LFExcerpt: Hip Chick Farms

From this week's episode with organic food entrepreneurs Serafina Palandech and Jennifer Johnson. Donors of $10 or more receive open access to our transcript archives.

Laura: I don't suppose it came up at that dinner because you were probably being very polite. But there are policy changes that would help businesses like yours. Can you talk about some of them? Because some of the people who might be watching might be people who are in government or who are in position to actually make some policy change. Rush Limbaugh wasn't right in saying there's money flowing to lesbian farmers.

Serafina: No.

Laura: But there could be.

Serafina: There could be, yes. Certainly. I think that our experience is limited. We've only been in the industry for 3 and a half years. I can't speak to it as an expert by any means.

Laura: But there are presumably things that could've been easier for you.

Serafina: Access to capital for rural businesses. That's where we actually did access our, the VC money came through a program that Secretary Vilsack created. We're very fortunate to have that access stream. There's a lot of people in rural communities, in agricultural communities that don't have access to those kinds of resources that's greatly needed.

Just even some of the regulations around the access to kill facilities and poultry processing and how that's ... Folks want to do things locally, and there's not an ability to do it. There's a huge need for changes and shifts for how people can create meat and poultry products on a local basis. It's kind of a globalized industry right now. It's very expensive to get into it.

When we started, we were like well how hard can it be, we'll make some chicken fingers. Then we learned about the USDA ...

Jen: We did a Kickstarter for $25,000. That's it. We're good. We're done.

Serafina: No. We needed millions.

Jen: That was less than a drop in the bucket.

Serafina: You need a huge access to capital to get into this particular industry.

Jen: Owning your own meat company is extremely expensive. We didn't know, and I'm shocked we're still here today.

Laura: Talk a little bit more about the sexism in the business. I think we all, clearly, if this election has taught us anything, need to talk more about the sexism that we're up against.

Serafina: It was shocking to me. I was a women's studies major, I went to UC Santa-Cruz. My previous career was raising money for charities. I never in my life experienced the sexism and homophobia since starting this business. It is astounding to me. It's a very male dominated industry, which I didn't know. I had so many experiences of just being talked at by men from the top to the bottom. We've experienced some real sexism in the stores that carry our products. They don't want to carry them because we're a women led company. It's been very real, and it's been very shocking to me, and it only makes me work harder and fight harder and be more vocal about what our experience is.

Laura: Was it shocking to you, Jen?

Jen: Well, one company ... No. I'm more behind the scenes.

Serafina: But as a woman chef.

Jen: As a woman chef, not really. I've had 2 jobs in my whole life, one at [inaudible 00:18:25], which is extremely liberal, and then one at the Getty home, which is extremely loving and kind and liberal. So not really.

Laura: But your beloved is going through this.

Jen: Absolutely. Another situation was a company in the Midwest wanted our products ...

Serafina: They had met a company at a food show. They loved our products, followed up after the show. Then they decided to decline to carry our products because we were lesbians. They'd met me in person, and they felt confident, and they liked our products. Once they realized that I was an out lesbian, they were unwilling to carry our products because I looked one way, and yet, I was still a lesbian. They were shocked by that.

Jen: Serafina has been seduced by many interested investors and met with them.

Serafina: So called investors.

Jen: So called investors, and they basically just wanted to talk about themselves and absolutely not interested in investing at all. They just wanted the attention. Overnights in hotels ...

Laura : You weren't seduced that far.

Serafina: No, I was talking with an investor for months, and we had gotten to the final term sheet.

Jen: He was going to fly to our home.

Serafina: I flew down to LA to finalize the agreement. When I arrived, he said, "Okay, great. I have our hotel room." It's just so infuriating.

Jen: Then didn't invest. Did not invest.

Serafina: Obviously, I got on a plan and flew home. It was just such an incredible waste and disregard for me as a person.


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