How It Began

Caitlin and Yi Wah

Yi Wah and Caitlin grew up eating from-scratch meals made by their mom, featuring a wide representation of cuisines from around the world. Quality ingredients, simple processes and lots of ferments were at the core of her cooking.

This love of funky, sour foods — and an appreciation of quality and community — laid the groundwork for what was to come next: Yi Wah was drinking with a few friends and decided to make pickles. A few weeks later, the fermented pickles were amazingly tangy, sour and flavorful. They were unlike any pickles we had ever tasted in the grocery store. Yi Wah bought a tent and started selling at a farmers market. Soon, Caitlin was home from college and Yi Wah asked his little sister if she would help out.

As Number 1 Sons grew, we added products and markets each year. We started with cucumber pickles in 2012, and began making sauerkraut later that year. The next year it was kimchi. A few years later, we brewed kombucha and added sweet pickles. The year after, it was hot sauce. In 2020, we launched Number 1 Sons Bakehouse — with Steph as head baker — so we could bring you our ideal bagel and more homespun baked goods.

We follow the seasons so we can buy vegetables directly from farms that we know and like. When we can no longer buy domestic pickling cucumbers directly from our farm, we switch to locally grown daikon radishes. Every fall, we make our fermented Chili Bear hot sauce with hundreds of pounds of local peppers.

We love farmers markets and selling directly to our customers; markets are a great place for community-centric food commerce. We also love delivering quality food directly to the doorsteps of our community, knowing that we’re putting revenue directly into the hands of small, mission-driven producers like us. We're proud to serve 50,000+ customers every year in DC, MD and VA.

We introduced home delivery in 2020.

When we decided to do home delivery, we vowed not to commoditize people. We hired co-workers and purchased vehicles to make our deliveries, rather than leaning on an app or service that aggregates and anonymizes people as "contractors" without benefits or protections. We’ve made healthcare available to our full-time crew. We’ve raised wages across the board. We’ve shared company financials with all staff. When the pandemic began we set up trades with farmer partners so crew on-farm and at Number 1 Sons had access to nourishing food. And, thanks to the kindness of our home delivery customers, we regularly have a generous tip pool to share amongst the crew. We’re proud of what we built and honored to continue serving our community.

On sourcing

We exist in a world where large, subsidized industrial food systems that operate with a short-term and anonymous perspective about community and the environment are the status quo.

But thankfully, when you build a business around local and regional produce, you meet a lot of great people. We’ve cooked and eaten with many of the farmers and makers whose products we carry. We’ve been to their farms, seen how the sausage is made (wonderfully and deliciously) and know that each does their part to create a better system that benefits all involved, from the worker to you, the eater. We've had honest conversations about the joys and challenges of participating in the food system, and the communities we have now and hope to help create.

We believe all involved in changing the status can and should earn a fair living. We all constantly look for ways to do a better job — that's an enjoyable and endless puzzle — and deliver that. We will alway have discussions about this internally, and with every farmer and make whom we work with. This will always be rooted in mutual cooperation and will never be a demand to accept less than they feel their work is worth.

Read more about who we work with.

On sustainability

In addition to building our business to be sustainable for all workers involved, we seek to be good to the environment. We source from farmers we know and trust. We visit the farms to see how your food is grown.

Our vegetable boxes are harvested to order. Reducing waste starts with valuing the work of the first person in the chain. We ask for farmers to grow and harvest only what will be eaten. This is an honest bounty that gives the highest and fairest value to all involved.

A conversation over donut holes with the families of the Path Valley Farms Coop revealed a shared desire: less plastic. We dramatically reduced packaging in our veggie boxes. All agreed that less plastic and less time packaging into plastic is better for the environment and family time for small farmers.

We’re always thinking about ways to reuse resources, such as implementing a glass bottle return for milk and our kombucha. We love to close loops in the food system and minimize waste. That’s why you’ll find spent gin botanicals from our neighbors at One Eight Distilling in some of our ferments, and why resident baker Steph turns Number 1 Sons Bakehouse Bagels into tasty, crunchy bagel chips.

And we’re always happy to discuss sustainability, farming techniques and the whole system with you. It’s the only way to build a mindful community — together.

- Yi Wah, Caitlin and The Number 1 Sons crew