Dawn Beltrami grew up on an organic hippie farm in Oregon before eventually making her way to Charlotte. She is the owner of The Hippie Kitchen, a privately owned company which distributes organic, diabetic and gluten-free products to private clients as well as local Davidson farmers markets. She started The Hippie Kitchen in 2007 after returning from France with her son, who has Juvenile Diabetes. "[While in France,] I was once again exposed to organic foods and also farm fresh foods," she says. "I started noticing that my son's blood sugar numbers were always great." After the realization set in that processed foods were the culprit to her son's dips and spikes in blood sugar, Beltrami went back to her organic roots.
Creative Loafing: What does the term "hippie" mean to you, and what did it mean to your family?
Dawn Beltrami: My parents were real hippies. They embraced everything of the hippie lifestyle. The only thing they didn't get involved with was protesting. They were active in their political beliefs, but they weren't burning bras or draft cards. I really think that the "hippie" ideology for my parents was living off the land, not being dependent on the government.
I don't live a "hippie" lifestyle of free love and long hair and no makeup, but I do try to the best of my ability to live a "clean" lifestyle. I would say that [my family and I] eat 90 percent organic, and 75 percent of that comes directly from local farms. We support all businesses in the Charlotte area that try to be "farm to fork." We recycle and are very vocal about our planet and the state that it's in. I'm involved with organizations that advocate our beliefs and try to help make it a better world. So in a way, I'm carrying on my parents' beliefs but in a more 2011 way.
Have you ever eaten non-organic food?
When I moved to NYC, I went completely off of what my parents raised me on. I ate whatever I could, whenever I could. I remember the first time I had a DOVE bar. I was addicted immediately. I don't know if I noticed a difference in taste and texture then, but I do now. Food that is commercially produced does not taste like the product that it's supposed to be. When you eat an organic, farm-raised tomato, you will finally realize what a tomato is supposed to taste like. It is not supposed to be mushy, have no flavor and no texture. It is supposed to taste like the sun — it should be slightly acidic in your mouth but at the same time sweet.
Have you come across any customers who confuse the term "hippie kitchen" for a loose translation that you sell products that are laced with marijuana?
Yes, but mostly in a joking manner. It especially happens when I sell my Funkadelic Brownies. The name alone will raise eyebrows. They are brownies that are half brownie and half chocolate chip cookie. People love buying them because they taste really good but also because of the name.