Small Axe Peppers elevates traditional business model with community garden

Small Axe Peppers aims to spice up the typical small business model with community gardens across the country.

The Bronx-based business began donating Serrano pepper seeds to seven community gardens in the Bronx in 2014. As of October 2022, it now donates seeds and then buys back locally grown peppers from more than 122 community gardens across the country, totaling 15 tons of peppers.

Despite its local roots, Small Axe Peppers’ CEO said it wasn’t immune to major headwinds affecting some of its biggest rivals, including ConAgra (CAG), Kraft Heinz (KHC) and Campbell Soup Company (CPB).

“Like many businesses in this day and age, shipping costs have gone up and we’re adjusting some of them [cost]. We’ve made some upward price adjustments to our distribution partners to ensure our costs are in line with what we have to bear in this new environment,” CEO John Crotty told Yahoo Finance (above). video).

Small Axe Peppers Hot Sauce is made from peppers grown on American community gardens and urban farms.  (Courtesy: Little Axe Chili)

Small Axe Peppers Hot Sauce is made from peppers grown on American community gardens and urban farms. (Courtesy: Little Axe Chili)

At the end of each harvest, the company buys back peppers for about $83,000, but that number could increase this year as commodity, transportation and labor costs rise.

According to the latest August 2022 Consumer Price Index (CPI) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the cost of fresh vegetables is at a record high.

“The premiums for these gardens are still much higher than before, and there are more gardens this year than in years past,” explained Crotty.

The trek to transport all the peppers back to the production facility in the North Bronx to make the hot sauce can be expensive. In August, natural gas costs fell 10.6% month-on-month, but still rose 25.6% year-on-year. After the OPEC+ meeting on Wednesday announced plans to cut crude output by 2 million barrels per day this fall, natural gas prices are now rising again, according to AAA. Currently, the national average price is $3.89 per gallon.

Despite the impact, Small Axe Peppers is determined to bring this model to more community gardens, or “oasis spaces” in cities as Crotty calls them. These peppers are now grown in more than 42 cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and more. There is also an ever-expanding list of regional products, including Serrano pepper seeds for customers to grow themselves.

According to Crotty, word about its mission is spreading fast. “It’s amazing how many gardeners across the country know people in the Bronx, so as the model expands, so does the word of mouth.”

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @Brooke Di Palma Or send an email to

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