Amelia Saltsman had been writing about food for over 20 years when she penned and self-published the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook in 2007. She hoped it would sell well, but couldn’t have imagined the scope of the reception her book has since received.
Fortunately, her timing for this tribute to a popular regional market and its hardworking farmers coincided with a rising national interest in farm-to-table foods.
We caught up with Satlsman (pictured) to ask how she’s sustaining the growth of her small business as she juggles writing food articles, producing a TV program, giving radio interviews, offering cooking lessons, and more.
ISBB: What hat do you wear most: home cook, writer, teacher, or community member?
Saltsman: All of them! Everything I do stems from these areas. I’ve been writing and teaching about food for a long time, so that’s my first love. But being a journalist is followed closely by cooking for my family and friends, promoting the cookbook, being a member of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market community, and my other projects.
How’s the cookbook selling?
We’re in the middle of the fourth printing and have sold over 16,000 books. In the food world for a regional book that was self-published, that total is amazing. My goals in writing the book were to teach people how to shop at a farmers’ market, how to help them feel comfortable shopping for fresh foods, and how to cook simply and in season.
The book has taken on a life of its own on bookshelves and in stores because of the content and the message of having things in our lives that are simple, healthy, and sustainable. I feel thrilled and blessed to be given the opportunity to speak to my passion which is very satisfying to me.
Do you promote the book much?
My work is not to promote the book, but what’s in the book. I’ve been in the publishing world long enough to know how big an accomplishment this is. I know that the most successful small businesses are the ones that come from a place of authenticity. It’s all about believing in the message, whether you’re in the food world or not.
Is a sequel in the works?
Not yet, but I’ve wanted to step into the digital waters, so I’m creating a series of seasonal entertaining mini-books that can be downloaded for $5 each. This project is a stepping stone into a possible sequel.
The idea behind the ebooks is how to put a whole meal together with shopping lists and a countdown for party planning. The first will be summer entertaining menus from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, plus some new material. I want to have the virtual medium provide something that a physical book can’t, so I’m adding new photography with recipes from the current book to make complete menus with well-balanced presentations, flavors, and foods. It’s about how to relax and entertain without worrying.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve encountered in the farm-to-table world?
The biggest challenge is the misperception that shopping at a farmers’ market is expensive. It can be, but you’re still getting better value per dollar for freshness, quality, and certainly, preservation of the land. The reality is that a farmers’ market is less expensive than you would think because when supply is high and it needs to move, costs come way down.
Also, many people still have questions about what the farm-to-table life is, as well as a fear of trying something new like a green tomato or a white zucchini.
With such a busy schedule, how do you solve the problem of being in several places at once?
I’m still working on that one, but what I’m learning is that’s it’s best to be in one place at a time to be in the moment. It’s much more satisfying and much less hectic.
Who’s your favorite vendor at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market?
I have several, but my favorites are any passionate farmers who grow for flavor first. When they do that, they let me see how they farm, their land practices, their freshness, the safety of their foods, how easy they make my life, and the never-ending list of interesting foods I can find. They all bring me so much pleasure.
For more information, or to subscribe to her mailing list, visit Amelia Saltsman’s website