by Lynn Olson, Cooperative Services Manager
Just as Go Macro’s Amelia Kirchoff and her husband Richard planned to retire in 2000, the two struck upon and purchased an idyllic piece of property in Wisconsin’s most scenic western driftless region. For Amelia, their new farm in Viola (named Posilippo--Greek for “pause from pain”) evoked memories of the farm in England where she was raised and where her parents ran a bakery.
Today, just a short commute across their farmyard, Amelia and three bakers keep pace with this young company’s growing production needs. It is in this busy bakery that all of Go Macro’s cookies and bars are made and shipped to order.
An unexpected opportunity
After being diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma in 2003, Amelia and her daughter, Jolanta Sonkin (who is the other co-founder of Go Macro), immediately began researching alternatives to heavy regimens of long-term, cancer-fighting drugs. By the time Amelia was finally offered the option of a five-year course of tamoxifen, she was feeling much better and had found great satisfaction with a macrobiotic approach to treating her body. She had a lumpectomy and a brief round of radiation, but ultimately declined to take the tamoxifen. A daily yoga practice and a macrobiotic diet leaves Amelia feeling great today, and she marvels at how much energy she has to carry out the tasks of running this vibrant new company.
After Amelia’s health improved and she settled into her new macrobiotic lifestyle, she wanted to reincorporate the occasional dessert item into her diet. In 2004, she began baking bars, cookies, cakes and pies following macrobiotic principles. She dropped them off for a quick test at Sherwyn’s Natural Foods on Chicago’s north side. Demand for the product was so great they knew they were on the right track. Soon after, Amelia set up the bakery on the farm while Jolanta began the task of marketing the company from her home, which is now located in San Diego, California.
Keeping up with demand
In 2004, after they converted one of Posilippo’s barns into a licensed bakery for their new company, the farm began to resemble her family farm even more. The rapid growth in popularity of the Go Macro products in just the first year and the struggle to keep up with the bakery’s capacity since starting out with a small 12-foot by 20-foot space resulted in converting further back into the old barn. She says, “We had to put in a new floor, new walls, ceiling, everything, electricity. Now, that is too small, and we are now opening and expanding all the way to the back of the barn.”
With assistance from the Richland County Development Committee, Go Macro, a woman-owned, minority business, was recently awarded a low-interest loan to purchase a new wrapping machine. Most of the other equipment used in the bakery has been bought second-hand as the owners try to keep their quality of the ingredients high while keeping other overhead expenses low.
The principles of macrobiotics
This intentional approach to balanced eating—macrobiotics—has been in practice for centuries and has emerged again in recent decades as an option for treating a long list of common ailments or diseases. “I think at the beginning it was probably difficult,” Amelia says of switching to macrobiotic eating, “but I think it was made less difficult by my having cancer at the time. When you have a serious illness, it’s not that difficult to do whatever it takes when you feel that it’s a matter of survival.”
The Go Macro website (www.gomacro.com) includes a brief history of macrobiotics but perhaps could best be summed up by listing the five key principles of macrobiotics which appears on all of Go Macro’s packages:
1. Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.
2. Sodium and potassium are the primary antagonistic and comple- mentary elements in food. They most strongly determine its yin/yang quality.
3. Grain is the staple food of man.
4. Food should be unrefined, whole and natural.
5. Food should be grown locally and eaten in season.
It’s what’s inside that counts
Using only whole grains, fruits, vegetables and grain-based sweeteners, macrobiotic cooking uses no dairy or refined sugar. Primarily selecting fresh ingredients from Wisconsin, including brown rice syrup, maple syrup and whole-wheat flour, Go Macro prioritized quality organic and non-GMO ingredients even before receiving organic certification from MOSA on January 1st of this year. “The health aspect has been important to us and it is important in our products and in choosing the best quality ingredients,” says Amelia.
A fresh as can be
“People like the fact that...what you are eating is a home recipe,” Amelia said, “And one of our biggest selling points is that we have no inventory here. We make it and we ship it, so it sits here maybe just for a few days and it goes out. So we really have to juggle our [production] in order to keep all the orders going out and not build up too much inventory because of that shelf life. We’ve managed it and customers like the fact they’re getting a fresh product.”
Try one for yourself
Willy Street Co-op is pleased to feature Macrotreats Cookies (in the cookie aisle) and the MacroBars (in the candy aisle).