National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration that takes place across the United States to honor and promote the importance of farmers markets in local communities. This week-long event typically occurs in early to mid-August and is a time to recognize the vital role that farmers markets play in supporting local farmers, connecting consumers with fresh, locally-grown produce, and fostering community engagement.
In the heart of Davis, California, lies a vibrant and cherished institution that has stood the test of time—the Davis Farmers Market. As we celebrate National Farmers Market Week, we delve into the fascinating history of this local gem.
Definition of Farmers Markets
The USDA defines it as: “a multi-stall market at which farmer-producers sell agricultural products directly to the general public at a central or fixed location, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables (but also meat products, dairy products, and/or grains).”
History of Farmers Markets
Farmers markets date all the way back to Egypt over 5,000 years ago. Farmers along the Nile came together to sell their fresh produce.
The first farmers market in the United States opened in 1634 in Boston, Massachusetts. Many markets began following: Hartford in 1643, New York City by 1686, and Philadelphia in 1693, to name a few.
During the 1700s, 1800s, and the first half or so of the 1900s, grocery stores gained in popularity; consequently, interest in farmers markets fell. During the late 1970s, a peach harvest surplus inspired lawmakers to allow farmers markets in California.
The seeds of the Davis Farmers Market were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when five individuals—Martin Barnes, Jeff & Annie Main, Henry Esbenshade, and Ann Evans—found themselves united through friendship, political activism, and their studies at UC Davis. Under the mentorship of UC Davis rural sociologist Isao Fujimoto and his Alternatives in Agricultural Research Project, they developed a shared passion for sustainable agriculture and community-driven initiatives. In 1976, the trio of Henry Esbenshade, Martin Barnes, and Annie Main received approval from the Davis City Council to establish the Davis Farmers Market in Central Park.
Bolstered by the support of the Davis Food Co-op, which promised to buy any produce that farmers couldn’t sell, they embarked on a mission to connect local farmers directly with consumers.
Alongside the market’s growth, farmers and consumers began advocating for changes in State regulations that limited direct marketing of food. The efforts of individuals like Davis Farmers Market board member Les Portello contributed to the state Department of Food and Agriculture adopting regulations that created the nation’s first Certified Farmers’ Markets.
These new regulations enabled farmers to sell their products directly to consumers without strict size and packaging requirements, as long as they met minimum quality standards and operated in a market certified by the county agricultural commissioner.
This significant development further bolstered the Davis Farmers Market’s mission of supporting local farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture.
To this day, there are over 100 vendors at the Davis Farmers Market, where you can find fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and seafood, nuts, wine, local eggs and honey, fresh-baked goods, plants, flowers and gifts. Today, the market serves between 7,000 and 10,000 people a week with more than 70 percent of the vendors coming from within a one-hour drive from farm to market.
The current schedule for the Davis Farmers Market:
Saturdays 8am-1pm, year-round, rain or shine!
Wednesdays 4-8pm for Picnic in the Park (mid-May through mid-September)
Wednesdays 3-6pm (mid-September through mid-May)
Today, along with their children, Annie and Jeff run Good Humus Produce, which can be found at the Market every Saturday.
Their eight and a half acre farm is made up of orchards, California native hedgerows, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Beyond their produce they also make jams and jellies with their own fruits and herbs, floral arrangements and wreaths with their flowers, and they also make tons of dry fruit using the natural California sun.
You can find their products at the Davis Food Co-op & they also have their own Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook
Written by Ann Evans, this revised editon of the Davis Farmers Market Cookbook, which celebrates the Market’s 40th anniversary, focuses on the second generation of farmers and vendors. Ann Evans speaks of the importance of Farmers Markets, farmers, and the joys of cooking seasonally.
You can find this book available at the Co-op and online
As we commemorate National Farmers Market Week, let us recognize and celebrate the remarkable history of the Davis Farmers Market and the invaluable contributions it continues to make to the community.
Find more information about the Davis Farmers Market here
Each year, the Co-op donates $0.10 for every pound of apples sold over the course of a year through our “Apple-a-Day” program. With 61,959 lbs of apples sold from July 2022 – June 2023, we were left with $6,196 to donate to a local organization.
For this year’s donation, we have chosen Ujamaa Farmer Collective
as our recipient.
as our recipient.
The $6,196 donation will directly support the Collective’s fundraising efforts to “build a Black-led, BIPOC-centered agriculture business cooperative committed to providing long-term, affordable land access for multiple existing BIPOC farmers/ranchers struggling with land security” here in Yolo County. In this blog we will tell you more about the vision of the Ujamaa Farmer Collective and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Ujamaa Farmer Collective Leadership Team
(pictured from left to right):
Keith Hudson (Grocery Croppers, LLC),
Brian Pinkney (We Grow Urban Farm),
Nathaniel Brown (Brown Sugar Farm),
Nelson Hawkins (We Grow Urban Farm)
To best understand these goals, we must first consider some historical context. In 1910, around 14% of farmers* in the US were Black and they owned more than 16 million acres across the country. Today only around 1% of US farmers are Black while nearly 95% are White. Many factors over the past 100 years have led to such a sharp decline.
* It should be noted that “farmer” is also known as “producer” in these counts and consists of a farm’s owner, a member of the owner’s family, a manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper and does not include the employees (known as farmworkers).
Since the early 20th century, Black farmers have faced a long history of injustices including unequal access to credit and federal aid. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has faced multiple lawsuits, including the landmark case of Pigford v. Glickman in 1999, for its history of discriminatory practices that have limited Black farmers’ abilities to invest in their farms and acquire land. Compounding these economic challenges, many Black farmers deal with the complex issue of heirs’ property – a form of land ownership that arises when a landowner dies without a will, leading to the vulnerable division of property amongst the deceased’s heirs. This precarious situation resulted in a 90% decline in Black-owned farmland nationwide between 1910 and 1997, resulting in an estimated capital loss of $326 billion . In addition to these systemic inequities, Black landowners have also faced intimidation, violence, and illegal land seizures, all furthering the gap in land access for Black farmers.
Enter the Ujamaa Farmer Collective. Meaning “fraternity or familyhood” in Swahili, the term “Ujamaa” is the fourth principle of Kwanzaa created through cooperative economics as a practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it.This is at the root of what the Ujamaa Farmer Collective hopes to achieve. Created by a compassionate group of advocates within the CDFA BIPOC Advisory Committee, the Collective has been created to work towards addressing the challenge of land tenure amongst historically underserved farmers.
Built upon the work of AB 1348: The Farmer Equity Act, the Collective notes in a blog on the Kitchen Table Advisors website that their focus is “to provide land for BIPOC farm businesses to steward through long-term, affordable leases. These leasing opportunities, ranging from ½ acre to 20-acre plots owned by the collective, will enable existing farm business owners to grow their operations on secure land parcels. The collective also aims to provide on-site housing for the farmers, allowing these business owners to fully immerse themselves in their farms while also raising and tending to their families”
The Collective has already successfully advocated for state funding to acquire a 50-100 acre parcel of land in Yolo County and recently attained counsel to aid them in establishing their 501(c)(3). They have raised $1.25 million towards their campaign goal of $2.5 million so far and are working with Possibility Labs as their fiscal sponsor to make this dream a reality. The work to choose and develop a site is underway as they continue to fundraise to build these equitable opportunities for Black and BIPOC farmers. While the Collective has made great progress, and the Co-op is happy to contribute towards that progress, the work is far from complete to reach their campaign goal of $2.5 million. That is where we are calling on our Co-op community to help support these continued efforts.
As a co-op in our community for the past 50 years, we know the power of collective effort to make changes in our local food systems. In recognizing that, we must also recognize that the changes that our co-op has influenced during that time have largely benefitted only White communities. As noted in an article on the Cool Davis website, supporting this project “is a once in a generation opportunity to do something well within our grasp that will have a significant positive impact right here at home. The impact will reverberate in all aspects of Yolo county racial equity lived experience, in our sustainable food system, in the resilience of our community”.
The Davis Food Co-op is more than a grocery store, it is a collective of people who have the power to shape local, national, and global food systems.
Right now in the United States, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in the journey to redefine our food system. The future of our food is being decided by lawmakers right now.
The best part? You have the power to voice your opinion to help shape it.
The Farm Bill, a crucial piece of legislation that can set the tone for our nation’s food and agriculture policy, is currently under review. Our elected officials are considering which proposals will be included in this year’s bill – decisions that will impact our food system for the next five years. We believe it’s time for a more equitable food system that puts farmworkers first and is more just, resilient, and regenerative, and that’s where you come in. By familiarizing yourself with the Bill and Acts that accompany it, you can put yourself in a position to advocate for that which you feel most strongly about.
A recent blog from National Co+op Grocers (NCG) provides you with a detailed list of current (and growing) proposed bills, outlining what they aim to achieve and who supports them. Whether it’s a bill that champions small-scale farmers or one that incentivizes organic farming, you can find the ones that you resonate with and lend them your support.
As part of NCG, we strive to advocate for our communities’ shared priorities for the food system. Together, we can make our voices heard and play a role in shaping a sustainable and equitable food landscape. Want to get involved but not sure where to start? No worries, the blog post above has you covered with easy instructions on how to contact Congress, whether you prefer to make a phone call or write an email. You’ll also find some tips to help you articulate your support.
The changes we want to see in the world often start from the grassroots. By raising our voices in numbers to our elected officials, we can influence policies that impact our food, our farmers, and ultimately, our communities. Let’s work together to create the food system we all deserve. Let’s act now, the food future depends on it!
Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released their 2023 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list. EWG is a non-profit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability.
Since 2004, EWG has released a Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list of the most and least pesticide-contaminated non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables, respectively, based on the latest tests by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
Pesticides are toxic by design
Although they’re intended to kill pests such as fungi, insects, and plants, many pesticides are also linked to serious human health issues, including hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, and cancer.
Many pesticides are still legal for use in the U.S. but have been banned in the EU because of the science showing threats to human health and wildlife. Four toxic neonicotinoids – imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran – remain legal for use here, even though the EPA has acknowledged their danger to insects like honeybees.
For their 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the EWG used data that tested over 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables, covering 251 different pesticides.
The goal of these lists is to educate consumers so they can make the best decisions for their families while navigating the produce sections of their grocery stores.
Dirty Dozen List
These conventional fruits and vegetables were tested and found high traces of pesticides. It is recommended to get these fruits and veggies organic, whenever possible.
3. Kale, Collards, & Mustard Greens
12. Green Beans
These conventional fruits and vegetables were tested and this year, almost 65% of Clean Fifteen samples had no detectable pesticide residues. If purchasing organic produce is not an option, these are the safest recommended conventional produce.
2. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
8. Honeydew Melons
13. Sweet Potatoes
Let’s be clear though..
Organic foods may still have small amounts of chemical residue, mainly due to contamination from nearby conventional farms, as well as having trace amounts of organic pesticides. Most organic pesticides are not synthetic and are derived from natural sources, such as minerals, plants, and bacteria. One of the best ways to know exactly how the produce you are consuming is grown, is to do some research on the farm which the produce is coming from. Or, if it is a local farm, you might have the opportunity to talk to the farmers directly and be told exactly what their farming practices are.
Below are two natural fruit and veggie washes that you can use on your organic and/or conventional produce.
Fruit and Veggie Wash
What You’ll Need
- Spray Bottle
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 Cup White Vinegar
- 4 Cups of Water
- 1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice
- Gentle Scrub Brush
- Paper Towels
1. Make your solution: To clean most fruits and vegetables, mix a solution of the cup vinegar and water inside your spray bottle, then add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Shake well to combine.
2. Place your fruit or vegetable in a colander in the sink. Spray it liberally with the mixture, then let it sit for two to five minutes.
3. Rinse off the mixture thoroughly with cool water, using a vegetable scrub brush on thicker-skinned produce.
4. Pat dry with paper towels.
Veggie Wash for Leafy Greens*
What You’ll Need
- Glass or metal Bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 cup White Vinegar
- 4 Cups of Water
- 1 tbsp Salt
- colander or salad spinner
- Paper Towels
1. Make your solution: Fill the bowl with the solution of vinegar and water, then add the salt.
2. Let the greens sit in the solution for two to five minutes, then remove.
3. Rinse off the mixture thoroughly with cold water either in a colander or the basket of a salad spinner.
4. Dry the greens with paper towels or give them in a run through a salad spinner.
* It’s recommended to do this right before you eat the greens, since any excess moisture can lead to decay in the fridge.
The Dfc PRoduce Department
At the Davis Food Co-op, you can be assured that the produce you purchase is either Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown*. We do not carry conventional produce, as we believe in supporting sustainable farming practices that prioritize the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
*Certified Naturally Grown is a US-based farm assurance program certifying produce, livestock, and apiaries for organic producers who sell locally and directly to their customers. CNG farmers must commit to not using synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms.
All of our local farms are held to the same standards, and the Produce Department takes the time to visit them in person to witness their sustainable practices in action. By doing so, our Produce Department is able to develop a deep understanding of the produce we sell and answer any questions our customers may have to the best of their abilities.
We believe in providing high-quality, responsibly sourced produce to our community, and we take pride in supporting local farms and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Beer and Cheese for Hot Summer Days
Written by Sterling Carlton, DFC Owner and former Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist
Ensuring the health of the environment, as well as that of the goats, is a priority for Cypress Grove and it shows in the decisions they make. Cypress Grove works with specialist small ruminant nutritionists to ensure the goats have the best balance in their diets. The goats are allowed ample space to roam and graze outside with freedom to move indoors as well. Cypress Grove has removed surrounding non-native and invasive vegetation in addition to leaving significant space on the parcel for a riparian easement that helps with flood mitigation, property maintenance, and supports more biodiversity.
Cypress Grove’s story starts in the 1970s when Mary Keehn chased down and wrangled two goats her neighbor graciously gave her. Eventually the herd grew and grew and Mary decided cheese was what would be done with the milk these goats provided. In 1983 Keehn journeyed to the center of the cheese world: France. In France she was able to try so many classic cheeses at the domaines that birthed them and learned from the masters of Brie, Camembert, and more. Mary returned inspired, opening Cypress Grove that same year. It was on the return flight that her inspiration manifested in a dream and the idea for Humboldt Fog was born. Perhaps in homage to the Morbier cheese it so closely resembles (right down to the gray-blue vegetable ash line in the middle), Humboldt Fog is made from goat’s milk as opposed to the classic’s cow’s milk.
Technically a goat milk Brie, Humboldt Fog is often mistaken for a blue cheese thanks to that grayish-blue line running down the middle of it. In truth it is simply vegetable ash that both represents the Humboldt County fog line and perhaps a bit of a play on the Morbier cow cheeses which hail from the Doubs and Jura in France. Aromas of yogurt and lactic dairy notes as well as a faint mold dominate the bouquet, whilst sour cream and citrus present on the flaky crumbly textured cheese that is nestled under the cream line next to the rind. The bloomy rind is more mild than some other strains leading to a bright, salty, slightly lemony cheese that is delightful for summer snacking boards.
To pair with this masterpiece of a cheese we have, on recommendation from Center Store Specialist Charlie, the Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison. With history dating back to 1759 when it was a simple farm, Brasserie Dupont became a farm-brewery in 1844 specializing in saisons. Saison, meaning seasons, is so called because the farmers produced these beers in the winter for consumption in the fields on hot summer days. The farm-brewery operation eventually came into possession of one Louis Dupont who tweaked the recipe for a saison and thus the Saison Dupont was born.
Foret is an organic offering from Dupont and boasts the claim of being Belgium’s first 100% certified organic beer. The bouquet offers orange peel, coriander, lemon zest, grains of paradise, and some barnyard funk typical in many saisons. Citrusy palette with full flavor, high acid and a nice funky spice on the end make this a fantastic pairing with Humboldt Fog. The salt and acid of the cheese play off the acid and spice in the beer and the carbonation helps cut through and refresh the palate after a big bite of Fog. All in all this pairing is perfect and not too heavy for a hot day of relaxation or a nice easy picnic. Add some cured meats, cornichons, and perhaps some pickled veggies and you have a simple charcuterie board with a beer to pair with a slow, hot day.
Find Humboldt Fog at the Cheese Counter for $29.99/lb
Find Brasserie Dupont Foret Organic Saison in the Beer Cooler for $12.99/750 mL plus tax.
What to Drink with August’s Cheese of the Month: Nicasio Valley Locarno
Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist
Nestled in the beautiful Nicasio Valley of Marin County lies a sprawling pasture. Green and lush, the valley is full of life and the sweet smell of dairy cattle floats through the air. The pasture is Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s 1,150 certified organic acres where they raise dairy cattle and chickens. The Lafranchi family have been stewards of this pasture, farming sustainably and raising dairy cattle, since 1919, when Fredolino and Zelma Lafranchi left their home in Maggia, Switzerland. They are one of the very few small scale family dairies to survive the last several decades of upheaval in the dairy industry.
The drive to the creamery is an easy one and quite beautiful along Lucas Valley road. The last bit of the drive takes you through a lush grove of towering trees. It’s a fairly unassuming facility. So unassuming that I drove past it on my first go as the sign on the road declaring “organic cheese tasting” took me a bit by surprise.
The dairy has been producing 100% certified organic milk since 2012 and the cheese, being made from an incredible base product, is of exceptional quality as well as delicious. The seed of cheese making was planted by Fredolino and Zelma’s son, Will Lafranchi, who traveled back to Switzerland to learn about cheese from his ancestors’ homeland. His dream was realized after his death when Nicasio Valley Cheese Company opened their doors in 2010. The family has a distinct appreciation for the cheese of their homeland and they present products of the highest quality.
The Lafranchi family achieves this quality through thoughtful management of their pasture from which their roughly 400 dairy cows derive a large amount of their calories for at least 120 days out of the year, a requirement for certified organic pasture-raised cows. The ranch is also home to over 3,000 chickens that produce equally high quality free range eggs. The Lafranchi’s maintain healthy pastures by rotating their herds through different sites and utilizing a significant onsite composting program. This compost program, in conjunction with the thoughtfully managed grazing regime of the ruminant animals, helps create incredibly healthy soil in the pastures and high biodiversity, leading to healthy cows and delicious cheese. Rick Lafranchi, the second eldest of the six Lafranchi siblings, explains it this way:
“…this region is regarded as having some of the richest pasturelands in the world. Conventional milk production isn’t as viable an option in Marin as organic is because it’s all pasture based. That went hand in hand with us developing an organic cheese company.”
Of their more than half dozen offerings, one of our favorites was brought to market in 2016: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Locarno Brie, a creamy brie aged for at least 5 weeks. A tangy, firm center is sandwiched between a cream layer just beneath the rind that turns to an oozing heap of delight as it warms or matures. Pair a smear of this beautiful cheese on a Walnut, Honey, and EVOO cracker from The Fine Cheese Co. out of England. The combination of the creamy, lactic sweetness of the dairy intermingling with every crunchy bite transforms the cracker into an almost graham cracker like flavor that compliments the cheese perfectly.
I also have two wines I dutifully tasted along with the Locarno. I opened the 2019 Avni Chardonnay and the 2018 Avni Pinot Noir from Lingua Franca in the Willamette Valley.
Founded in 2012, Larry Stone set out to ensure the vineyard was taken care of using the most sustainable agricultural practices they could manage. The use of low impact, biodynamic, and no till farming was only improved through collaboration with one of the heroes of the regenerative ag movement within the wine industry, Mimi Casteel. Permanent cover crops are kept in the vineyards which encourages all kinds of wildlife such as owls, hawks, foxes and coyotes to naturally mitigate pests. Originally planning to only sell fruit, Stone was encouraged to make his own wines by one Dominique Lafon of Burgundian fame (when Lafon thinks you need to make your own wine because you have an exceptional site, simply put, you listen).
The Chardonnay always starts off a little bit closed on the nose. As it opens up, you’ll find layers of lemon citrus, grapefruit, pear, baking spices, with a slight mineral edge and oak in the background. It’s a lean Chardonnay with racy acid and orchard fruit characteristics that play nicely with the creamy richness of the Locarno cheese.
The Pinot is similarly lean and taught. It is a laser focused wine with aromas of red cherry and blackberry fruit, wet rocks, and forest floor all backed up slightly by an edge of oak and fine grained tannins. Here the fruity aspect plays nicely with the cheese and the acid again functioned to help cleanse the palette and bring me back for another bite.
Nicasio Valley Cheese Company has a host of other delicious cheeses as well as pasture raised eggs and a nice little house you can stay at on the property that is just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. Be sure to stop by the cheese shop for some eggs and ask their very knowledgeable and cheerful cheesemonger, Melisa, for some of her favorite cheeses.
Find Avni Wines and Nicasio Valley Locarno at your Co-op.
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. Organic Locarno Brie is 10% off during the month of August.
2019 Lingua Franca Avni Chardonnay $29.99/750 mL
2018 Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir $29.99/750 mL
Questions? Feel free to ask our Specialty Department experts! Cheesemonger LaShundra and Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist Sterling can be found in their departments most days.
What is Natural Wine?
Written by Beer, Wine, and Spirits Specialist Sterling Carlton
“Natural wine” has become a very broad term, you’ve likely heard it before. When the subject comes up, I’m often asked, “Isn’t all wine natural?” followed by, “…so it’s organic?” The answer is ultimately a little more complicated than a yes or no and a label from a government agency.
Occasionally you encounter the somewhat snarky, literal interpretation of the term “natural” from someone who says it’s all a fad: there isn’t anything natural about picking grapes, crushing them in a tank, and subsequently fermenting them in a controlled environment. Certainly when we refer to “natural wine” we aren’t asserting that the process employed to make wine is naturally occurring. While it is true fermentation will happen in grapes left unattended, no one in the natural wine space is saying that the planting of vineyards in neat contoured rows or that the actual collection and production is entirely a natural occurrence. Rather, natural wine makers are trying to make wines with as few outside inputs as possible and minimal, if not zero, sulfur use. The grapes are typically sourced from biodynamic, sustainable, or organic vineyards and frequently a combination of all three. A common thread is that people are farming mindfully for the sake of the long term health of the land with particular emphasis in maintaining high biodiversity within those contoured vine rows.
Now, is this wine organic? Although the grapes are frequently grown in organic, biodynamic, or regenerative vineyards, practices diverge when the grapes hit the winery. First, you have the Zero/Zero camp. These folks believe in neither adding sulfur to their wine nor removing anything from the wine as well. Another cohort believes minimal additions of sulfur for stability are acceptable even if they still avoid manipulating the juice in too many other ways. These additions are just enough to arrest any fermentation and give some marginal protection from oxygen. Because of the sulfur additions, those wines may not be labeled as organic in the United States. This can lead to difficulty for some of the smaller labels who are making their wines in an extremely mindful way, as they won’t be certified organic.
Winemakers in the United States who use organic grapes have two options for communicating this designation. The first is the USDA Organic certification and the second is the “Made with Organic Grapes” label.
Both labels require grapes be sourced from certified organic vineyards and made in a certified organic winery. However, the “Made with Organic Grapes” label allows for up to 100 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur additions. USDA Organic allows for zero additional sulfur. For comparison, conventional wines contain hundreds of parts per million of additional sulfur. Meanwhile in the European Union, organic red wines are allowed up to 100 ppm of additions, white and rosé wines 150 ppm, and 180 ppm for sweet wines. Canada allows up to 100 ppm of sulfur additions in its organic labeled wines. It is important to note that some folks are seriously allergic to the sulfites used as a preservative in wine, which is one reason why an easily discernible label is necessary, among others. Ultimately, the definition of organic wine and whether or not it currently stunts the growth of the organic wine category continues to be debated.
Given that sustainability is at the core of many natural wine making endeavors, there is a fairly large elephant, or perhaps oil tanker, in the room we must touch on. A question that runs along these lines has made its way around some of my natural wine circles and it is a question that deserves some time and thought:
“What is sustainable about shipping a product to a warehouse, perhaps one across the world, and then re-shipping that product to another point, whether that be another point of distribution or the end consumer?”
This question is a tough one and perhaps one that doesn’t really have a great answer, at least not an answer that doesn’t make me sound like an apologist to some degree. For me, it comes down to the story behind each bottle. When you look at the level of intentionality some of these producers use in tending to their land you realize two things: one, doing it right takes an unbelievable amount of hard work and dedication and second, that most producers aren’t putting in that work for a wide variety of reasons. The challenge for natural wine producers is being able to tell their stories as they’re important for pushing the category forward.
I reached out to Alice Anderson (pictured below), the owner and winemaker at Amevive Wines in Santa Barbara and the caretaker at the historic Ibarra-Young vineyard, which they lease in the Los Olivos District. Land stewardship is central to many natural wine producers, including Alice. Taking care of the vines and the land that supports them is vital to the long term health of the industry and the planet. Alice is a serious practitioner of biodynamic farming. The care and attention it takes to effectively farm in that style shines through in the wines she makes.
Here are a few thoughts from her about natural wine:
“To me, first and foremost, the wine has to be grown holistically with intention. The vineyard need not be on a systematic spray schedule, but to be assessed and analyzed regularly based on how nature treats it each year. It’s best if you can repurpose what you have on your land to make homeopathic fungicides and foliar sprays; like growing your own herbs and making compost teas.
In the cellar, nothing should be added other than tiny amounts of pure sulfur if needed. This is to not take away or alter any of the natural nuances coming from the vineyard.
Wines should be unfined and unfiltered and shouldn’t contain more than 50ppm of total SO2 at bottling.”
At the end of the day, growing and producing the highest quality wines as thoughtfully as possible is the goal for all of these natural winemakers, whether they can legally market their wines as organic or not.
Sterling recommends checking out these natural winemakers – all available at the Co-op. And he’s always happy to help you pick out the perfect bottle! You can usually find him in the Beer, Wine, & Spirits Department or ask the Customer Service Desk to page him for you.
Martha Stoumen Wines
Haarmeyer Wine Cellars
We recently made the decision to raise the price of Organic Bananas to $1.19/pound.
The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. The Co-op has long rejected being a part of the conventional banana trade. Instead, we only stock Organic Fair Trade bananas from Equal Exchange. Equal Exchange bananas come from three farmer co-ops in Ecuador and Peru where 1,162 small-scale farmers own and farm 5,000 acres of land.
Over the last decade, conventional banana prices have fallen, with increasing costs passed back to plantations and their workers, rather than to consumers or retailers. According to a study by Fair Trade International, about $6.70 per 40-pound wholesale box of conventional bananas is externalized onto smallholder farmers and the employees of banana plantations, as well as onto the land itself.
Unlike the conventional banana trade, Equal Exchange banana farmers earn a reliable income year-round which supports farmer families and creates local employment opportunities. As democratically-run cooperatives, Equal Exchange co-ops use the Fair Trade Premium Fund and vote on how money is used for community development projects. Equal Exchange banana farmers also receive healthcare, women’s entrepreneurship education, and environmental stewardship resources.
“Invisible” costs really aren’t invisible. We won’t be passing those costs back to the farmers who grow our food or to the land that nourishes all of us. Instead, we hope you’ll join us in supporting small farmers growing the food on our tables knowing that you’re strengthening supply chains and relationships that truly benefit people and planet.