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Article: A few (more than a few) words about Mast Market

A few (more than a few) words about Mast Market

Dear Friends and Family,

I know, this is a long email. Recklessly long (especially for a Friday). And I totally get it if you don't have time to read it - but I don't know if I have been this excited about something since my youngest son, Sawyer, and niece, Florence, were born 6 years ago. So much so that I thought I'd come out of hiding and tell you all a little bit about what my brother Michael and I, and our brilliant team have been heads down working on over the past two years. It's called Mast Market - and it's pretty great.

The first thing you are probably wondering is if we are still making chocolate. Of course! More than ever actually. Still crafting an entire collection of certified organic chocolate, right here, in-house, from 'bean to bar'. And it is available on the new site. The exciting news is that we have brought that same ethos to the entire pantry. Small batch, ethical sourcing, sustainable ingredients, handcrafted, slow foods. Now we are roasting coffee, milling flour, blending teas, churning butters, making jams, preserves, and even homemade ice cream. We are working directly with local farmers to bring you organic grains like heirloom popcorn, rice and farro, and heirloom beans for your autumnal soups and stews. All in one place. Look for local, seasonal produce, fresh pastas made from freshly milled flour, and a growing line of house brewed and bottled beverages. Come visit!

Here's how it all started. Way back in 2019 (a different world), our lease was up in Brooklyn. Ten years had gone by in a flash and we had collected a lifetime's worth of experiences and relationships there. Successes, failures, lessons learned but mainly beautiful memories. Our Brooklyn storefront was still being visited by thousands of folks per week but we couldn't afford the rent increases (3x) so we decided to search for a new space. After a relentless search throughout Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley we found a dream space in a small village in Northern Westchester called Mt. Kisco. The 10,000 square feet of space could easily contain our dream of kitchens, a shipping warehouse, a little office, and a beautiful storefront. The perfect place for us to start our new chapter. Plus, I had already moved to nearby Bedford several years ago with my wife and two kids (my brother and his family did the same) so the commute would sure beat driving into Brooklyn everyday. The rent was manageable, there was a train station next door, and the community overwhelmed us with hospitality - big scissor ribbon cutting with the mayor and everything!

It was a big move. A chapter was ending and making way for a new chapter to begin. It is a place in life that I have learned to lean into. We asked ourselves lots of questions: What do we love to do? What are our failures? What did we set out to do in the beginning? How can we best serve others? What do we care about the most? What scares the heck out of us? What do we love to eat? And on and on. We put our heads together, and sketched out a five year plan. We answered our questions: We love family. We have failed at scaling food production. We set out to connect our community to how their food is made. We can serve others best by making the organic pantry more accessible. We care about living a meaningful life. We're terrified of letting our family down. We love good bread. We also knew we loved making chocolate and realized that there would be no better training ground as we entered these new areas of making.

We have been sourcing, roasting, milling, making, packaging, and distributing for nearly fifteen years. We have surrounded ourselves with a nurturing local food community, experts in a variety of disciplines, for our entire professional career. It felt as if we were working towards this the whole time. We sketched out a five year plan with a singular mission, to nourish community. Fundamentally, this means that we must always center the health and wellness of others. We first have to identify where help and nourishment are needed and where we are best fit to serve. We quickly decided to focus on supporting healthy local food systems. We'd center farmers, diversity, education (our own), sustainability, food justice, food security, and the arts (community nourishment isn't only from food).

Our commitment will be to produce food that is sustainable, delicious, beautiful, and accessible. We will match purchases with a donation to our local food pantry. We will work directly with farmers, make what we can in-house, and try and keep the prices affordable. All of this will be done to nourish community. "We sketched out a five year plan, with a singular mission, to nourish community." Then boom.

Shortly after we opened our brand new facility in Mt. Kisco, the pandemic swept through New York, devastating our community, taking friends and family members lives, and like everyone, leaving us feeling out to sea with no sight of land. At first, all of our planning for the future seemed almost silly. We were reminded of the Mike Tyson quote, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth". I'm not entirely sure where I heard it first, but someone had said that with coronavirus, "life isn't just changing, it is accelerating." It deeply resonated with me and evidence of this seemingly prophetic truth was everywhere. Racial injustice, food insecurity, wealth disparity, centralization of commerce, poor health, technological advancement and dependence, but also compassion, empathy, connecting back to the land, spending time with family, rerooting faith, cooking and eating together at home reemerged as the norm. As a company we applied this slogan to our own response to coronavirus by turning our five year plan into a five week plan.

Our community needed us and we needed them. We immediately got to work milling local grains, roasting coffees, stone milling almond butters, making homemade jams, and providing local milk. We reopened our market with an additional 200 new food items. We curated a thoughtful selection of book titles and magazines encompassing food, philosophy, faith, and the arts. All meant to nourish, educate, and inspire. We contacted local farmers like Oechsner Farms, Fishkill Farms, Battenkill Dairy, Small Valley Farm, Kriemhilde Farms, Hawthorne Valley, Samascott Farm, Madava Farm, Churchtown Dairy, and many others to start our work supporting a healthy, local food system. You can learn about them here. We'll do our best to keep this list updated regularly (Managing an ever growing list of farmers, ingredients, and products is truly only possible because of the brilliance of our colleague Areli Pino).

We also created a baker-in-residence program - Anne Mayhew of LMNOP is now baking exceptional sourdough bread with us Wednesday-Saturday. We established long term partnerships with the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Committing to making the organic pantry accessible to absolutely everyone and playing a small part in supporting the Met's reimagining of its next 150 years. We've been busy.

We are only just beginning and are clear eyed about the vast amount of learning we have to do, the challenges ahead, our strengths and our weaknesses. But I personally make this promise to you, we will always do our best to choose nourishing community. We will do whatever we can to serve others, supporting healthy local food systems. We'll lean into this passion and commitment which will serve to inspire our continued education, and practice. We've been at this for nearly 15 years now. We are in this for the long haul, and look forward to seeing what we can do together for the next 15. Come and visit! Enough rambling, time to get back to work.


With love and gratitude,
Rick Mast

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