The Kale Project

“Kale is the one food where after I eat it I feel happy, healthy, cleansed, and alive.”

One of the coolest things about being an expat is the people you meet and the community you create. Kristen Beddard from The Kale Project is no exception. Interested in her project and helping spread the word, I was able to sit down with Kristen and have a chat over a glass of wine.

Originally, I had met Kristen at one of The Kale Project’s events on accident. My friend and I wanted to try out the wine bar at Verjus (an awesome place by the way) and didn’t know that night was the debut event for The Kale Project. Not only were we pleased to find a menu full of kale, we were also excited to learn more about the effort to bring kale to Paris.

The skinny on The Kale Project

I am not sure it is because I come from the land of you-can-have-anything-and-everything-you-want or this term was just brought to my attention, but France has a term called légumes oubliés, or forgotten vegetables. I began to notice then when French colleagues didn’t understand my frustration when I couldn’t get a pumpkin spice latte or when I had to go all the way to the American specialty store to get canned pumpkin for pie. It was clear pretty quickly that the French did not share the American obsession with pumpkin. But this isn’t all Americans find themselves craving in Paris.It also seems that many people have forgotten about the delicious super-food, kale.

Herein lies the need for The Kale Project. Kristen not only realized kale had seemed to vanish from most “modern” French cities, but also decided to do something about it. Through The Kale Project, Kristen builds relationships with local farmers and educates them, (well, reminds them), about the benefits of kale and the need for it to be more readily available. She hopes that more markets will begin to sale kale and eventually Americans and French alike will not have to go on a search and destroy mission just to get their kale fix.

My chat with Kristen from the Kale Project

Originally from Pittsburgh, Kristen went from majoring in Communications at Penn State to working for a big advertising company in New York. After meeting the man of her dreams and getting married, they made the decision to make the big move across the seas to Paris for her husband’s job. Kale had always been a staple in Kristen’s life so as she got used to the Parisian life, she began to notice the absence of this healthy and delicious green. Labeled as one of the légumes oubliés, Kristen was a bit shocked that not only was kale not easily available, but also that many farmers and French people had no idea what it was. It really had been simply forgotten.

As a go-getter and used to the busy life of New York, Kristen immediately spotted a huge opportunity. It was around November of last year that Kristen had the idea to bring kale back to Paris and in April the idea officially came to life as The Kale Project. Her aim is to create a community around the need to have kale easily available in Paris. Through social media and word of mouth, kale has managed to create quite the demand.

Seeing how influential some bloggers can be, she began a blog in order to document the story and progress of The Kale Project as well as build momentum for it. She knew there was a demand, but creating a community would put the demand into action.

Gaining success faster than expected, Kristen has been pleased with the outcome of her efforts. She is constantly trying to get more farmers to grow kale, markets to sell it, and restaurants to showcase how to cook it. Some markets are known to even sell-out of kale and Kristen’s inbox is flooded with supporters sharing their kale experiences.

However, all this has not come with it fair share of challenges. Kristen says the biggest one by far is the language barrier. Still trying to master the French language, Kristen has received help from her husband as well as some of her friends. Though sometimes this isn’t always the case, even without complete fluency Kristen still manages to have meetings by herself and get the meaning of the Kale Project out there.

Besides overcoming the language barrier, Kristen also finds difficulty in explaining how popular kale actually is in surrounding countries and especially the United States. Farmers have completely packed schedules so may not be up-to-date on the newest social media trends. As kale is a forgotten vegetable, it is difficult to explain why it should come back. However, she has already found 4 different farmers to jump on the kale train in Paris.

So what is the future of The Kale Project? Kristen is hoping to move it into more of a business. She really wants kale to be easily accessible in the city. While it is great that kale is beginning to be sold again in markets, she hopes that one day it can also be found in grocery stores or natural food stores. Kristen is also currently working on bringing kale to surrounding areas of Paris and even as far as Nice. Another main goal of The Kale Project is educating people on how to eat kale. This veggie can be cooked in many ways and incorporated into countless meals. Kale is by no means boring!!

The Kale Project has truly added to Kristen’s expat experience and her favorite thing about it is the people she has met. She loves the connections she has made and the power of social media. Because of this and the community she has built, there is now a story around kale. People are really pushing for it to be in Paris and to be remembered as the super-food it is.

So what does Kristen enjoy doing when she is not spreading the joy of kale? You can find her running along the Seine. Or maybe spot her at one of her favorite restaurants in Paris–Verjus, Le Bal Café for brunch, or Issé. And if you are lucky, maybe you can attend one of The Kale Project’s events and taste incredible kale recipes at some of the hottest restaurants in Paris.

Get more information about The Kale Project check out the website, Facebook page, and follow The Kale Project’s efforts on Twitter.

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