5 Practical Ways That You Can Help Save The Bees

We all know that it is crucial we take steps to save the bees. After all, every one out of three bites of food we eat is dependent on bees for pollination. Our bee populations face many threats from things such as Colony Collapse Disorder, the overuse of pesticides, and habitat loss. We hear about how desperately we need to save the bees from our friends, the news, and countless TED talks. But it can be hard to know what one should actually do if they want to play a part in preserving our pollinators and their natural environments. So we have rounded up 5 different small things you can do that will have a big impact if enough people take the initiative. Read on to start saving the bees today!

Cultivate Native Plants

In order for bees to get pollinating, they need plenty of plants that they can choose from. But you want to make sure that you are cultivating plants that are native to the area in which you live if you want to help out your bees. This is because those bees have evolved to interact with those native plants specifically, non-native plants might not provide pollinators with the pollen or nectar that they need.

Here are some native California plants that you could put in your yard to help out your local pollinators:

  • California Poppies, this annual plant produces iconic orange flowers that are sure to lure bees in. It is a perennial that grows well in both sun and partial shade, it is also drought resistant.
  • Germander Sage, this bush is covered with brilliant blue blooms in early summer and fall. It needs full sun in order to thrive but it is deer resistant and attracts both bees and hummingbirds.
  • Cascade Creek Goldenrod, throughout spring and fall this plant displays bright yellow flowers that attract bees and butterflies. It needs full sun to partial shade and is drought resistant.
  • Catmint, this spreading perennial is hardy and herbaceous. It blooms in the spring and early summer and is beloved by many varieties of bees.

Use Safe Forms of pest control

There are many factors contributing to the decline of bee populations but one of the most significant is the use of pesticides in domestic and commercial agriculture. If you have a garden going then you want to find natural ways to keep out pests, or else we risk losing the ability to keep such gardens in the future. After all, many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy are pollinated by bees.

When looking for a pollinator-friendly form of pest-control it’s not enough for it to be labeled organic, some can still be toxic to pollinators even though they are plant-based. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for non-toxic ingredients such as Kaolin clay, garlic, and corn gluten. There are many other forms of natural pest control from bacterias and oils.

Create An Oasis For Bees In Your Yard/Patio

No matter the size of your yard or patio there are ways that you can create a safe haven for bees, even if you only have a front porch step to work with. Here are some things that you can do to keep your local bees happy:

  • Leave a dish of water outside for bees to rehydrate themselves. Make sure that you provide “landing zones” for them in the form of stones, twigs, or corks, as bees are clumsy and can easily drown. Also, don’t add sugar to the water. This is a myth and does not benefit them.
  • Place a bee hotel outside your home. We carry beneficial bug houses such as this at the Co-op! They allow bees to find a resting place on their long journeys from flower to flower.

Even if you don’t have room for a full garden having a single native plant on your patio is better than nothing!

Support Local Farmers and beekeepers

We can’t stress this point enough as the use of pesticides is one of the greatest threats to bee populations. Choosing to support farms that don’t spray pesticides will help the bees even more than if you personally stop spraying pesticides. Check out our local page to see some of the great local farms with outstanding practices that we carry at the co-op. You can also find many of these farms at the farmer’s market if you want to support them directly. 

Supporting local beekeepers is an even more direct way to help the cultivation of local bee populations. Purchasing bee products such as beeswax, honey, and honeycomb not only garner a sense of connection to the bees, but they help to support the people who’ve made supporting bees a life priority. A great local producer is Pure Honey from Winters, California.

Use YOUR VOICE, SPEAK FOR THE BEES

One of the most powerful ways that we can help the bees is through speaking out. By sharing what you’ve learned with others you may be able to inspire change in those close to you, and if we all do this it can lead to big results. You can also choose to support local organizations that are doing important work to help save the bees, such as:

  • Circle of Bees, which is built around sub/urban pollinators, especially honey-bees.
  • The Davis Bee Collective is a group of small-scale beekeepers dedicated to the cooperative practice and promotion of ecological apiculture.
  • The Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis is a unique outdoor museum that provides resources for local bee pollinators and educates visitors to create pollinator habitat gardens. It also provides a site for the observation and study of bees and the plants that support them.

Written by: Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist


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Elderberries: The New Face of California Hedgerows

The practice of growing hedgerows stems from all the way back to the Medieval times of England and Ireland.

Hedgerows can increase the beauty, productivity, and biodiversity of a property and are especially beneficial for farms.

Modern day hedgerows are used as a field border to enhance the habitat value and productivity of farmland.

To date, the creation of hedgerows and other restored habitat areas on California farms remains low.

This is in part because of a lack of information and outreach that addresses the benefits of field edge habitat, and growers’ concerns about its effect on crop production and wildlife intrusion.

Native hedgerows on farm edges benefit wildlife, pest control, carbon storage and runoff, but hedgerow planting by farmers in California is limited, often due to establishment and maintenance costs.

Field studies in the Sacramento Valley highlighted that hedgerows can enhance pest control and pollination in crops, resulting in a return on investment within 7 to 16 years, without negatively impacting food safety.

What if hedgerows could provide a source of farm income, to offset costs AND benefit the local environment?

Currently the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) is collaborating with Cloverleaf Farm in Solano County and several other growers in the Central Valley and coastal counties to assess and develop the potential for elderberries to become a commercial specialty crop, with a focus on hedgerow-grown elderberry production and marketing for small- and mid-scale California farms.

UC Agriculture and Environment Academic Coordinator, Sonja Brodt believes that elderberries may be the intersection of sustainable farming, super nutrition, and economic viability.

At the 2019 Elderberry Field Day Sonja explained, “Elderberries may have the potential to combine crop production with environmental conservation functions in a way not typically seen on California farms. This model would enable small- and medium-scale farmers to receive a direct income from a farm practice that benefits the ecosystem as well.”

Farms like Cloverleaf use elder trees as hedgerows on their fields to increase habitat value and crop pollination while also making a profit on the side by selling elderberry products, such as jams, syrups, and flower cordials.

Additionally, with growing consumer interest in health foods, elderberry product sales nationwide have jumped 10-50% in recent years but almost no commercial supply originates in California.

The berries and flowers of elderberry are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system.

According to recent research, elderberries can help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and even help protect your heart!

There are about 30 types of elder plants and trees found around the world.

The European version (also known as Sambucus nigra) is the one most often used in health supplements, however, recent attention has been drawn to the California elderberry (Sambucus caerulea).

Cloverleaf Farm has been an active partner with SAREP by monitoring the success level of elderberries planted and comparing results between the California elderberry and the European elderberry.

So far their findings show that California elderberries have a greater success rate when grown in Mediterranean climates compared to the European elderberry and attract more native pollinators, which benefits the crop yields.

In addition the UC Davis Food Science and Technology department is currently working on a elderberry project, led by Katie Uhl, focusing on the bioactive components unique to California elderberries that can be beneficial for human health.

While a diversity of plant species makes for the most effective hedgerows, the California elderberry is proving itself to be a perfect foundation species as it provides excellent environmental habitat and great potential for profits by selling the berries as health food products!

You can find Cloverleaf Farm elderberry syrups here at the Davis Food Co-op, along with many other elderberry products in our Wellness department!

Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist

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A Conversation On Biodynamic Wine With Martin Pohl From Beaver Creek Vineyards

We recently had the chance to speak with Martin Pohl from Beaver Creek Vineyards about why biodynamic wine is more than just the latest trend in the wine industry. Beaver Creek Vineyards is located in Lake County, California, and produces biodynamic wines. Martin Pohl is the owner and winemaker of Beaver Creek, and his overriding philosophy is to work with nature, not against it.

About 50 sheep roam amongst the vineyard’s rows, a flock which Pohl herds himself. He views himself as a steward of the land on which his vineyard rests. He has faced various challenges in protecting it, “There have been many hits, Lake County suffers from droughts, there was the fire in 2015.”

Despite these setbacks, he still sees his plot of land as nearly perfect. “It’s a perfect place because it’s dry, so there’s barely any pest problems.” Other regions, such as those on the coast, face greater pest problems because of the humidity. “They almost have to use pesticides,” Pohl said. “Here it’s so ideal, I don’t have to spray for mildew, we don’t use any chemicals, it’s completely clean.”

His philosophy of non-interference extends from the vineyard to the wine barrels as well. “None of our wines have any sulfites added,” Pohl said. This is important to Pohl because he views natural wines as a living system. “Think of it kind of like the human immune system,” Pohl said. “When you add sulfites you compromise that system. They might prolong the shelf life of wine but they shorten its lifespan”

He has hopes for expansion sometime in the near future. He split with his partners in 2012 and will soon be the sole owner of the vineyard.

How did you become so interested in organics and biodynamics?

“It starts with a lifestyle, right? For the last 10 or 15 years, I always feel like I’ve been ahead of the curve. I started my organic lifestyle around 20 years ago. And as a result, I wanted to drink clean wine. And why would you put chemicals and additives in wine if you don’t have to? So I figured out how to make it without it. “

“The whites and roses are a little more complicated to make a natural way, they’re a little fragile. But the reds are easy because they have the skins on.”

“The yeast shapes the wine similar to the way that the weather patterns do throughout the year

“The byproduct of the natural yeast fermentation is sulfur!” The excitement in Pohl’s voice was tangible over this fact. “You can actually smell sulfur during the fermentation.”

I’m curious, were you a winemaker first or someone who was concerned about the environment?

Beaver Creek Vineyards during the 2015 Valley Fire

“Well there’s all things together, you want to do good things, you want to drink healthy wines, you want to help the planet.”

“I was an immigrant here, I was in San Francisco for 5 years working as a waiter. But that actually helped me learn about wine. Two friends and I then had the idea to start a winery.” “We had no prior experience in winemaking, so we learned from scratch.”

“What inspired me was actually my mother, she sent me this book about biodynamic wines which made it clear to me from the beginning that we should make healthy wines in order to help the planet and ourselves.”

What are some of the things that you do to protect your land?

“We don’t till our soil anymore. We have one field that we haven’t tilled since 2012, and the other one we stopped tilling three years ago.”

“We don’t own the land so we’re kind of limited in what we can do. We develop our own compost, and this is the only substance that we use for fertilization.” This is standard for biodynamic wines.

“We irrigate some because it is so hot here in Lake County,” Pohl said. “We used to be a dry farm actually until 2014, and then it was a disaster between gophers, the fire, and the drought.” If you don’t already know, gophers happen to be the bane of a winemaker’s existence. They feast on the roots of vines and sometimes can take plants underground.

“You would probably be surprised with organic grapes how many different additives you are allowed to add.” But with Biodynamic wine grapes, the regulations are quite strict, only natural methods may be used.

Written by Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist

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A Conversation With Emma Torbert From Cloverleaf Farm

We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Emma Torbert from Cloverleaf Farm to hear about the unique structure they have and the sustainable practices that they use. Emma got her masters in Horticulture from UCD and worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for seven years. Cloverleaf is an 8-acre organic orchard and farm outside of Davis, California on the Collins Farm that specializes in peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, berries, and vegetables. The Cloverleaf follows regenerative principles including no-till, rotational grazing, and cover-cropping. The farm is co-owned by Emma Torbert, Katie Fyhrie, Kaitlin Oki, Yurytzy Sanchez, Neil Singh, Tess Kremer, and Kyle Chambers; who all manage the farm together in a cooperative and consensus-based fashion. You can find The Cloverleaf Farm’s produce at the Sacramento Farmers Market on Sundays and at various grocery stores in Davis, Sacramento, and the Bay Area. 

Cloverleaf seems to break the mold of what a traditional farm functions like. Traditionally farms are passed down generationally within families, but all of your farmers come from diverse backgrounds, how did that model get started at Cloverleaf?

“We started out a group of four women and then the farm passed through a number of different partners. As different people were leaving we were realizing that for the sake of future transitions and the longevity of the farm operation a worker-owned cooperative farm would be best, although we are currently still structured as a partnership. There are currently seven partners right now.”

“We’ve been working with the California Center for Co-op Development for the last four years trying to figure out a way that everybody can own equal equity in the farm. 2014 was the first time that we started profit sharing and equity sharing. The equity sharing is not yet equal but that is what we are working with the CCCD on.”

“One of our core principles in our vision statement is working as a team. An important thing in thinking about farm management for us is recognizing everybody’s different skills and working together without an established hierarchical structure. We rotate who gets to be the crew leader every couple of weeks, so they are essentially the boss for those two weeks, which means everyone gets a chance to step into a leadership role.”

How do you limit your greenhouse emissions?

“In terms of limiting our carbon footprint, we do a number of things. In terms of the transportation of our food, we try to deliver as locally as possible. We purposefully choose markets that are closer and do not take our products further than the bay area. We are always making the decision to try to sell closer to home.”

“As for what happens in the field, all of our vegetables get grown no-till. Our orchards and all of our annual crops are no-till, which means that we don’t use a tractor very often at all. In doing that we use less fossil fuel. We’ve also put solar panels around the farm, and can’t wait until we can add more.” 

“Something else that really contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is water use. We use moisture sensors so that we use as little water as possible. We tread that fine line of watering as little as possible without stunting the growth of the trees in our orchards.”

What are your pest management practices?

“We are an organic farm so we don’t spray any pesticides while the fruit is on the trees. We do use pheromone sprays, which disrupt the mating cycles of a lot of stone fruit pests. We put out raptor perches and owl boxes. The main pests that we have trouble with are ground squirrels and gophers.”

How do you try to limit your food waste?

We’ve been trying lots of different things for many years and I feel like this year it’s all coming together, we have very little food waste coming from our farm right now. Our compost pile is pretty tiny right now considering the size of our farm.

“We have an Ugly Fruit club, which allows people to buy our third-grade fruit at a discounted price. We also create a lot of value-added products like jams and dried fruit, which allows us to still sell our less aesthetic fruit instead of wasting it.”

“Something else that we do is donate to the food bank, especially this year when we’re worried about our community being food insecure.”

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​​Unique Co-op Strength During the Pandemic

Written by Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange works with farmer co-ops in over 20 countries, and our model is to actively seek and partner with marginalized farming communities. These remote communities face significant challenges during the best of times. During a pandemic, the challenges become more acute. We intentionally work with farmers who have organized themselves into democratically-run cooperatives. We believe this structure helps change the balance of power long-term. We’re seeing that during the pandemic, the co-op systems have provided lifelines to farmers, helping them in ways that would not have existed were it not for the existence of the co-op.​​

​​Co-op Structures During Covid:

International Connections

​​Equal Exchange has worked hard to create co-op supply chains as the core of our business. Unlike traditional trade of international goods, a large portion of our products move through a co-op supply chain: from farmer co-op at source to Equal Exchange (we are a worker-owned co-op) to about 200 food co-op stores in the U.S. (most of which are consumer-owned co-ops, with a few being hybrid models including workers and consumers).​​First and foremost, our co-op-centric alternative food system has enabled delicious food to successfully get from farmer to eater. That alone has been an achievement during these times. The co-op supply chains are living examples of how trading based on respectful, long-term relationships and good environmental and social values are not just philosophically sound, but also create reliable and sound business.​​

As the organization in the middle of the co-op supply chain—between the farmer end and the U.S. co-op food store end—we worked hard to facilitate farmers getting information, access to financing, and timely decisions from us around purchases and contracts. For example, our long-term relationships and collaborative work on quality standards enabled us to quickly approve shipments of coffee to get containers of coffee on the water toward the U.S. to us, bypassing some of our normal protocols, securing coffee shipments before some international ports closed. We switched to digital logistics, which enabled payments to happen more quickly. Due to investment over time in technology both at source and at Equal Exchange, we were able to pretty seamlessly switch more of our international work to online instead of in-person right from the start of the waves of travel bans. Some farmer groups also cited us as the most valuable early source of information regarding the corona virus and the live-time learning that was happening about how to prevent its spread and how it was impacting workflow, transportation and our shared supply chains. Farmer co-ops had systems and field staff to help spread practical information to their often geographically-isolated member families.​​

​​Co-op Structure Impact at the Farming Community Level

​​We’ve seen many inspiring examples of how co-ops provided lifelines to their members. At the core, co-ops exist to meet the needs of their members which are not being met through more traditional systems. Over time, these co-ops have invested to build their muscles and their systems – financially, logistically, scientifically – to understand and respond to the needs of the community. They had created essential infrastructures that were already up and running, a unique strength that enabled them to respond to members’ needs during this pandemic.​​
​​Here are a few of the ways that these democratic farmer co-ops realized and responded to their members’ needs, in ways that their national governments or health care systems could not:​​

  • ​​Cocoa co-op Acopagro in Peru used recent advanced Fair Trade premium payments from Equal Exchange to provide food, masks and cleaning supplies to co-op members in 2 different communities where they work. 
  • ​​Coffee co-op members from San Fernando in Peru focused on the fact that they had productive land at a time when many of their children were living or studying in the city without reliable access to healthy food; they collectively filled a truck with their homegrown produce and delivered the food to their children. 
  • ​​Banana co-op AsoGuabo in Ecuador used Fair Trade premium funds to purchase PPE for medical workers in the community and mobilized its logistics operations to transport medicines and supplies to local hospitals. This was critical support at a time when transportation was significantly restricted as a result of curfew measures.
  • ​​Sugar Co-op Manduvira in Paraguay donated money to local health clinics, intentionally directing part of their limited resources to other trusted organizations that in turn help their members.

​​ ​​In this heavy time, there have been true moments of connection and inspiration that are important to recognize and appreciate. Out of necessity, many of us are finding new ways to listen, to share, to respond. Each co-op is engaging deeply with its membership, and as a network of co-ops, we are finding new ways to interact with each other across the supply chain. During October, we often take the time to celebrate the concept and practice of “cooperatives.” ​​

​​Co-op Impact in US Communities

​​This work continues, as farmer co-ops, the Equal Exchange co-op, and food co-ops each and collectively continue to evolve, adapt, and keep food, income, and support flowing. As members or consumers at food co-ops in your own community, we invite you to reflect upon how it has mattered to you to be a part of your local food co-op in these times. What have you done to support your food co-op? What have they done to support their members and their communities? There is much to be grateful for. In these trying times, we all recognize that the food matters that is traded through these systems, but that the co-op systems themselves are also unique, valuable, and worthy of a spotlight.​

Check out Equal Exchange Blog at https://blog.equalexchange.coop/

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Preparation for Virtual Back to School

Although back to school is very different this year, it is helpful to plan out snack breaks and lunches. Meal prep so that school at home is smoother! Many of our Back to school favorites are on sale 8/21-8/23 for owners! 

Back to Schoool Essentials

Meli Wraps are a ziplock and plastic wrap alternative. These beeswax wraps cling to bowls and work great for holding trail mix! 

Stasher bags are ziplock 2.0. They are freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe! These silicon master bags are great for snacks, soups, sandwiches, and more! Make soup in advance, portion out in these bags, and keep in the freezer. When you are ready to eat, place them in a pot of boiling water until thawed or throw in the microwave. 

Be prepared with All Good hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

Love Bags makes tote bags, lunch boxes, and more. Best of all their fabric is 100% recycled plastics. Cleaning up the oceans with style!

Kleen Kanteen is a long-time favorite. We got in various sizes to ensure you can stay hydrated! They are insulated and will keep your water cool during this heatwave!

U-Konserve is great for meal prepping. We carry various sizes of these sustainable metal and silicone containers. Prep for the week and these containers stack nicely in the fridge! 

Recipes:

Sandwiches

Salads

Snacks

Dip or Build

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What Is Biodynamic Wine?

There are many buzzwords that seem to surround our food; organic, sustainable, healthy, natural, the list goes on and on. Whether you have heard of the term biodynamic before or this is your first time encountering, you may feel the urge to view it as just another trendy term used to describe food. But the term biodynamic refers to a method of cultivation that aims to promote harmony between the natural world and those that live in it.

Biodynamics overview

Goats grazing at Frey Vineyards

Food plays an important role not only in our daily lives but in our culture and economy as well. But oftentimes getting dinner on the table takes precedent over wondering how it was grown and where it came from. This is unfortunate because pesticides, hormones, and over-processed foods are just some of the ills contributing to our and our planet’s health issues.

Biodynamic agriculture is a response to this issue. This style of cultivation has roots in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, which asserts that a farm or vineyard is a living system in its own right. He emphasized the relationships between plants, soil, and animals as the lifeblood of a farm. The aim of biodynamic farming is to create a system that is self-sustaining, using compost instead of chemical fertilizers.

As a practice, this style of farming goes a step further than organic cultivation, not only avoiding pesticides but following the natural rhythms of the environment. The guidelines that Biodynamic farms must follow are quite strict; they must use self-contained composting materials, only compost can be used as a fertilizing material, and the use of plastic materials in the farm’s infrastructure is not permitted. Producers who wish to label their products as biodynamic must be properly credentialed by an organization called Demeter. In order to become certified cultivators must use eight mineral and plant-based preparations to activate soil life and plant growth on the land.

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association defines biodynamic agriculture as “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” Biodynamic farming uses sustainable practices to ensure that the land is left in as good or better shape as it was found for future generations.

Biodynamic viticulture

Wild Mustard blowing in the wind in the Frey organic Cabernet vineyard, Spring 2019.

So biodynamic viticulture refers to using these sorts of natural and holistic practices to make wine. Biodynamic vineyards thus become a haven for local flora and fauna, barring a few select pests(e.g. gophers and insects) who would eat every grape before it ever graced a barrel if they had their way.

Gerard Bertrand, a world-renowned producer of biodynamic wines, characterizes biodynamic wine as possessing “more freshness, more minerality, and more complexity.” He asserts that the soil is what determines a wine’s terroir, and to use chemicals in the soil strips it of its unique characteristics. Because of the level of care biodynamic farmers use in their vineyards biodynamic wine is said to have a higher-quality taste than other types of wine.

We carry a variety of biodynamic wines here at the Co-op from producers such as Beaver Creek, Frey Vineyards, and Lunaria Orsogna.

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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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Co-op Owner Waste Reduction Tips

Co-op Owner and Shopper Tips for Plastic Free July!

The availability of bulk products at the Coop determines how well I am able to keep plastics to a minimum. Before the covid-19 restrictions, I brought jars, metal bowls with lids, and homemade fabric bags to get all of my herbs, spices, vinegar, beans, grains, oats, flours, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, tofu, produce (including salad greens and mushrooms), dish soap, shampoo, and more. As I patiently await the return of these items, there are a number of things I can still do in my effort to keep my plastic consumption down.

Many people may think it is time-consuming and even daunting to say no to plastic, but its really just like any habit change – a little challenging at first, but quick and easy once you get some experience.

  • Buy in glass: milk, ketchup, mustard, salsa, yogurt, olives, herbs, and spices, etc. This may mean branching out from favorite brands.
  • Purchase nut/oat milks in cartons, not plastic or tetrapaks. The empty cartons can go in the city compost (remove plastic spout first), and are good containers for messy or smelly compost items, possibly stored in your freezer until garbage day.
  • Make your own iced tea.
  • If you drink seltzer water, consider investing in a Soda Stream.
  • Make your own yogurt – easy and kind of magical
  • Put those fruits and vegetables loose right in your cart. The clerks at the Coop are very respectful of your produce, and you’re going to wash it before eating anyway.
  • If you must put produce in a bag (beans, mushrooms, etc.) use a paper or waxed bag. If the bag is not in good enough shape to reuse afterward, you can put it in your compost bin.
  • Store leftovers in jars. A couple of corn cobs fit well in a half-gallon mason jar, which can be stored on its side in the refrigerator.
  • Use bar soap, unwrapped, or wrapped in paper that you can recycle or compost.
  • Consider toothpaste sold in aluminum tubes.
  • Get dish and laundry detergents in cardboard boxes that can be recycled.
  • To treat stains on clothing, consider a bar of Fels Naptha, or other stain treatment products available in bar form, packaged in paper.
  • If you didn’t bring your shopping bags, put everything back in the cart and unload it into your trunk, where hopefully you have your bags and can use those, but if not, tough it out and deal with all of the items when you get home. 
  • If you order take-out food from a restaurant, tell them you do not want utensils, napkins, packets of soy sauce, etc.
  • At the Farmer’s Market, bring your own bags and juggle the produce into it, you don’t need a plastic bag for that one minute from the scale into your bag. You can also bring your plastic clamshells to reuse.
  • Do you really need a plastic liner in your trash can? If you’re composting the wet food waste, probably not. Use the inevitable pouches so many foods come in to throw the occasional gross stuff out.

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Know Your Sunscreen

This time of year it’s especially important to wear sunscreen!

Every year in the U.S. about one third of the population gets sunburned and as most know, excessive sun exposure is linked to skin cancer.

When properly used, sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and reduce the risk of skin cancer!

Now let’s talk about the different kinds of sunscreen because contrary to popular belief, not all sunscreen ingredients are equal.

There are two main types, physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens:

Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients that sit on the top of the skin and block UV rays. Examples are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Pros:
  • Naturally broad-spectrum, offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays
  • No wait needed, protects from the sun as soon as its applied
  • Lasts longer when in direct UV light
  • Less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions
  • Better option for sensitive or acne-prone skin because it’s less pore-clogging
  • Longer shelf life 

Cons:
  • May leave white film on skin making some formulas incompatible with darker skin tones
  • Can rub or rinse off easily
  • Must be applied generously to properly coat skin

Chemical Sunscreens:

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and avobenzone which soak into the top layer of skin and work by absorbing UV rays as they enter the skin.

Pros:
  • Less is needed to protect skin 
  • Spreads easier on skin, tends to be a thinner consistency

Cons:
  • Requires 20-30 minutes after application to begin working
  • Higher risk of skin irritation, multiple ingredients are required to make broad spectrum formulas that protect against UVA and UVB
  • Re-application required frequently
  • May clog pores for oily skin types
  • The higher the SPF the higher the chance of irritation
  • Many compounds used are highly toxic to marine life

Environmental Impact:

As mentioned above, a big con of chemical sunscreens is that many of the compounds used are highly toxic to marine organisms, especially coral reefs.

Chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene damage coral and are largely responsible for coral reef bleaching.

Coral are bright and colorful because of microscopic algae called zooxanthellae.

Coral bleaching happens when coral becomes damaged or stressed and in response expel the algae, turning them white.

This makes for unhealthy coral reefs that cannot support marine wildlife.

Research done in Hawaii shows that coral reefs are exposed to 6,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year.

When beachgoers wearing sunscreen go swimming they carry these chemicals into the ocean.

Concentrations as low as one drop of water in over six Olympic-sized swimming pools have shown to cause serious coral bleaching!

Coral reefs support some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet!

Thousands of marine animals depend on coral reefs for survival, including sea turtles, fish, crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, sea birds, starfish, and more!

Sunscreen is essential for skin health and UV protection, but not all sunscreens are the same and its important to be mindful of the differences.

Take a little extra time to look over the ingredients next time you buy some screen, it will only benefit you and the environment!

Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist

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