February 15, 2017TRI-CITY AREA — Their baked goods already contain Michigan grown products but Achatz Handmade Pie Company want to source those ingredients from their backyard here in southeast Michigan.
Last year the company sent letters to Michigan farmers proclaiming they wanted to utilize more locally grown fruits, berries, vegetables, eggs and herbs in their well-known pies, cookies, jams and jellies.
The company, founded more than 20 years ago by Dave and Wendy Achatz of Armada, now boasts five retail locations in the Metro Detroit area where they sell more than 80 varieties of sweet and savory pies and baked goods.
"When we first started the business 24 years ago, making pies in our kitchen,
most everything we used from local farms," Wendy Achatz said.
"Ninety percent of the fruit we used came from within a 10 mile radius."
But as the business grew along with demand for their products, Achatz said the company was forced to source fruit from outside of the area to meet their volume needs.
The pie company already utilizes 10,000 pounds of rhubarb grown by Armada's Don Vanhoutte and looks to incorporate more local produce, eggs, herbs and meats in their products.
Currently, the company purchases a half million pounds of sliced apples and cherries annually from farms in West Michigan. In the Achatz's minds that's not an ideal situation for financial and ideological reasons.
"We want to go back to our roots and work one on one with local farmers, not brokers and suppliers," she said.
"We want to encourage more people to get into farming."
Part of the company's strategic plan for 2017 is to become more lean, she notes, and cutting out the shipping costs to haul that fruit across the state is one way to accomplish that.
Besides being local, the company is looking for growers who abide by standards they deem 'sustainable.'
"We want to work with farms that go beyond organic, those that practice permaculture—farming that's not hurting the earth," Achatz said.
She said they believe monoculture crops, including wheat, is "not a real healthy situation for the soil."
As the popularity of their savory pot pies grows, the company is also seeking alternative sources for chicken and beef.
"We use a ton of chicken and would love to have a source for chickens where the animals are pastured and can be in the sunlight and stretch," Achatz said.
"We also want to move towards grass fed beef. We don't want to be purchasing from the big feedlots...we don't want to support that kind of stuff anymore. We feel we can make an impact through our purchasing."
Additionally, suppliers must also have a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan in place if they seek to sell product to Achatz.
As a level 2 Safe Quality Food certified
bake house, the company wants all ingredients to
be inspected and traceable in case of a product
Achatz said that their staff is able to help growers with the HACCP process if needed.
For more information, contact Joann Austin at email@example.com or call company headquarters at (586) 749-2882.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.