together in a meal ready for any adventure, all while working to right some of the wrongs in our food system.

No one was more qualified to do this than the absolute power couple that is Jane and Louise Barden. With a shared passion for food and years of experience working everywhere from farming to fine dining, Jane and Louise understand food waste more than most. It’s this experience that made them determined to use their expertise to reduce waste while increasing access to fresh and nutritious meals on the trail.

Jane, a third-generation farmer with a mind for business, started her career bringing food from the farm to the table while Louise, a botanist used to spending weeks in the backcountry, was passionate about getting that food from the table to the summit. With their passions and expertise combined, Farm to Summit was born — along with the very apt tagline, “dehydrated meals that give a damn.”

Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

What sets Farm to Summit apart (their secret ingredient if you will) is their support for local farmers and use of upcycled ingredients.

Using upcycled produce in their meals is a brilliantly simple solution that addresses multiple issues. When farmers sell their produce to grocery stores, the fruits and vegetables are subjected to some pretty rigorous beauty standards, and only the pretty ones end up displayed in your local market. Anything that doesn’t fit the mold – up to 30% of any given crop – is either not harvested at all or thrown out to rot.

To reduce this waste, Jane and Louise search for imperfection, giving perfectly fresh and nutritious produce a chance to shine. Farm to Summit buys the lumpy and misshapen misfits not only from Jane’s own family farm, but from a myriad of family farms local to the Durango, Colorado area to ensure their meals are always made fresh. Their dedication to using upcycled ingredients reduces food waste, benefits the farmers who would otherwise be losing these crops, and provides their customers with all the nutrients from the farm on their way to the summit.

Just Add Water

Every Farm to Summit dehydrated meal is miles better than anything you’ve had before, with a taste just as delicious as you’d expect coming from two brilliant women who have worked in food and ecology their entire careers. On top of being totally satisfying, they also have an inclusive line of vegetarian options, instant coffees, and even a dehydrated sriracha powder you’ll want to order two of — one for your pack, and the other for your spice drawer at home. These meals aren’t just “good for a backpacking meal,” they’re thoughtfully balanced in flavor and are noticeably fresh. We all know that after a long day on the trail, calories in any form taste better, but Farm to Summit’s meals are just as good in your kitchen as they are at camp. It’s like a home-cooked meal away from home… just add water.

Leave No Trace

Jane and Louise didn’t stop their efforts to improve backcountry meals while reducing waste at the food. Instead, they’ve taken care to ensure that every aspect of their business, top to bottom, makes as little an environmental footprint as possible. Louise spearheaded the implementation of Farm to Summit’s omnidegradable packaging. Omnidegradable means that after you’re done with your meal, the packaging is recyclable, compostable, and is completely biodegradable. You can rest assured knowing the packaging will break down no matter where it ends up — but you’re still going to pack it out with you at the end of your trip, right?

The Search for Imperfection

Jane and Louise’s experience with Farm to Summit is a good reminder that imperfections aren’t always a bad thing. They’ve proven that imperfect ingredients can make for perfect meals, the same way imperfect elements can become the best and most memorable part of your trip. Jane and Louise were able to use the imperfections around them to change how we eat in the backcountry, all while reducing food waste and minimizing their environmental footprint. What can you do with the imperfections around you?

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