It all started when my partner's parents were visiting for Christmas one year. They are methodist missionaries in rural Tennessee and focus on building leadership among youth and economic development with farmers who can't sell their tobacco anymore. They started the Clinch Powell Community Kitchen and the Applicacian Springs Coop to support farmers who were making value added food products (i.e. jams, jellies, salsas, etc.) to generate income. Every time they visted they'd bring me a box of the products the farmers were making and every time I'd request sweet potato butter.
About three years ago I asked for a case of sweet potato butter and I was told that the farmer stopped making the product but I could buy the expired jars. I started asking questions and the last question I asked was can I buy the business. To my surprise the Coop owned the rights to a sweet potato butter recipe, which I bought. Then I grabbed two trusted friends to start this business and social enterprise.
Cunninghams Farms isn't a farm in the proper sense of the term farm. Our mission is to create jobs in rural Tennessee, where there aren't many by producing sweet potato butter. Every few months we hire people my mother-in-law identifies as really needing a job and pay them a living wage to cook up so good old sweet potato butter. I also get my hands dirty and one of my faviorate expereinces was peeling 600 lbs of organic beauregard sweet potatoes. It is a farm in the sense that we create community by meeting needs with friends, family and around the table.
There is so much to tell about this project. Suffice it to say that Ben Olsen of DC United is a fan of the butter (see picture below) and Zingerman's will be carrying the butter in their holiday catalog. Check us out on Facebook or our website for a pie recipe and let me know if you'd like to come down and help cook up a batch!
(Ben Olsen autographed jar!)