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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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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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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Sustainable Sundaes

When striving to follow a more sustainable path and reduce your carbon footprint obvious changes like using a reusable water bottle and buying clothes used may come to mind, but there are more ways then one to be a conscious consumer.

Rethinking how every aspect of your life can become more sustainable is the real key, and that will of course be individual to you!

Every little change adds up, even the ones that aren’t so obvious.

So what about something as simple as an ice cream sundae?

Well, to begin, not all ice creams are the same!

The Real Deal:

By definition, real ice cream should be made like egg custard, then churned‍‍‍ and frozen.

In the U.S. the term ice cream is legally required to be made up of a minimum of 10% milkfat, must weigh no less than 4.5 lbs per gallon, and cannot have more than 100% overrun.

Overrun refers to the air that is whipped into the cream during the churning and freezing process and helps contribute to the light, and fluffy texture of ice cream.

Ice creams with low overrun with be denser in comparison to ice creams with high overrun percentages.

Regulating overrun along with weight per gallon is important to ensure that manufactures are not selling ice cream that has more air than cream!

For similar reasons, milk fat content is measured to be sure that the fat content isn’t being replaced with processed oils.

Tip: If you notice that the label says “Frozen Dairy Dessert” it is most likely because the product does not fit the legal standards to be called ice cream.

What to Look Out For:

Is it organic? 

For agricultural workers and local people, the health impacts of conventional agrochemical use are numerous.

In general, the standard of living for workers on organic farms is much greater than conventional farm workers.

In addition, the USDA’s has strict regulations for organic.

Organic milk must come from a cow that has not been treated with antibiotics, has not been given hormones ― for either reproduction or growth ― and has been fed at least 30 percent of its diet on pasture.

Is it ethical?

It’s important to put into consideration the ingredients used in the ice cream other than dairy.

Quite often exotic ingredients like chocolate, coffee, and vanilla are used for flavorings and mix-ins and the sourcing of these ingredients greatly impacts the sustainability of the product.

Look for the Fairtrade logo to make sure that the ice cream you are buying was ethically sourced.

Sometimes this will even be noted in the ingredients list if it’s only referring to one ingredient in the ice cream, such as “fair trade cocoa“.

Is it local?

In terms of reducing ‘food miles’ and supporting your local economy, it’s always best to buy direct from farm shops and local businesses.

When choosing ice cream it can be easy to default to the popular brands but you may be surprised to find out that there are creameries local to you and by buying their ice cream you are helping support your local community.

What To Avoid:

Does it contain palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil sourced from palm trees that are commonly used as an additive in ice cream.

Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, and Sumatran Rhino.

The palm oil industry is also responsible for serious violations of human rights including worker exploitation and child labor.

If the ice cream has added oils in the ingredients, opt for sunflower oil instead.

Is it Factory Farmed?

In general factory farms have a very negative impact on the environment, not to mention that the animals are confined and commonly mistreated.

Factory farming greatly contributes to air pollution and is responsible for a huge portion of greenhouse gas emissions through methane production.

Opt for ice cream brands that are local and organic to avoid buying from a factory farm.

Is it GMO-Free?

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, have been shown to negatively affect habitat biodiversity and the companies responsible for the manufacturing GMO seeds and crops have been criticized for seriously exploiting small-scale farmers.

The spread of GMO crops such as corn, soy, and rice is directly responsible for the destruction of the Monarch butterfly habitat in North America and has caused many indigenous grain species to go extinct.

Opt for brands that have the GMO-free label when not buying organic.

Dairy Free Ice Cream:

When it comes to sustainability choosing a dairy-free ice cream option is a great way to avoid the negatives associated with the quality of the milk used!

Many dairy-free options tend to be made with coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk or frozen fruit, such as banana.

When looking for dairy-free options be extra careful to avoid unnecessary additives like palm oil.

Sustainable Ice Cream Brands:

Click to

Aldens Organic

Straus Family Creamery

Luna and Larry

Stoneyfield

So Delicious

Ample Hills

Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist

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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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Why Glass Jars Make Going Plastic-Free Easy

(7/12/20: Unfortunately the Davis Food Co-op is not allowing outside containers such as jars right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This page will be updated once the situation has changed and outside containers are allowed in our store once more.)

There is a truth about going plastic-free that none can deny, which is that it takes a certain level of preparation. If you want to avoid reaching for plastic bags, cutlery, or straws out of convenience then you need to have brought your own sustainable version along with you or be willing to go without. And going without isn’t always an option. 

But what one quickly realizes is that toting around their own sustainable silverware, to-go ware, and a stash of reusable bags takes up a fair bit of space. This is why it is important to find ways to optimize your strategy for going plastic-free to make it feel as easy for you as possible. That’s where glass jars come in.

Many people find when going zero-waste that glass jars are the swiss army knives of storage whether it’s for dry goods in your pantry or taking your lunch on the go. If you take your coffee and lunch in a couple of jars you can rinse them out and hit the bulk section of the grocery store.

Perfect for taking coffee or lunch on the go

Of course, there are many amazing options for this purpose out there already. From stainless steel tiffins to stasher bags to candy-colored Klean Kanteens, we are certainly living in an age where eco-friendly to-go ware is abundant. So why choose to use a glass container? Because it is extremely cheap and can suit just about any purpose you can think of.

As was stated above a good rinse is all that is necessary to transition your jar from your lunch container to your coffee cup to your shopping vessel. This means that you have less specialized items that you need to buy to go plastic-free and you end up carrying around less stuff.

If you haven’t made a rainbow salad in a jar, pasta salad in a jar, overnight oats, or chia seed pudding before we couldn’t recommend it more. The end result is fewer dishes to wash and a photo-worthy meal.

Great for grocery shopping

A mason jar is typically the perfect companion to shopping in the Bulk section of the grocery store. While the Co-op is not currently allowing outside containers in the store yet, now is the perfect time to be comping up with new strategies for sustainability once the current crisis is over. Once we have made sure that the health of our community has been protected we need to make sure to safeguard the health of our planet as well. And shopping in the Bulk department isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet. By skipping the packaging you also avoid price markups and can buy the exact quantity of an item that you need without any going to waste.

When shopping in Bulk you’ll want to bring as many jars with you as you can carry. At the Davis Food Co-op, the Bulk section is full of amazing options for grains, beans, nuts, and even candy. You’re sure to find something you didn’t expect that you’ll want to try!

All you need to do to use your jars in Bulk is to write the tare weight, which can be determined with a scale located in Bulk, and the product PLU. There is masking tape for this purpose available in the Bulk Department. They’ll know what to do with all of the numbers at the checkout.

If you’re a pro at bringing your jar and know what your staple items are you can always put the tare and PLU on your jars with a label maker or write them on the lid with a sharpie to streamline the process.

Clear Kitchen Organization

If you use your mason jar to stock up on your favorite treats or staple pantry items at the store, unloading your items is a breeze. No need to open boxes and tear through layer after layer of plastic packaging, all you do once you get home is put your items away in your cupboards. But even if weren’t able to shop in bulk on your last trip to the store your glass jars can still come in handy in your pantry.

Decanting your grocery items into glass jars not only removes the visual clutter of all the packaging but also allows you to better visually assess what you have stocked. Most importantly though, decanting helps you extend the shelf-life of the products you have purchased.

Does this mean I need to go out and buy a bunch of mason jars?

Not at all! There are so many products that are packaging in glass jars you are likely to already be buying that it is likely unnecessary that you’d need to go out of your way to buy jars themselves. From tomato sauce to yogurt or even ice cream, there are many products that are sold in glass jars that would be convenient for you to wash and reuse. If you decide that you’re committed to the #jarlife then by all means buy some for yourself, just don’t forget that you can still find them in great condition secondhand! We also sell many different varieties of glass jars here at the Co-op to suit whatever needs you might have.

We hope that you found these tips helpful, and if you already are aware of the wonder of glass jars then please share this article with someone who needs some inspiration to reduce their plastic use! Share your jar meals and hacks with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #dfcplasticfree.

Written by Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist

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