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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Zero-Waste Kitchen: Towels, Napkins, and Rags

At the Davis Food Co-op, there are many designs of kitchen towels! Or buy some pretty fabric and make some yourself! Stick to 100% cotton or linen to ensure that they are commercially compostable once they’ve run their course. 

Carry a cloth napkin with you! Then you can avoid paper napkins when you get takeout or during your lunch break!

Making your own Rags

Materials:

  • Old Cotton Shirts
  • and/or Old kitchen towels
  • Good scissors
  • Needle or sewing machine and thread (optional)

Hold onto your old 100% cotton T-shirts and cut them into rags! Old kitchen towels that are stained also make great rags! Start by cutting off the sleeves and cutting out any seams. The best rags are 6-8 inch squares. Start by making the larger rags, and use the sleeves and odd spots to make small rags. Do not worry about making every rag a square, these are not for show and any shape will do! The small rags are great for small messes and for cast iron care!

Use up the whole shirt! There is no need to cut off the bottom hems.

Cut your kitchen towel into 2 or 4 rectangles, depending on how big you want them. it is nice to have a variety of sizes! Use your needle and thread or sewing machine to hem the edges. Fold ¼ inch of each side in and use a simple stitch to hold it in place. A zig-zag stitch will work the best to stop strings and runners from coming loose. 

Two rags from one very old dish towel. I folded the raw edges over and used a cross-stitch on my sewing machine to keep it from fraying.

Tips:

  • Keep a separate bag for dirty rags. The rags are often covered in oil from a cast iron, dust from the bathroom, and various kitchen messes that you do not want staining your clothes! Once your stack is running low, it is time to wash them all including the bag! 
  • The great thing about using cotton, if you ever clean something that seems to gross to keep the rags, toss them in your city compost bin! 

Why this Makes a Difference

More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA. At the Davis Food Co-op alone, 4,491 units (single rolls or multipacks) of paper towels were sold in 2019. Rags are a great way to limit or completely stop your need for paper towels!

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How to Freeze Fruits and Veggies

Freezing Fruits

Wash fruits and sort for damaged fruit before freezing. Some fruits do best with a sugar or sugar-syrup preparation. Blueberries, currants, and cranberries do fine without sugar.
Here’s a trick for freezing delicate berries like strawberries or raspberries: Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container. You can also prepare delicate berries with sugar or sugar syrup.

For fruits that tend to brown, like apples, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, treat with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
To make an ascorbic acid wash: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder (or finely crushed vitamin C tablets) in 3 tablespoons water. Sprinkle this mixture over the cut fruit.
An acceptable substitute: Slice the fruit and dip the slices in an acidulated water bath — about one-quart water plus a tablespoon of lemon juice — before drying and freezing.

If you are freezing fruits for smoothies, there is no need to make an ascorbic acid wash.

Banana Ice Cream Recipe

Summer Day Coffee Smoothie

Dark Cherry Smoothie

Strawberry Rhubarb Sage Empanadas (Rhubard freezes super well! Cut into the size you want in your future pies before freezing!)

Freezing Veggies

The best vegetables for freezing are low-acid veggies. When freezing vegetables, first blanch them briefly in boiling water. Then quickly submerge the veggies in ice water to prevent them from cooking. Dry thoroughly on paper towel-lined sheet pans.
Why blanch? Blanching prevents enzymes from damaging color, flavor, and nutrients. Blanching also destroys unkind microorganisms that might be lingering on the surface of vegetables. Pack vegetables snuggly to avoid air contact.
If you are freezing vegetables for stock, there is no need to blanch.

Veggie Stock Recipe

Garren Vegetable Bake (Zucchini and Pea save very well in the freezer!)

Veggie Scrap Snacks

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Shopping Plastic Free at the Co-op

We all know that we could do a little more for our planet every day.

One common way people choose to put the planet first is by avoiding the consumption of products that contain environmentally harmful plastics. However, cutting out plastic entirely in today’s day and age is difficult for anyone, especially a grocery store. While this may be the case, we do believe in the change that can be made from people banding together. After all, we are a cooperatively owned business and that is the whole point of our foundation. The products that we carry are dependent on what our Owners and community shoppers choose to purchase and that is how we will always guide our decision making. With a focus on sustainability in our Ends, we will also always look for plastic free alternatives first in our purchases for the store. So while we may not be able to go fully plastic free, we vow to do all that we can to do so, and that is our pledge. 

 

What is Plastic Free July?

Permanently going Zero Waste can feel daunting for many of us, especially once you realize just how much waste each of us is generating every day. That’s why Plastic Free July is all about making small, sustainable changes to your daily routine. PFJ is a global movement each July that is meant to inspire people to do their part to reduce plastic waste. It encourages people to realize the role that they play in keeping their communities clean and the environment healthy. 

Instead of trying to make a permanent lifestyle change, you commit to avoiding single-use plastics just for the month as a first step. You don’t even need to quit using all plastic, committing to no longer using just plastic bags or straws is enough and maybe can even show you how easy it is to adjust to more sustainable habits. 

Learn more about PFJ to be part of the solution to plastic pollution here

Plastic Free Blogs

Plastic Free July 2023 Recap at the Davis Food Co-op

Plastic Free July 2023 Recap at the Davis Food Co-op

With the end of Plastic Free July, we wanted to give a quick recap of how it impacted the Davis Food Co-op As you can see in the charts below: We reduced the number of plastic products carried at the Co-op by 2.2% in the month of July, compared to the month of June....

Avoiding Plastic is a Privilege

Avoiding Plastic is a Privilege

In conversations about environmental sustainability, it’s common for plastic to play the part as a universal villain.  Indeed, the harmful environmental impacts of plastic pollution are well-documented and significant. And while we spend the month of July...

Plastic Free July Self Care DIY Recipes

Plastic Free July Self Care DIY Recipes

We believe that taking care of yourself and the planet can go hand in hand. Below are five easy, zero waste self-care recipes that can be easily added to your daily routine. Lotion Bars Ingredients:• 4 tbsp organic cocoa butter• 2 tbsp pure refined organic shea...

2022 Plastic Free July Recap at the Co-op

2022 Plastic Free July Recap at the Co-op

  With the end of Plastic Free July, we wanted to give a quick recap of how it impacted the Davis Food Co-op As you can see in the charts below, at the Co-op: We reduced the number of plastic products carried at the Co-op by 1.3% in the month of July, compared to...

Plastic Free July at the Co-op

Plastic Free July at the Co-op

What is Plastic Free July? Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. The movement has inspired 100+ million participants in 190 countries and our involvement in Plastic Free July is to help...

Plastic Free Personal Care

Plastic Free Personal Care

Use the information in this blog to remove the plastic from your personal care routine! You can find these products in our Wellness Department as of the time this blog was written. You can also opt to save some money and make your own plastic-free personal care...

Plastic Free July on a Budget

Plastic Free July on a Budget

Good news: Plastic Free July isn’t about being perfect, it’s about trying your best to make small changes that will benefit all of us! Whether you’ve decided to go plastic free for the rest of the month, or just for tomorrow, take the Plastic Free July pledge and join...

Shopping Plastic Free at the Co-op

Shopping Plastic Free at the Co-op

We all know that we could do a little more for our planet every day. One common way people choose to put the planet first is by avoiding the consumption of products that contain environmentally harmful plastics. However, cutting out plastic entirely in today’s day and...

More >>

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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Staff Fair Trade Picks

Throughout the month of May, we celebrate Fair Trade products and the partnerships that produce them. In-store we will have signage for our staff’s favorite Fair Trade Certified items, and we will update this list throughout May with any new favorites that we find!

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is both a philosophy and a business model. It keeps small farmers and artisans an active part of the marketplace by fairly compensating them for their work, and through various labeling systems allows consumers to shop in a way that aligns with their values.

It also:

Raises the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans

Equitably distributes the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods

Supports democratically owned and controlled organizations

Promotes labor rights and the right of workers to organize

Promotes safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions

“Matr Boomie makes such cute accessories that you can feel good about buying because you know that you are supporting a good cause. They pay the artisans that they work with very well and reinvest a portion of the profits back into their communities.”

Karla, Wellness and General Merchandise Manager

“I love the rich flavor of this tea, it has notes of bergamot just like a proper earl grey should!”

Derlina, Front-end Supervisor

“Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil is an amazing product because of how versatile it is! I use it in baking, to make my own toothpaste, and as a lotion during Spring and Summer to help keep mosquitoes away!⁠”

Madison, Education and Outreach Coordinator

“Divine uses only Fair Trade Certified chocolate from farms owned by their farmers, so you can feel good about indulging in these bars. The white chocolate strawberry and milk chocolate toffee are my favorites.”

Matt, Bulk Department

 

“Coffee is what keeps me going and I love that I can support the farmers that produce it by buying from conscious companies such as Equal Exchange and Pachamama.”

Rocio, Operations and Facilities Manager

“A high-quality olive oil is great for entertaining or using in special meals, I like this one for its flavors of almond and spices. La Riojana is an Argentinian farmer-owned co-op that is the biggest exporter of Fair Trade wine in the world.”

Roberto, Front-end Supervisor

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Staff Sustainability Picks

In celebration of Earth day we thought we would share some of our staff sustainability picks with you!

Ryan from our Deli department loves our selection of glass jars! They’re a great storage option that look pleasing in your pantry and help you buy in bulk. These jars in particular have a vacuum seal that keeps out bacteria.

Rheanna from our Produce team loves using beeswax wraps instead of traditional cling film. Beeswax wraps are washable and are a great way to keep foods fresh and covered. They’re also a great choice for carrying snacks! We carry a variety of wraps with eye catching prints in our store.

Madison from our Marketing team is a big fan of this Booda Butter deodorant that comes in a glass jar. This deodorant is made with pure, organic ingredients and the sustainable packaging that it comes in makes it a part of your self-care routine that you can feel great about!

Aster from our Deli team is a fan of the Stasher bags that we carry. These bags aren’t only great for storage but a perfect choice for marinades and sous vide cooking as well!

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Zero-waste Home Cleaning Tips

There are many things that we could all do in our homes to be a little more environmentally friendly. Ditching products that come in single-use plastic or contain harmful chemicals is a great first step. A total rehaul of your cleaning supplies and routine is not only overwhelming but unnecessary. After all, it would be wasteful to throw out functional cleaning supplies only to replace them with better versions. This guide is meant to help those who are interested in transitioning to more natural products and less wasteful solutions for taking care of their homes. We hope that you find some of these tips helpful!

There are a lot of simple swaps that many of us can make:

  • Use what you have. It can be very tempting to buy new eco-friendly cleaning products. But if what you currently have is still functional, we urge you to use it until it no longer works in order to stem waste.
  • Avoid single-use materials. Instead of buying paper towels, use reusable cleaning cloths. You might not even need to buy cloths as you likely have old clothes or towels lying around that you can cut up and use as rags instead of throwing out. 
  • Repurpose whatever you can think of. Instead of tossing out an old toothbrush, keep it for cleaning nooks and crannies. 

Conventional cleaning products can contain a myriad of ingredients that are irritating to the skin, eyes, and throat. Unfortunately right now, irritating products such as bleach are the most reliable at keeping you safe from bacteria that can get you sick. It is important to be adequately sanitizing surfaces that things from outside your home have come in contact with to prevent the spread of disease. But for everyday cleaning in many parts of your home using such strong products is unnecessary. Gentler solutions are suitable for areas where there isn’t a  concern about outside contaminants.

Below we have outlined two cleaning products that are two simple to assemble yourself and will hopefully bring extra joy to your cleaning routine!

Simple All-purpose Cleaning Spray

We promise that this cleaning spray will have you saying goodbye to the mists that you usually purchase to clean surfaces in your home. This recipe will keep your surfaces clear of toxic compounds and save you the guilt of buying single-use plastics. 

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • The essential oil of your choice(optional- we love using lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus)
  • Spray bottle(preferably glass, but if you have an empty plastic one lying around you can repurpose it for this spray)

Assembly:

  1. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water
  2. Fill the remaining half of the bottle with distilled white vinegar
  3. Add in about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice to give the solution a pleasing scent
  4. Shake well to combine ingredients

Instructions on how to use:

  • Shake and spray on any surface of your choice!(You do not want to use this on granite or marble as vinegar can damage these surfaces)

Toilet Cleaning Fizzers

Unlike conventional toilet bowl cleaners, these fizzy toilet bowl cleaners are made with non-toxic ingredients and easy for you to assemble yourself. While these little fizzers are doing their thing in the bowl they are releasing their active ingredients, which work to neutralize odors, disinfect, and remove stains. 

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid 
  • 25 drops essential oil of your choice(we love using lemon, orange, or eucalyptus)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 orange or lemon zested (optional- will make these look more appealing and won’t clog your toilet*)
  • You will need a silicone mold of some sort to press the mixture into to give these fizzers shape

*It’s a good idea to always zest fruit before juicing it even if you don’t need a zest for the recipe you are following. If you save zest in the freezer then you will always have it on hand when you do need it and you will waste fewer parts of the fruit!

Assembly:

  1. Combine citric acid, baking soda and orange/lemon zest in a large bowl, mixing them well.
  2. Add the oil you have chosen to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine, adding more if you’d like a stronger scent.
  3. Add water a little bit at a time, mixing with your fingers until it holds together when squeezed but isn’t soaked. You want it to be just damp. Don’t add the water all at once, this will cause your mixture to fizz right away and make a mess. 
  4. Press the mixture into the mold of your choice firmly*. Make sure to press out all the air and compact it together nicely. It might bubble up a bit – if this is the case, consider adding it back to the bowl and putting in more dry ingredients. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water to it.
  5. Place your mold into the freezer and let the toilet fizzers harden, this part only takes about two hours but you can leave them longer if you want to be sure that they’ve set. Store them in an airtight container such as a mason jar.

*If you do not have, or do not want to use, a mold you can keep this mixture as a powder in an airtight container and use it that way. 

Instructions on how to use:

  • Drop a fizzer into your toilet bowl and let sit for five minutes. Once enough time has passed scrub and flush the bowl. 

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