Barn by Barn
Eileen Chiarello launches crowdfunding company to support “good food” entrepreneurs.
Briana Marie Forge
Eileen Chiarello is no stranger to good food. She and her husband, celebrated chef Michael Chiarello, have been creating restaurants, wine brands, and television cooking shows together for more than a decade.
Now setting off on her own, Eileen Chiarello has launched Barnraiser, an Internet-based crowdfunding company that supports “good food” artisans, innovators, educators, and farmers. She is rallying the digital revolution to promote change in America’s factory-to-table food production system, an industry she says is broken.
“Barnraiser will include anyone who is moving the needle in the right direction,” says Chiarello, as she drives from the company’s Sausalito office to her home in St. Helena.
Modeled after the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Barnraiser employs timed fundraising periods and leverages social media to spur donations. In exchange, funders are offered incentives: feel-good company swag, gift certificates, or even invitations to special events. Barnraiser keeps 5 percent of all donations as well as an additional 4 percent for credit card charges.
The company’s website went live last spring. An aquaponic farmer, a beekeeper, an urban teacher, and a fermentation specialist seeking financial backing were some of the first people spotlighted. Barnraiser tells their stories using wistful photography and compelling language, creating romanticized images of life on the land, and softening any hint of a hard sell.
The name Barnraiser refers, of course, to the tradition in some farming communities of neighbors gathering to build barns for one another. Chiarello and her panel of advisors believe the same community effort is needed to support sustainable-foods entrepreneurs who compete with agri-business farmers, she says.
“Barnraiser is about changing our food system, and we’re going to do it barn by barn,” Chiarello says. barnraiser.us.