Why Organic?

According to Jane Goodall’s book, “Harvest for Hope”, when chimps were given a choice between organic bananas and conventional bananas 9 out of 10 times they would choose organic!

Interestingly when only given conventional bananas the chimps would peel the fruit before eating it, whereas with organic bananas they would simply eat the whole thing, peel and all!

Top Reasons to Buy Organic:

Organic is Better for The People

Overall the standard of living for workers on organic farms is much greater than conventional farmworkers. Conventional farmworkers have much more exposure to toxic chemicals and also tend to have a worse standard of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified pesticide poisoning as a leading cause of public morbidity and mortality. 

Sadly, it is quite common for conventional farmworkers to commit suicide due to the stressful environment, and this is often done using the toxic synthetic pesticides themselves.

Globally, death from deliberate ingestion of pesticides claims more than 168,000 lives every year, which accounted for 20% of all suicides, and the majority of these incidents were reported from developing countries.

In addition, many organic farms are small family-owned farms, so when you buy local organic you can help support farmers in your community!

This is not always true of course as there are corporations switching to organic due to the demand from the public, and these farms, while still being better for your health and for the environment, may not necessarily be small and local.

However, if you do your shopping at the local farmers market or local co-op, the organic produce you buy is supporting local farmers!

Organic is Better for Your Health

Organically grown produce has little to no pesticide residue, so by simply buying organic produce you can drastically reduce your exposure to chemical toxins.

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.

Although organic agriculture still uses pesticides they tend to be much less harmful to humans and the environment because they are readily broken down.

In contrast many synthetic pesticides are known to persist in the environment as well as in people and animals too!

To better understand the difference between synthetic and organic pesticides it helps to think of a paper bag vs. a plastic bag. They are both bags, but the paper one is made of natural materials and the plastic one is made of synthetic, man-made materials.

If you were to take both bags, pour some water on them and leave them outside for a few weeks you will notice that the paper bag has been completely decomposed where the plastic bag hasn’t broken down at all and practically looks the same as it did weeks ago!

Organic is Better for The Animals

One of the biggest concerns with industrial agriculture is the horrific treatment of farm animals.

Chickens are crammed inside egg houses by the thousands without ever getting the chance to peck around in a field. Cows are denied open pastures and are instead confined to filthy areas where they have to live in their own feces. And pigs are kept in cages so small that they cannot even lay down.

Along with this cruel and unusual treatment, all of the animals are fed unnatural diets and are constantly pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics.

One option to prevent your money from supporting the companies that treat their animals like this is to go vegetarian or vegan, but for those who still want to have meat every now and then, there are more humane options.

One of which is to only buy organic animal products!

According to USDA Organic Standards, if an animal product is organic it is required that the animal is fed a natural diet that is 100% organic, not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and is allowed access to the outdoors year-round!

That means that when you buy organic you are ensured that the animal was provided with a more natural living situation, where chickens can peck and cows can graze.

Organic is Better for The Environment

Industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation and climate change.

About 25 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to conventional farming practices.

The ecological imbalance caused by monocultures and excessive use of chemicals has resulted in water pollution, decreased soil fertility, and enormous increases in pests and crop diseases, which farmers counter by spraying ever-larger doses of pesticides in a vicious cycle of depletion and destruction.

Organic farming is much more sustainable than conventional farming.

Many organic farms engage in a variety of sustainable practices such as no-till farming, crop rotation, biological pest control, polyculture, and the incorporation of hedgerows. These practices reduce erosion and soil depletion and help to encourage biodiversity.

Most of these practices are actually very old, traditional ways of farming that are now being embraced by organic farmers in order to move away from industrial agriculture.

Every dollar that you spend on organic produce is a dollar that is supporting the well being of our planet for all future generations to come.

More on Pesticides:

A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests.

The World Health organization describes them as such, “by their nature, pesticides are potentially toxic to other organisms, including humans, and need to be used safely and disposed of properly.”

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, evidence suggests that children are particularly susceptible to adverse effects from exposure to pesticides, including neurodevelopmental effects.

Because of the widespread use of agricultural chemicals in food production, people are exposed to low levels of pesticide residues through their diets but may also be exposed to pesticides used in a variety of settings including homes, schools, hospitals, and workplaces.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the Pesticide Data Program (PDP), a national pesticide residue testing effort achieved through cooperative programs with State agriculture departments and other Federal agencies. The PDP tests both fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, poultry, and other specialty food items such as honey, corn syrup, infant formula, fish, and nuts for pesticide residues.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for analyzing chemicals detected by the PDP and determining a “tolerance level”. These tolerance levels are established based on the LD50 (Lethal Dose 50) for each individual compound. The LD50 is a substance toxicity test in which a subject group (typically mice or rabbits) are exposed to a toxic chemical and then observed until the amount of that chemical administered causes 50% of the population to die. The EPA uses the LD50 as a tolerance reference in order to determine the maximum amount of certain chemicals that may legally remain on food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is then responsible for the enforcement of these tolerances set by the EPA. This is done through the annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program in which a broad range of domestic and imported foods are sampled and tested for pesticide residue.

According to the 2018 PDP annual summary foods tested that violated the tolerance level set by the EPA included mangoes, asparagus, cilantro, cabbage, canned cranberries, raisins, and canned olives.

Low levels of environmental contaminants, pesticides that have been canceled in the U.S. but their residues persist in the environment, such as DDT were also found on foods such as cilantro, kale, frozen spinach, and snap peas.

But where do these chemicals go when eating them?

Studies have shown that pesticides tend to accumulate in the fatty tissues and reproductive organs of mammals where they can stay for a very, very long time.

The long term health effects of pesticides are still largely unknown, however, an ongoing study known as the Agricultural Health Study has linked pesticides to many health problems including childhood development, immune health, and the development of cancers and other diseases.

The truth

While it may be efficient to exploit certain crops for mass production, conventional agriculture is a major contributor to land degradation, biodiversity loss, and air and water pollution due to the immense amount of synthetic pesticides and herbicides that are used to maintain massive crop monocultures.

Conventional agriculture is not farming. It is an unsustainable food production industry in which the best interests of consumers and the Earth as a whole are overlooked in the pursuit of profit.

That being said, buying organic is by no means a perfect answer to health, climate, and social justice issues.

However, it is definitely a conscious step in the right direction!

Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist

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Tomato Time

Summer is the season for tomatoes!

Here at the Co-op we love the many delicious varieties of tomatoes that are available in the summer. Tomatoes offer a juicy, fresh flavor and are a healthy meal addition to everything from potluck pasta salad to a classic sandwich.

Let us take some time to appreciate the tomato and all it has to offer.

Fresh red ripe tomatoes on the vine on a dark rustic cutting board

Health Benefits:

Tomatoes are good sources of several vitamins and minerals

Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen in the body and plays an important role in immunity by acting as an antioxidant in the body. One medium-sized tomato can provide about 28% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).

Tomatoes contain many phytochemicals

Don’t forget to stop by our Produce Department for your fresh, local tomato needs!

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Storing Produce

Have you ever brought home beautiful bunches of greens and herbs only to have them wilt away in your fridge?

Save your money and stop wasting food with simple storage tips!

For our complete A-Z produce storage guide click here.

Greens and Herbs:

Trim the stem ends, place in a jar of fresh water, and place the entire jar in the fridge.

This allows the veggies to re-hydrate and will stay fresh much longer this way.

Use this method for greens like kale and chard, fresh herbs like basil and cilantro, and even vegetables like asparagus!

Vegetables:

Most veggies store best in the fridge.

Storing in a plastic bag or within the crisper drawer in your fridge will help keep in moisture and prevent your veggies from getting soft and drying out.

Some veggies such as tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onion, and hard squashes are actually best stored outside of the fridge in a cool, dry place. 

Tip: Vegetables should be stored away from fruit in order to prevent them from ripening too fast!

Fruit:

When it comes to fruit most varieties will keep fresh longest if stored in the fridge, but when it comes to ripening they ripen best outside of the fridge.

Berries, lemons, and apples will all last much longer if stored in the fridge whereas tropical fruits like bananas and mangoes store best on the counter top. 

Tip: Some fruits, such as apples and bananas, produce ethylene gas and can be used to help ripen other fruits! 


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Farming While Black – Leah Penniman Speech

From EcoFarm’s YouTube Channel:

“Some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices have roots in African wisdom. Yet discrimination and violence against African- American farmers has led to a decline from 14% of all growers in 1920 to less than 2% today. Soul Fire Farm, co-founded by author, activist, and farmer Leah Penniman, is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system. Earlier this year at the EcoFarm Conference, Leah shared how you too can be part of the movement for food sovereignty and help build a food system based on justice, dignity, and abundance for all members of our community.”

“Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 and has been farming since 1996. Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs – including farmer training for Black & Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.”

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Composting Guide

Compost can be used as a fertilizer for your plants and garden with no risk of burning like with synthetic fertilizers. It also contains many beneficial microorganisms that keep away plant disease.

There are two types of home composting, Hot Composting and Cold Composting. Cold composting takes very little effort but will take much more time to produce compost. Hot composting requires more effort but will produce compost much quicker. Here is guide for the two:

Cold Composting

What you will need:
  • A large bin or hole in your yard
  • Worms (if you are digging a hole in your yard you wont need to buy many)
  • Dried yard trimmings (leaves, small pieces of wood)
  • Paper or egg cartons (and egg shells!)
  • A little healthy nutrient dense soil
  • Food Waste (can be added as you produce)

Food Waste:

Stick to leafy greens and produce with low acidity:

  • Banana peels
  • Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach, etc
  • Carrots, beets, and other roots

Avoid high acidic produce:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

Instructions:
  1. Prep your bin or dig your hole. 
  2. Add yard trimmings and paper to the bottom on the bin.
  3. Then add your nutrient dense soil and worms. 
  4. Add food scraps as you acquire them.
  5. Mix the compost pile whenever or never. 
  6. It will take 6 months to a year to get completed compost

Hot Composting

What you will need:
  • A large bin or hole in your yard
  • Worms
  • Dried yard trimmings (leaves, small pieces of wood)
  • Paper or egg cartons (and egg shells!)
  • A little healthy nutrient dense soil
  • Food Waste (can be added as you produce)
  • Water

Food Waste:

Stick to leafy greens and produce with low acidity:

  • Banana peels
  • Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinach, etc
  • Carrots, beets, and other roots

Avoid high acidic produce:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

Your pile should maintain 1 part food waste and 2 parts dried yard trimmings. A healthy pile will 141F to 155F. This temperature will kill all weed seeds and disease pathogens.

Instructions:
  1. Prep your bin or dig your hole. 
  2. Add yard trimmings and paper to the bottom on the bin.
  3. Then add your nutrient dense soil and worms. 
  4. Add food scraps as you acquire them.
  5. Mix the compost pile 2-4 times a week. Check the temperature during each mix.
  6. It should stay damp, add water if needed.  
  7. It will take at least a few weeks to make compost.
  8. Use it in your garden and mix it in with soil when repotting indoor plants!

Written By Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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Saving Your Bulbs for Next Spring

Every Year at the Co-op we have Beautiful Tulips, Daffodils, Dahlias, Ranunculus, etc. All these flowers have an expiration date in early spring and won’t grow any other time. These flowers grow from bulbs, which can be saved and used again next year! Over the course of them blooming they also multiply so each year you save them, the following year you will have even more flowers!

Cut the flower down to 1.5-2 inches. Cut the flower stem and all the leaves.
Three different kinds of bulbs!

1. To harvest the bulbs first, you need to let the flower go through their cycle. Once the flower is beginning to shrivel up and die with no more blooms sprouting, you will cut back the flower. Cut the flower back so only 1.5 to 2 inches is remaining of the stem. 

2. Then you will let the stems sit in the pot until they have completely dried out.

This bulb is starting to split into three. They are still very stuff together so I will leave them together for now.
All the remaining stems have dried out completely. It it time to harvest!

3. Then you will separate the bulbs from the soil. They are in clusters in the soil, and we want to keep the clusters together. The bulbs will multiply, but you don’t want to separate them until they just fall apart. You can remove some of the dried skin around the bulbs, but don’t remove it all. Only remove the skin that is loose and easily removed.

4. Store the bulbs in a cool, dark, and dry place. Keep them there until it is time to repot them! For Spring blooming flowers, daffodils and tulips, plant the bulb in September or October. For summer blooming bulbs, ranunculus and dahlias, plant in spring after the danger of frost has passed. 

5. Different flowers will have different bulbs. They come in all shapes and sizes! Be sure to keep them separate and labeled when storing, unless you want to be surprised!

Written by Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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Sowing Seeds to Start Your Vegetable Garden

Cherry Tomato Sprouts!
The roots are breaking through the bottom of the carton! Time to repot!
  1. First, pick your favorite seeds out at the Co-op. Make sure to read the instructions on the back as all plants like to start growing at different times!

2. Cut up some old egg cartons and fill each section with soil. Place 2-3 seeds in each section.

3. Mist the seeds and soil thoroughly every day until the sprouts are 2-3 inches. When they reach this size it is time to repot and you can leave them in the egg cartons! If you look closely some of the roots may already be tearing through the carton! Repot the sprouts in quart-sized pots, remember to water them regularly.

To encourage lots of growth, keep the soil moist but do not leave your plant in puddles. Allow them to grow about 1 to 1.5 feet, then move to a 5 gal pot or pot in the ground. For the first few weeks, you want to water them every day, once they reach maturity you want to start watering them less. Let the soil dry out completely before watering them again. The decrease in water will make convince the plant that it is time to start producing! 

Once it is 1 to 1.5 feet, transfer to a large 5-gallon pot or in the ground!
Repot the sprout (still in the egg carton!) into a slightly larger pot until it reaches 1-1.5 feet.

4. Cutting back your plant will encourage more growth, especially with tomatoes and peppers! Cut off the very tips of the plants once they are about 2 feet and the plant will form more stems, which means more fruit!

Written by Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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How to Care For Your Maidenhair Fern in Davis Climate

Maidenhair ferns are notoriously temperamental. They are not native to Yolo County and therefore need a lot of love and attention to stay alive. With the proper knowledge and dedication, you can keep a maidenhair fern of your own and trust yourself to keep it alive! We love these ferns at the Co-op and often have them available in our floral department. Here are some tips to get you started:

Sunlight:

Find a window in your house that faces East or West. Maidenhairs like the sun, but not too much sun. Bright evening or morning sun is enough. If you only have a window facing North or South, make sure it only gets partial sun by putting a larger plant in front of it to supply some shade or move it further from the window.

Even the fronds with just brown edges need to be removed.

Pruning:

Make sure that the base is misted!

When the fronds of your fern are starting to brown you should remove them. Some fronds will be completely brown and others will only have brown tips, but you might as well remove them all! Once they start to brown on the edges, there’s no saving them and they will use up resources that the thriving fronds need. Don’t get too sad, if you have been caring for your plant properly there should be many new fronds emerging!

Watering:

Water your maidenhair fern 2-3 times a week. Water from the top of the pot until the base is partially full of water. If your pot doesn’t have a draining hole, water it1-2 times a week until all the soil is wet. It is hard to overwater a Maidenhair in dry Yolo County, but your maidenhair should not be in a pool of water.

Humidity: 

Maidenhair ferns love humidity! In nature, they grow on forest floors or by large trees. Mist your fern every other day at a minimum. Be sure to mist all the fronds and do not neglect the base. Make sure to get any new fronds that come in, they need the extra moisture the most!

All fronds need to be misted. The lighter the frond, the newer it is!

Dark Spots: 

The underside of your leaves will occasionally get some black dots. Don’t Worry! These are spores and they are good. You should congratulate yourself. Your plant is so happy it is trying to make babies.

The new fronds are beautiful when they unroll!

Bugs: 

Maidenhair ferns often get fungus gnats. These little flying bugs are your friends. They keep the soil healthy and as long as you don’t have moldy fruit nearby, they will stay in the pot. 

Touching it: 

Do your best not to touch your plant. The fronds are bouncy and fun, I know. But please avoid playing with your plant, it doesn’t like it as much as you do. On a similar note, they also do not like breezes or strong winds. Do not place your fern by an open window, a fan, or a heater. All of these will lower the humidity and dry out your fern.

Have any questions or tips on keeping your maidenhair happy? Click on the suggestion box below and send us a message!

Written by Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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