Remembering the People Along the Way

Written by the team at Taste the Local Difference for the 2022 Local Food Guide.

Empty store shelves, high grocery bills, and ‘Now Hiring’ signs on every corner mark what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as a 40-year high in the Consumer Price Index of Food. Rohani Foulkes of Folk and Candi Fentress of CWO Farms continually navigate the pressure of increased costs within their food businesses.

Collard greens and kale from CWO Farms. Photo credit: EE Berger
All photo credits: EE Berger

Rohani Foulkes, the owner and general manager of Folk, a café and market in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, scrutinizes the price of every item on her store’s shelves to make sure there is a balance between products that reflect their full cost and products that are more affordable. For example, she makes providing locally sourced milk as a commodity item a priority, regardless of profitability. “We want to make it accessible,” Foulkes says. “But the value to us as a dual café establishment is that is that we use the same milk in the waffle batter, and we’ve found this sort of balance between what is used in the market and café adds benefit. We have to be really mindful about that market mix.”

Folk opened in 2018 as a full-service restaurant, but discontinued its dine-in service in March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic. Despite the setback, Foulkes’ thoughtful menu and commitment to “supporting farmers and vintners who are focused on the environment” has given Folk a new identity as a specialty grocer, caterer, espresso bar, and wine shop.

For Foulkes, running a food business highlights the disconnect between consumer expectations and the true cost of what we eat. “We’ve been normalized into thinking food should be quick, cheap, and you should get more than you ask for,” Foulkes says. Folk challenges those expectations with a pricing structure that accounts for the cost of humane food production and service. “We often have customers say we’re too expensive. Our staff are paid well above minimum wage, [which] factors into what we pay for a product and how much we mark up an item. As an establishment, we are constantly explaining that.” She cites a general lack of education around food that leads consumers to overlook the stakeholders involved in getting food from field to plate. From farmers and packers, processors and distributors, to chefs and servers, Foulkes says, “We’ve forgotten about all the people along the way.”

Explore Rohani's curated boxes, seasonal cafe menu, wine selection and catering services in-person or online. Photo credit: EE Berger
Explore Rohani’s curated boxes, seasonal cafe menu, wine selection and catering services in-person or online.

One of those people is Candi Fentress, the entrepreneur behind Detroit-based CWO Farms and SheGrowz. Fentress knows firsthand what it takes to bring food from farm to table. She describes herself as “a farmer who likes to grow everything,” including vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, and cannabis. In addition to wholesaling, she processes her harvest into teas, tinctures, and CBD-infused balms and salves. These diverse product offerings sustain her businesses, which she runs with her husband, Mark. “That saves us,” she says of the value-added products, online sales, and partnerships with customers like Folk that fill revenue gaps during the farm’s off season.

Plants are more than a way to make a living for Fentress. She believes in “healing from the land,” and uses her expertise as an educator and Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener to connect with others and support the health of her community. “I like to make money off it, but knowing that it brings people relief is payment enough,” Fentress says. Her dedication has not gone unnoticed. Fentress received the Detroit Food Policy Council’s 2021 Food Power Community Choice Award. She calls it a “deeply moving honor because it signifies that the community knows what we’re about and they support us!”

Community support is essential for keeping small food and farm businesses everywhere afloat. So, how can we do more with our food dollars and uplift the food and farm businesses in our communities? “Eat from your zip code,” Fentress says. The way we treat the folks who feed us matters. Behind every bag of groceries and to-go box are people working hard, often under less-than-ideal conditions, to bring us our favorite foods. Through patience and purchase power, consumers can show appreciation for food system workers by remembering what Fentress says about the future of small food businesses like hers: “We can honestly only be as successful as our community allows us to be.”

Find Farmer Candi's products at her booth at Eastern Market or at her on-site farm stand. Photo credit: EE Berger
Find Farmer Candi’s products at her booth at Eastern Market or at her on-site farm stand.



1. Purchase directly from farmers and makers

2. Shop or dine at businesses that pay staff a living wage and prioritize local sourcing Tip: Look for the One Fair Wage logo and lists of local suppliers posted online

3. Shift your spending to smaller locally owned businesses


1. Write a positive (honest!) online review

2. Follow their social media accounts and “like”, share, and comment on their posts

3. Be kind in-person and online



Many restaurants follow a standard method of pricing that acknowledges the price of ingredients, overhead and business operating costs, and cost of labor. These aspects stack up, leaving the benchmark for profit on menu items around 10% of the selling price, but sometimes even less than that.

Rohani Foulkes, owner of Folk, consciously sources ingredients that allow her to follow the journey from farm to kitchen. Since its inception in 2018, Folk has been annually verified as a Good Food 100 establishment. This verifies that Folk’s sourcing practices aim to provide food that not only tastes good, but also is good for every link in the food chain.

Though Foulkes is often told her prices are too expensive, much of the profits are distributed back to her good food business partners.


Foulkes consciously sources ingredients that allow her to follow the journey from farm to her kitchen. Here’s the breakdown:

BREAD $1.40

2 slices of Zingerman’s Farm bread

JOURNEY: Farm » Processing » Bakery » Folk

EGGS $1.05

3 Grazing Fields eggs, frittata piece

JOURNEY: Farm » Distributor » Folk


3 oz. from Brother Nature Farm or CWO Farms

JOURNEY: Farm » Folk


2-3 oz. of veggies from CWO Farms or sourced through Cherry Capital Foods

JOURNEY: Farm » Folk


Including Michigan maple & dairy products, quinoa, and spices

Total Food Cost: $6.33

Selling Price: $16.00


  • 35.5% LABOR COST ($5.68)
  • 20% OVERHEAD ($3.20)
  • 39.5% FOOD COST ($6.33)
  • 5% PROFIT ($0.79)
Meal at FOLK Detroit. Photo Credit: EE Berger
The cost of this meal is $16, but FOLK’s profit is just 79 cents.