Day 267–A Farmer’s Response to the Stanford Organics Report

I posted my own thoughts on the Stanford University survey of existing research on organic produce HERE. But I thought this piece from the Huffington Post was excellent, especially since it comes from a farmer’s perspective. Hope you enjoy!

Challenging the ‘Conventional’ Wisdom: One Farmer’s Take On The Stanford Organic Food Study

Andrew Stout, Founder and CEO, Full Circle

Much has already been written about the recent study from Stanford University claiming that organic foods are no more nutritious or healthy than non-organic foods. In short, the researchers concluded that an apple is an apple and all lettuce was created equal — no matter the food’s provenance, how it was chemically treated in the field, or how many miles it traveled to reach your table.

“There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” said Dena Bravata, MD, MS, the senior author of the study.

As a farmer and a father, I strongly disagree, and I think the Stanford study sends a terrible message to U.S. consumers. Here’s why:

The word “conventional” may sound relatively harmless when used to describe the food we eat, but the reality is our nation’s “conventional” factory farms use far more pesticides, herbicides and fungicides than most consumers realize when shopping for produce or preparing a family meal.

Granted, conventionally grown foods have to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum safety threshold when it comes to the amount of traceable pesticides. But the Stanford report fails to appropriately consider the compounding effects that multiple chemicals ingested through different foods may have on our long-term wellbeing, or the effects they have on vulnerable populations like pregnant women and small children.

As a parent of two young boys, I for one don’t think the minimum requirements are anywhere near sufficient. Consider the chemical chlorpyrifos, an insect-killing organophosphate that has been approved for use in “conventional” American agriculture for more than four decades.

In 2009, more than one million pounds of this pesticide were used in California alone. Yet according to researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, minimal chlorpyrifos exposure, even at very low levels consistent with standard agriculture use, has been proven to cause adverse impacts on brain development in ways that interfere with academic achievement, reading and learning comprehension, and even sexual development. Not to mention the adverse impact that millions of pounds of this chemical, and hundreds of others like it, can have on the soil and watershed that supports delicate ecosystems for hundreds of miles or more. San Francisco Bay? Puget Sound? Gulf of Mexico? These chemicals eventually end up there, many times with devastating effects.

Agricultural chemicals are designed to kill things. They are toxic substances that come with skull-and-crossbones on the containers. Farm workers commonly wear futuristic-looking “hazmat” suits as protection when they spray the fields. In some cases, farmers, workers and even pets are not allowed to enter the fields for hours after treatment.

Farmers and food producers in this country have an opportunity, and an obligation, to provide consumers incentives for making the healthiest choices possible. The debate should not just be about whether a strawberry produced at a factory farm is more or less nutritious than its organically grown equivalent. We should instead be asking: “How can we grow and provide families with the freshest, cleanest, and most flavorful, strawberries possible?”

It’s something we take very seriously at Full Circle, the 400-acre organic farm I founded in Carnation, Wash. My wife and brother were there at the beginning with me, helping to sow the fields from day one. It just didn’t make sense to me to expose them, our customers, our land or our community watershed to toxic chemicals in the name of yield and cost. We’re about purity. Flavor. Freshness. Stewardship.

Full circle. Farm to table. Cradle to grave. These are not concepts that have much resonance in our nation’s industrial food system. But in the words of food advocate and organic pioneer David Lively, “Conventional agriculture is based on a lot of non-sustainable limited-resource practices and principles, and the chickens are coming home to roost.”

It doesn’t take a bunch of academics to tell us that industrial farming isn’t working on many levels. We need to stop debating and measuring how “un-harmful” chemical pesticides are in our food. We need to instead focus on how we can best grow and distribute fresh, pure foods that are as inviting, delicious and healthy as possible, encouraging people to eat more of them and make better overall food choices. We should be giving folks incentives to eat those apples, greens and strawberries – not more reasons to fret over and avoid them.

Day 228–Summer Southern Field Peas

I like pretty much all kinds of peas and we here in North Carolina are high into field pea season. If you haven’t tasted home cooked field peas, you really must get in your car NOW and head south. Unlike tender, fragile spring peas, field peas are hearty, soul satisfying and meaty. They are amazing in chili or with collards or just cooked with a ham hock until rich and creamy. I was going to do some research on field peas, when lo’ and behold, I saw this blog. Done and done. This is a great resource about field peas, how to store them for later and how to cook them. Now I just need to buy some ham hock ūüôā

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/08/17/have-you-ever-heard-of-summer-field-peas/

 

Day 224–Healthy, Local Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant

I love eggplant, but I do realize that eggplant is one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. If picked too late, eggplant can be fibrous and bitter and let’s face it, no one likes that. One of the joys of fresh, local eggplant is that it is so far superior of grocery store eggplant, that it can make a convert out of a hater. I managed to sway Tom’s opinion with this recipe, but Ellie is still out. Our eggplants are in season now and so delicious!

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil. We have local mozzarella thanks to Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano. olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery of this summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish and Tom and I commented several times that it was hard to believe this was a meatless dish. Healthy and delicious. Win-win. Yum-yum!

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the backing sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Day 192–When Local is Not Local

Here in NC, we have an initiative called the NC 10% campaign. I’ve posted about this HERE. When we eat out or go shopping, I usually check the list of participants and make sure we purchase from businesses that have made a commitment to serving at least 10% of their food from local sources. I’ve also posted about NC-owned Lowes Foods (HERE) and how I wished they had more local produce. As though they were listening, Lowes Foods joined the NC 10% campaign and started a new initiative to sell more local produce. Yay, right?

This week I realized too late that the remaining tomato I had for BLT sandwiches had deteriorated into mush. What to do? I headed out to Lowes thinking surely this time of year, I could pick up a local tomato. I entered the store and found a huge bin with a sign that said “Local Tomatoes” and small print underneath that said “Grown in SC”. Well, I don’t really consider South Carolina to be local, but in a pinch I figured that’s not too bad. So I picked up a tomato. And I saw the sticker on it. The sticker said…

“Product of Mexico”

I picked up several more tomatoes thinking they were in the wrong bin or something.

“Product of Mexico”

The ALL were from Mexico. Ok, so maybe the sign was just in the wrong place. I looked at the next bin over.

“Product of Canada”.

For reals?

I talked to the young person working in produce. They did not care. I left.

We ended up having some leftovers for dinner instead. There are only a billion ripe tomatoes in North Carolina right now. Why on earth would I buy one that had to be shipped from Mexico.

And when you say you sell “local” produce, I would in fact think that it would come from this country. I love Mexico. Toured the pyramids, went to the beaches, drank beer by the pool. But I do not consider that to be local. I have a message for Lowes:

Local food is not a marketing strategy to sell your international tomatoes. Shame on you.

Day 151–Of Pets and Fleas

Ok, this is a situation where I can use your help. It seems that the warm winter combined with a sneaky cat who escapes outside has resulted in fleas for both our dog and cat. Yes, they are on flea and heartworm medication year round, but apparently the combination of resistance to flea products and a year ’round breeding cycle have given us a killer flea season. I’ve had my dog for 8 years and this is just the second time we’ve had this problem. HELP! Our vet has loads of toxic sprays and chemicals we can use (and really, I’m about ready to dive in), but I thought I would see what success any of you have had with remedies that may not be so toxic (to mammals that is, the fleas I want dead).

Your thoughts? Post quickly!

Day 143–Heading Our for a Healthy Holiday and An Award!

It seems like last month that my Sweet T and I said our vows to each other–I have no idea where the last three years have gone. After two very stressful and hectic weeks, we are heading out to the mountains for some much-needed R&R. Thanks to our Produce Box and a quick trip to the farmer’s market, we’re heading out stocked with yummy local goodies. We’re taking steak, chicken, zucchini, squash, broccoli, asparagus and new potatoes. The lady who rents the cabin leaves us with a wonderful homemade apple cake, so no taking dessert for us! Hope the weather cooperates so we can grill and eat outside!

Before we hit the road, I want to thank Rachel of¬†Rachel’s Table¬†for a wonderful award. After a really miserable couple of weeks, it was a real boost to get her post that she has bestowed on my blog The Lovely Blog Award. I love her blog and you should definitely check it out. She’s another local foodie who is in search of a healthier, more sustainable food system. I feel like I have a kindred spirit in Delaware!

Now, according to the blogosphere award rules, I must share with you 7 random things about myself and pass the award on to others. Ready? Here are 7 random things:

  1. I hate clowns. Really, really hate them.
  2. If I could pick anywhere in the world to live, it would be Corniglia, Italy.
  3. I am a terrible singer. And I sing VERY LOUDLY in the car. This is embarrassing when I forget I have the windows rolled down.
  4. I was once chased by a llama. It haunts me to this day.
  5. I really do think my cat can read my mind. One day he will show up with either a clown or a llama just to torture me for putting that flea stuff on his back.
  6. Babies are the most beautiful creatures in the world.
  7. My guilty pleasure is Nutella and a dishy gossip magazine.

Ok, that’s my 7. Now here are some very cool bloggers you might be interested in following!

Domestic Diva M.D.–You have to love someone whose blog states “My mother raised the perfect housewife…then I went to med school.” Her observations about medical school and food are hilarious and the recipes are wonderful!

In Her Chucks–A young mom, committed to healthy, sustainable food–she is where I wish I had been in our journey 11 years ago!

Trailer Trashtastic–This exploration of how to beautify your surroundings is a valuable blog for those of us who strive to want to make smaller spaces more efficient and beautiful.

Go Bake Yourself–Chocolate…and more chocolate. YUM! This young lady is going places, I tell you! I get so hungry every time I read her blog!

Hot Rod Cowgirl–I have never seen photos more lovely than this blog. Wow. Makes me look at the sky a whole new way.

Soulsby Farm–A sweet story of a little farm and a good view into what is going on at sustainable farms near you!

Check out these wonderful blogs. Thanks again to Rachel’s Table for the award! Now, pardon me, I’m off to the mountains!

Day 141–School Lunch Activism…in Scotland

You know, I am absolutely amazed by the power of young people to advocate for themselves in really clever ways. I recently came across this blog by nine-year-old Martha Payne in Scotland whose calm and thoughtful approach is to do nothing more than catalog what she is actually served for lunch each day. Her blog is causing some controversy in Scotland about school meals. She is really pretty awesome. Check out her blog! 

http://neverseconds.blogspot.com.es/

If you could change something about food in your community, what would it be?

Day 83–Healthy School Fundraisers and Wellness

The universe has presented me with an opportunity.¬†Three actually. Life is funny that way, isn’t it?

The first is an upcoming, free workshop on healthy school fundraisers, offered by¬†the organization Advocates for Health in Action. Considering my last rant about selling vats of raw cookie dough for the band, this was perfect timing. Not only is¬†the workshop¬†free and timely, it will be held about 2 miles from my home in Cary! I am registered and ready to go!¬†And since I can’t take you all with me (although that¬†would be beyond fun!), I’ll share what I learn here, just in case you can use the information.

The second is a possible new fundraiser for the band. I contacted the band director and asked if maybe a benefit concert by the steel drum band would raise money for their upcoming trip. Seems like a win-win–we can encourage school spirit and raise some money while the steel drum band gets extra practice. And it doesn’t involve asking people to buy raw cookie dough. He’s looking into it! Putting my time where my mouth is, I offered to help if it works out. I really hope it does.

The¬†third opportunity is to start a Wellness Committee at Ellie’s school. I haven’t done anything like this, so this is new territory. We have a relatively new PTA board coming in as well as a new principal, so the timing may be right to get something started! I’m thinking of a school committee that would involve parents, teachers and students to identify and address issues that are significant to a middle school population. The current PTA board is encouraging, so I’m moving ahead with a proposal. We’ll see!

Sometimes, when I think the universe is not paying attention, I find that I am really the one who needs to pay attention and be mindful of what is around me. Rather than curse the darkness, I will light a candle. Or maybe three. 

 

Day 47–Muddy Dog Roasting Company

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I come from a long line of coffee lovers. One of my fondest childhood memories is waking up in my grandmother’s little apartment, hearing her percolator happily perking away and smelling the delicious aroma of coffee wafting through the air.
 
While I have decreased my caffeine consumption considerably, I still do love my morning coffee.¬† So I was happy to find the Muddy Dog Roasting Company at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market! Muddy Dog Roasting Company is based in Morrisville, NC, and the small company is dedicated to providing environmentally and socially responsible coffees that are sourced green and roasted in small batches several times a week. This means the coffee is incredibly fresh, sometimes roasted just a day or so before it reaches your kitchen.
 
By purchasing green coffee beans directly from the farm or estate,¬†Muddy Dog¬†develops relationships with growers and they have a high level of knowledge about the growing practices of the farms they purchase from.¬†Muddy Dog¬†does buy certified coffees (certified organic, fair trade, etc.) when feasible, but primarily they buy beans from growers who practice organic and fair trade farming, even if they are not certified. I have learned a lot from¬†Muddy Dog¬†about the complexity and expense of becoming “certified”. For many growers, even if they practice¬†organic or fair trade¬†standards, becoming certified is not financially advantageous.
 
Muddy Dog Roasting Company roasts their beans in small batches using an environmentally “green” roaster. This roaster may not look all quaint and old school, but unlike older roasters it uses less power and emits almost no measurable emissions. Personally, I like that.
 
Muddy Dog Roasting Company is typically at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, but you can also learn more (and purchase coffee) online at www.muddydogcoffee.com And what about the dog? He doesn’t drink the coffee, he’s just there to keep things light. As the Muddy Dog folks say, “When was the last time you met a muddy dog that was anything other than what it seemed?”
 
Good point. Now if I could just get my dog to start the percolator…

This is a great recipe for healthy granola bars that use cocoa nibs! And, it’s an awesome blog!

creative noshing

When I told my family and friends that I was moving to the West Coast, some of them kidded with me saying, ‚ÄúOh, your going to go out there and get all chewy granola on us.‚ÄĚ At the time, I was like yeah right not this Queen O‚Äô Butter. Flavor over figure was my motto. And you want to know why? Because I was that wench bag that ate an entire chocolate cake in one night and nothing happened. Literally nothing, I would go as far as to say that eating that much sugar may have sped up my metabolism and I actually lost weight. Not quite, but yeah, I was THAT girl.

Anyway, in the recent years I have surpassed a milestone birthday and well I can tell that my metabolism is slowing down. I eat unhealthy food and in the past, it really didn’t phase me that much…

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