Sandra Metzdorf, owner of With These Hands Natural Gourmet Foods, grew up on a coffee farm in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. There were no roads, she said, only foot trails leading to the next farm.
Residents were too poor to go to the grocery store and buy junk food, she said, and the entire community lived off the land.
"There was so much abundance around us," Metzdorf said. "When harvest would come, there would be plenty. Everyone shared what they had."
She remembers her grandmothers filling big pots with sugar cane and pastries and carrying them to share with the neighbors.
"We would receive what the neighbors had," she said. "No matter how little we had there was always more than enough."
To the farmers of Colombia, serving and sharing food is a spiritual act, Metzdorf learned.
"(They were) receiving the blessing of the land," she said.
After moving to the U.S., Metzdorf served in the military and worked in human resources for General Electric.
She married Joe Metzdorf, and the couple has three children, ages 16, 6 and 4.
Her husband was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base and was then transferred to the West Coast and eventually to Europe, where she did an apprenticeship with a respected German chef.
With Joe Metzdorf's retirement looming, the couple prayed for guidance, Metzdorf said.
"We want to be part of a community and serve," she said.
They also wanted somewhere their children could feel grounded, instead of being "shuffled around" military style.
That led them back to Sumter.
Metzdorf wanted to lay the foundation of a food service that is built on the legacy of her grandparents: receiving the blessing of the land.
To begin that foundation, Metzdorf founded With These Hands Natural Foods LLC and began operating a food truck that delivers gourmet foods made from natural ingredients to locations across Sumter and Shaw Air Force Base.
"We specialize in quick lunches, not fast food," she said.
She buys as many of her ingredients from local farmers as possible, she said, including from Marie and Maynard Dorr of Dorr Family Farm.
"I want to provide wholesome, home-cooked meals," Metzdorf said.
She said she is meticulous about her ingredients, which have no GMOs, food coloring or preservatives.
She makes her own sauces out of traditional ingredients, she said.
"I am not interested in producing 500 hamburgers," she said. "(I would) rather produce 50 really great meals."
The foundation of her menu is vegan, Metzdorf said, but customers can also add lean protein meats such as salmon, chicken or beef.
With These Hands operates Wednesday through Friday and at special events.
Metzdorf said she will be at the Food Truck Festival and the Caffeine and Gasoline Car Show at Cut Rate downtown. Each Friday she is at the USC Sumter Farmers Market, as well, she said.
For a full schedule, visit www.withthesehands.info.