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Inspiring Conversations with Laraina James of Mountain Girl Pickles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laraina James.

Hi Laraina, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am a fourth-generation canner. I started canning while working at a restaurant in Nederland, CO. The restaurant used a variety of pickled veggies in their Bloody Marys. One summer, my dad was out to visit and we started talking about our family history of making pickles. The owner of the restaurant got involved and asked if we could make some pickles for the restaurant. I accepted the challenge and produced a pickle that we added to the famous Bloody Mary we served.

​People started really enjoying the new addition to the Bloody Marys and began asking if they could purchase more from me. This is how Mountain Girl Pickles was born! In 2014, I started making more pickles and added other great pickled vegetables to my line up such as Pickled Okra (my favorite), Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Garlic, Pickled Asparagus, Corn Relish, Pickled Brussel Sprouts, and Pickled Beets.

As the popularity of my products grew, I started selling at local farmer’s markets and holiday markets across the Front Range in Colorado. My pickled vegetables were a hit! I continued to grow and expand into more markets, and finally onto store shelves. I am now in over 10 farmer’s markets and 17 stores across Colorado, and in stores nationwide including Natural Grocers and Jax stores.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Some days were easy, some extremely hard. There’s ups and downs but you learn how to handle them all. Keeping a positive attitude and surrounding myself with great people definitely helps. I employ a few great friends in the kitchen that make my life way easier, helping me with all the aspects of the business so that we share the work together to make it all come together.

I’ve learned patience goes a long way. Sometimes things don’t happen how you plan, and that requires new plans and new solutions, and of course time. I juggle all these obstacles, as well as figure out all the daily moves. Things have to be figured out on the fly, so we problem solve and move forward.

We’ve been impressed with Mountain Girl Pickles, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We specialize in Colorado’s finest pickled products, made fresh from seasonally locally sourced produce. Our pickles are shelf-stable, vegan, gluten-free, preservative-free, sugar-free (all except Corn Relish) and delicious! Every jar is handcrafted with our special spice blend at our kitchen in Boulder, CO. Our product line includes Garlic Dill Pickles, Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Garlic, Pickled Okra, Pickled Brussel Sprouts, Corn Relish, Pickled Beets, and Pickled Asparagus. We recently won a 2022 Good Food Award for our Pickled Okra and accepted the award in San Francisco in March.

Mountain Girl Pickles is a small, locally-owned, woman-owned and operated business in Boulder, Colorado. We love working directly with local farms and producers to obtain the freshest vegetables for our products. We offer our pickles at farmer’s markets, locally-owned shops and stores, and larger retailers such as Natural Grocers and Jax. Our products are available nationally through small businesses and restaurants.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
The pickle industry has definitely grown exponentially over the past few years. Especially during the pandemic, people became more focused on making their own food at home, experimenting with fermenting foods, pickles, canning. Mason jars were flying off the shelves :)! So with this in mind, I see the pickle industry heading towards a more ‘natural’ direction. Quality ingredients, locally made, and from brands they trust. You can see the shift in the bigger stores towards these types of products with the generic name on them. I think the pickle industry is right in line with that.

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