If you live in the Triangle, you’re probably familiar with the farm-to-fork movement. It originated from a desire to know where our food comes from and how it ends up on our plates. The Triangle supports hundreds of food startups and local farmers that produce fresh, flavorful food.
One of those startups is re-imagining the farm-to-fork movement to include the spoon.
Big Spoon Roasters began in 2010 with founder Mark Overbay’s craving for handmade, fresh, roasted peanut butter and his hunch that customers valued freshness in all of their food, even pantry items usually picked up from the grocery store.
Big Spoon Roasters makes handmade nut butter and nut butter bars from scratch in Durham, North Carolina. The nuts are sourced from local farmers and are roasted and ground in a mill. Employees mix in other ingredients to achieve the desired flavor and, finally, the nut butter is packaged and delivered directly to customers.
About ten years ago, the first customers picked up a jar of nut butter from a single stall at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. Today, customers can buy a jar of any flavor, from peanut pecan to chai spice, at select Whole Foods stores or in specialty stores across the country.
The idea for Big Spoon Roasters began when Overbay lived in Zimbabwe as a Peace Corp volunteer in 1995 and 2000.
“The farmers roasted the nuts over an open fire and then used stones to crush the peanuts into freshly ground peanut butter, like a really fresh coarsely ground peanut butter,” Overbay said. “We put salt in it, a little local honey, coconut oil, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.”
After returning to the U.S., Overbay worked in corporate communications in food and nutrition. In 2005, he ended up in Durham at Counter Culture Coffee as the first full-time marketing employee.
The Triangle slowly became his professional and social community, a place from which he drew inspiration.
“I loved my job with coffee, but in coffee, you work with coffee farmers all over the world, and there is no coffee grain in North America,” Overbay said. “So we were working with farmers, but none of them were close. I wanted to do something that was more connected with local agriculture; I just didn’t really know what it would be.”
Inspiration finally struck in 2010 when he remembered the peanut butter he had in Zimbabwe and was inspired to recreate it.
Overbay immediately got to work and bought fresh peanuts and pecans, roasted them in the oven and ground them in a food processor with local honey and sea salt.
“Not to toot my own horn, but it was really, really delicious,” he said. “I thought, ‘I would buy this if it were available at a local store or farmer’s market.’”
The process hasn’t changed much, but the mission remains the same.
“Part of the ethos of our business is to make the best, most simple food possible,” Overbay said. “By simple I mean whole. We don’t use processed, laboratory-created ingredients; we use whole ingredients.”
Photos provided by Big Spoon Roasters