Cheri is a humble, kind, and tenacious force of nature. It was an honor to have the chance to interview her and hear more about her story. We covered the following questions/topics on our show. Enjoy!
I am always fascinated by businesses that are started in someone’s home, particularly when they involve transforming a well-established path, like teaching, into something entirely new, like manufacturing products from indigenous plants. Can you describe for us how you came to create Cheri’s Desert Harvest?
Your crews hand harvest 40 tons of fruit per season, which is all processed locally at your facility. You are also the only company to produce prickly pear seed oil in North and South America. Why was it important to you to keep the manufacturing here in Tucson, and how did you figure out the manufacturing process for something no one else is doing?
Becoming a good cook who is able to create original recipes is largely a matter of trial and error. I imagine that’s even more true when your primary ingredient is prickly pear cactus! What is your process for developing a new recipe? How do you first get the idea, and then how do you go about creating something that you can produce on a mass scale?
As someone who likes to cook, I’ve come up with some really weird experiments. Let’s just say that broiled kiwi is not the carmelized slice of deliciousness I thought it would be. I imagine you’ve had some strange concoctions yourself over the years. What’s a story of a recipe you were working on, and the result was not what you had in mind? And what has been the most important thing you’ve learned from those kinds of mistakes?
I think now more than ever, consumers are beginning to align their purchases with their values. Even in this era of political divide, I know both progressives and conservatives who see the need to reduce their eco-footprint. This seems particularly true for millennials, who are environmentally conscientious and are also now the largest living generation of consumers. You practice a much-needed and highly innovative philosophy that you call Waste To Profit. Can you describe for us what this means and how you’ve incorporated this in your business?
My next question was inspired by one of our listeners, Liane, who is a cook and loves your products. In keeping with the theme of being eco-friendly, there are a lot of non-indigeneous plants that seem here to stay. They consume water and many people aren’t aware of their culinary potential, so they don’t get repurposed into anything. Do you work exclusively with indigenous plants, or would you consider using something like “ornamental oranges” in your jellies?
For those listening who are thinking of expanding their brand and reaching further into the retail market, I’m curious about how you took your business from your kitchen to the shelves of Whole Foods and upscale resort gift shops. In addition to incredible perseverance, how did you do it?
You serve on Tucson’s City of Gastronomy Board of Directors, which was responsible for obtaining Tucson’s UNESCO designation. What exactly is the UNESCO designation and why is it significant for Tucson?
You can connect with Cheri’s Desert Harvest on https://cherisdesertharvest.com, https://www.facebook.com/CherisDesertHarvest, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/cheri-romanoski-532a677b/.
Cheri mentioned during our interview Mission Garden Project, which is a re-creation of the Spanish Colonial walled garden that was part of Tucson’s historic San Agustin Mission. Located on its original site west of downtown Tucson at the corner of Mission Road and Mission Lane, the Garden features heirloom Sonoran Desert-adapted fruit orchards and vegetable gardens interpreting 4,000 years of agriculture in Tucson. For more information visit http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org/.