Ten years ago, Cori Deans was given a dismal prognosis by her doctors, believing she would have to take medication for the remainder of her life in order to manage her Crohn’s disease. However, she decided to take her health into her own hands and sought nutrition as a cure, leading her to launch the rapidly-growing Small Town Cultures.
As she started to learn more about her digestive system, Deans followed an unconventional path that incorporated low-fiber foods and medications, but nothing was making much of an impact. With that, she stumbled upon Patient Heal Thyself, which gave her the guidance she needed. After adjusting her diet to nutrient-rich meals, integrating fermented items such as sauerkraut and kombucha, and cutting out stressors, her health quickly improved.
“I realized that many autoimmune diseases may be caused by the fact that we’re eating dead food,” she says from her home in the Adirondacks to Forbes. “Plus our vegetables are coming from soils that are dead, which doesn’t help, because they’re lacking in the good bacteria. Fermented foods, however, are the opposite of that. They’re full of life.”
Within a short time, Deans witnessed her issues disappear. Now, she can eat whatever she likes and remains an admirer of fermented vegetables. She became more educated about the probiotic nature of foods like sauerkraut and decided to prepare it for herself. “Most pre-packaged versions are pasteurized and you don’t reap as much of the advantages,” she elaborates.
In 2017, Dean started her veg box business as a side venture while still holding down her full-time job as a massage therapist. The jars of fermented veg she was creating were having a positive effect on her, yet the quantity was too much for her to consume alone. That is when she started giving them out to her family and friends and their positive feedback was enough to motivate her to start her own business.
Dean’s fermented jars soon made it into the hands of a local food distributor, who happened to be making a run to Cedar Run, a specialty market located in her hometown of Keene, New York. The distributor liked what he saw, and before long Dean’s product was in stores all around.
The sudden surge of interest presented Dean with new challenges; never before having managed a team or ran a business, she found herself learning on the job. In order to meet the high demand, Dean was required to search for a larger facility and revise her offerings. Her ingredients needed to come from a local food ecosystem, but due to the quantities needed it would have been unethical to solely rely on foraged food. So, Dean opted to source mostly from upstate New York farms – with the exception of lemons. These foods have not travelled great distances or been treated to keep them fresh, so they still have a healthy colony of bacteria – something Dean believes is vital for gut health. Hydroponic vegetables, which have had no interaction with soil and the microbes living in it, would not work for fermenting, she explains.
Currently, Small Town Cultures is present in 400 stores and employs 10 people, with an imminent expansion to 40 more Whole Foods locations. To finance this development, Deans has secured one million dollars in angel funding. She desires to make these traditional, beneficial fermented foods both more attractive and cost-effective for consumers, hoping that just a tiny bite of the product each day can produce lasting results, such as what she personally experienced after seven years of struggling with debilitating symptoms.
At the core of Deans’ mission is to build an environment which bolsters human wellness, even for those who are not experiencing any medical ailments. Through her products, she strives to revive an age-old dietary practice, adopted by many cultures across history, that is proven to be beneficial.