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Conversations with Lisa Riznikove

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Riznikove.

Hi Lisa, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Foodocracy began as a passion project between two friends. For as long as we’ve known each other, food has been our common obsession. We met as many mothers do through our children. We bonded over food, wine and farmers’ markets. Wanting more sustainable and delicious food options for our families, we decided to team up with passionate artisans and create our own food revolution. We originally thought we’d create a food product but as we started exploring that we realized that there already were so many amazing small-batch products out there, they just weren’t getting attention. So we decided to use our big corporate marketing and advertising experience for the greater good. We founded Foodocracy as a non-profit corporation to help promote a more independent and sustainable food system. Foodocracy is for people like us who want to support local farmers and artisans and are determined to create impactful social change through their food experiences.

We are very proud to have launched a Taste of The Golden State box for the holiday that features sustainably grown food from family farms across the state. This box will help people discover amazing, hand-crafted food they won’t find in stores. It’s all food that is working towards restoring our soil and help our earth. Industrialized farm systems deplete the earth, robbing our top soil of nutrients. These small farms are working towards being fully regenerative, giving back to the land. From organic Whisky Spiced Walnuts to Award-winning olive oils grown on the tribal land of the Yocha Dehe Winton Nation, each item was selected for delicious taste, sustainability and ethical farming practices. This tantalizing box contains organically grown King City Pink Beans from Fifth Crow Farms in Pescadero, Award-winning olive oils from Seka Hills, farm to jar Piment d’Ville chili power from Boonville Barn Collective, organic Whiskey Spiced Walnuts from Old Dog Ranch, California Black Button Sage Honey from Moonshine Trading Company and Heirloom Herb and Flower Seed-Bearing Lollypops from Amborella Organics.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
We started by launching an e-commerce site where we could promote some of these small brands. We thought that with our backgrounds in marketing and advertising it would be a piece of cake. We forgot that we weren’t bringing our big budgets, big agencies or our assistants with us. It was so hard and we found out just what all of those small family-owned businesses were up against. It should have made us run for the hills but it just made us want to help even more. Every time we were about to quit, we’d go to a farmers market or a food event and some maker would tell us how important our work was and how much they appreciated it. It’s still a passion project. We don’t make any money on this at all, the online store really just breaks even because we spend every dime that comes in promoting farmers and makers. After a long career in advertising, I thought I had worked hard but I’ve honestly never worked harder than I am right now. I’m either nuts or dedicated or both, but I just keep working hard and introducing consumers to independent food.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
In my previous life, I was the president of an ad agency specializing in entertainment advertising. I was a pioneer in advertising for video games and spend over a decade working on everything from Guitar Hero to Call of Duty. One of the side effects of being in advertising is that you eat at really amazing restaurants all of the time. I’ve had the privilege of meeting famous chefs and dining all over the world. My passion for food led me to the sustainable food movement and Slow Food USA and then I was pretty much hooked. I like to say that Foodocracy is how I’m earning my way back into heaven after spending so many years advertising television shows and video games. I’m very proud of the work we are doing as Foodocracy. We are introducing so many consumers to the concept of Slow Food and what Alice Waters calls the Delicious Revolution. We want people to get to know independent farms and brands and then go seek them out in their own neighborhoods. We want to help these small makers compete with the industrial food system. We want to champion biodiversity and regenerative farming so that our kids have a healthy planet in the future.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I’ve lucky to have had many people mentor me over the years. I’ve completely changed what I do and I could not have done that without learning from a whole bunch of people and I’m still learning from them. If you are genuinely interested in something and you want to learn, I find that most people will be pretty generous with their time. I’ll always pass on my knowledge to whoever needs it. Knowledge is not something to be hoarded, it needs to be shared.

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