OrganicNation.tv is an exploration of the American sustainable food landscape focusing on the people, places and products that are shaping a new green economy and lifestyle. From farmers to urban gardeners, teachers to restaurant owners, we're traveling the country to document how sustainable food systems are being created.
We're exploring such fundamental questions as: What does “organic” mean and how are products certified? What do scientists say about the risks of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on human health? What are the costs of switching to organic production and is it affordable for farmers and consumers? Is organic better than local or vice-versa? Can organic food production feed the nation and is it truly sustainable?
Join us on this adventure - we look forward to your comments, questions and ideas along the way!
- Growing Home, a Chicago non-profit that gives ex-cons training in organic farming, received organic certification for two farms in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, according to an AP report.
- Agriculture has a drinking problem, says Natasha Chart at Change.org's Sustainable Food blog, quoting passages from three important books on the topic.
- CNN says the local food and CSA movement is expanding to meat, checking in with Nature's Harmony Farm in Elberton, GA.
- Fresh off the news that quarterly earnings are up, Whole Foods announced that they will expand the organic foods they offer, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
- Economists live by cold, hard facts, but Motley Fool writer Alyce Lomax just has a feeling that "many shoppers would rather cut corners elsewhere than give up on healthier, more sustainable food." Lomax also observes that, "like stocks, the things that make food 'cheap' or 'expensive' go far beyond a price tag."
Did you know that conventional seeds are often sprayed with more pesticides than the vegetables they come from? While in Port Townsend, Washington, we stopped at the Organic Seed Alliance headquarters to talk with researcher and seed geneticist John Navazio. He brought us to Nash Organic Produce Farm where he's working to breed healthy and robust organic spinach varieties. In this video, John explains why organic seed is important and why you can't just sow any seed for a healthy crop!
"Just imagine if people began discovering their kitchens again, and if the average household instead of popping irradiated amalgamated prostituted reconstituted, adulterated, modified and artificially flavored extruded bar coded un-pronounceable things into the microwave, actually prepared whole foods for all-down-together family meals."
- A widely-circulated report published last week in Science magazine (which lead author Boris Worm says is "a little like a crime scene investigation for overfishing") warns of a global collapse in fish markets, and Atlantic writer Rebecca Bratspies argues that, contrary to what fellow Atlantic writer Gregg Easterbrook says, privatizing the seas and promoting "catch shares" won't solve the problem.
- Wondering whether that moldy cheese can go in the compost bin? Planet Green has a list of 75 things you can compost but thought you couldn't.
- Food and Water Watch is trying to block a federal plan that would open the Gulf of Mexico to deep-water aquaculture, according to a New York Times report.
- Philly.com writer Dianna Marder put together a great summer reading list of food books, organized into three categories: "Foodtion" (food-centric fiction), "Foodoirs" (celebrity confessionals or tell-alls), and Non-ficton / Essays.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Organic Valley Heroes panel was one of the highlights of the Kickapoo Country Fair that was hosted by Organic Valley at their headquarters in La Farge, WI last week. We decided not to film the panel discussion ourselves, and instead we did a few short interviews with some of the panelists afterward, but Organic Valley had their own cameraman on site to record the whole thing.
I've embedded a portion of the panel featuring Rodale Institute CEO Tim Lasalle, but the event also featured Organic Valley CMO Theresa Marquez, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), Environmental Working Group co-founder and president Ken Cook, Organic Consumers Association director Ronnie Cummins, and author Sandra Steingraber.
To see some of the other panelists, go to the video gallery that Organic Valley posted on their website.
In Michigan, lawmakers are proposing legislation that would, on the surface, establish standards for livestock treatment. That sounds like a good thing, because there are currently no laws on the books governing animal treatment in Michigan. But look closer and you'll find that the proposed laws -- House Bills 5127 and 5128 -- would simply give state approval to current animal confinement practices.
Because Michigan has no laws addressing the health and welfare of farm animals, farmers and agribusiness interests are worried that The Humane Society will swoop in and launch a ballot initiative campaign, like the one they successfully executed in California recently.
A glance at some of the local press in Michigan shows that with this legislation, farmers and lawmakers have no pretense of improving animal welfare -- they want to preserve the status quo.
"With this legislation, we can prove farmers are doing it right," [State Rep. Mike Simpson, D-Jackson] said. "We can find the bad actors and weed them out. We don't need outside folks coming into the state."
Simpson also vowed not to allow "an outside group to come into Michigan and give chickens the right to drive cars."
This legislation doesn't "prove" anything, and from what I can tell, industrial farming interests will likely be given control of the advisory council that will set the rules for farmers, and farmers will be given 11 years to comply with new rules (not that they'll have much difficulty complying with industry standards).
Here's one of my favorite quotes from the Muskegon Chronicle:
"When it's your bread and butter, you can't do anything but what's best for your animals," said [ Ted Crowley, president of the Muskegon County Farm Bureau]. ... "A farmer takes care of his animals."
That gets to the heart of the problem: Some farmers do take care of their animals, but many do not. I can understand why some Michiganders are averse to a national interest group like HSUS pushing ballot initiatives through, but that should prompt lawmakers to pass progressive animal welfare legislation of their own, instead of reinforcing industry standards.
In October 2004, Steve Dickman and his roommate began making kombucha in their apartment and giving it away to friends and family. Soon, requests for the fermented tea became so overwhelming, they decided to quit their jobs and dedicate themselves to producing it full-time, and High Country Kombucha was born.
What's kombucha? It's a probiotic tea fermented by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. By some accounts, people in China and Japan have been drinking kombucha for its purported medicinal qualities for as long as 2,000 years, and special kombucha cultures have been circulated from person-to-person for centuries. Proponents of kombucha believe it has a cleansing effect on the body and helps to rebuild the digestive system with beneficial bacteria. It's also said to increase energy, balance blood sugar levels, relieve congestion, promote healthy skin and improve eyesight.
What's special about High Country Kombucha is that it's produced at high altitude in Eagle, Colorado and packaged in amber bottles to protect the light-sensitive bacteria in the drink from harmful ultraviolet light. The folks at High Country Kombucha don't add sugary juices to their teas, which Steve says will de-nature a good kombucha enzyme. Instead, they infuse the drinks with roots and herbs like burdock, dandelion and ginger. The tea is certified 100-percent organic by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and contains four servings of beneficial ingredients per 16 ounce container.
According to Steve, no two kombuchas are alike and he claims that High Country Kombucha contains a unique strain of kombucha that other bottled teas on the market don't. And I have to say, after a week of drinking the stuff, I have never felt healthier!
The tea comes in delicious flavors like Aloe Vera, Goji Berry, Chai, Honeysuckle and Passionflower, but my favorite so far is Wild Root because it's nicely effervescent and tastes just like root beer! It also contains extracts of healing herbs like sarsaparilla root, yellow dock root, burdock root and dandelion root.
I definitely recommend these teas as a substitute for soda or coffee during the day. They taste so good, you won't even notice that they are medicinal-grade teas -- until you start to feel the healthy effects.
High Country Kombucha teas are available in grocery stores nationwide. Find your nearest location here.
"You could douse a multivitamin in poison and it would still have 200% of your daily recommended allotment of vitamin C. "Nutrients" laced with pesticides aren't exactly healthy...."
- Alex, commenting on the British report that looked at the results of 162 studies comparing the nutrient content of organic to conventional foods and found their nutrient content to be roughly equal. Alex points out what hundreds of articles in the mainstream press failed to: that food can't simply be reduced to a bundle of nutrients and calories, and that "nutrients" can't be isolated from other variables -- such as synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use -- in food production.
As food writer Marion Nestle notes, the UK study didn't address the use of "antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, genetic modification, or sewage sludge" in the study. The nutrient loads of organic and conventionally-produced foods might be comparable (although I'm not entirely sold on that), but to assume that the health benefits of the two are equal is to ignore the harmful effects of the various inputs involved in conventional food production.