James-Olivia Hillman calls out to a market visitor.
“Would you like a sample?”
When the woman responds that she can’t eat grains, Hillman excitedly hands her a sample and declares all her products are in fact grain-free.
Elemental Cupcake & Pickle is new to the farmers market, but has already started making a big impact, specializing in grain-free cakes, cupcakes and cookies, using whole foods and healthy substitutions to create delicious treats that are free of chemicals and over processed ingredients.
“I started baking recently and it became quickly apparent that I couldn’t eat everything or give it all away,” said Hillman.
This led her to form a partnership with Caffe Luce and find people other than her family that also enjoyed her baked goods.
Hillman also teaches classes in making pickles, kimchi and other fermented foods. She shops primarily at Food Conspiracy Co-op and at local farmers markets. Her goal is to bring four different products each week to the Santa Cruz River Farmers Market at Mercado San Agustin, the only market she’s a vendor at. Often, this includes chocolate vegan cupcakes, lemon chia coffee cake and raspberry paisley cookies.
The Santa Cruz River Farmers Market holds a special place in Hillman’s life.
“It’s run by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, an organization close to my heart,” she says. “I grew up watching my mother feed the homeless and working with those in need around her.”
The local flavor and warm atmosphere makes it one of her favorite places to be.
Hillman spends Wednesdays and Thursdays getting ready for the market before she and her husband work the booth Thursday evening.
“It has a lot more to do with helping people discover how healthy and whole foods can be good treats, instead of simply trying to sell things,” Hillman says.
She enjoys participating in just the one market each week, drawing the analogy between keeping this hobby simply a treat, like a cupcake.
“Baking for me represents health, joy, and transformation,” Hillman said. “My life is about accepting your gifts, even if they don’t always seem apparent.”
She describes herself as a sugar fiend and has spent time trying to find a way to harness her sweet tooth into something positive.
“Solving this demon and being able to share beautiful, healthy food has made me a more confident person.”
She took what she saw as an unhealthy attribute and has grown it into a way that allows her to still eat cake for breakfast. Now that cake is full of healthy nutrients.
Elemental Cupcake & Pickle is a business that is led by enthusiasm for all things healthy, sweet and local.
“It is just a cupcake, but then again, it is so much more.”