We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Bob’s Red Mill this week to shed a little light on this employee-owned business that has been offering stone-milled grains for over 40 years! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all of Bob’s Red Mill products this week (October 31st – November 6th) – just in time for holiday baking season! Read on to learn more about their unique business model and their commitment to using traditional stone milling techniques to deliver healthy high-quality grain products to store shelves.
At Bob’s Red Mill, they believe that quality can’t be rushed. That’s why they manufacture their products using time-honored techniques, like grinding whole grains at cool temperatures with a traditional stone mill. Their beautiful stone grinding mills are much like the ones used during early Roman times and unlike the more commonly used high-speed steel rollers, their mills ensure the most nutritious parts of the whole grain remain intact. It was these beautiful antique grinding mills that first inspired founder Bob Moore to start Bob’s Red Mill over 40 years ago.
An Employee-Owned Business
On Bob’s 81st birthday, rather than receiving gifts, he decided to give his greatest gift away – his business! Bob surprised all of his employees by giving them total ownership of Bob’s Red Mill through an employee stock ownership program (ESOP). Bob didn’t extend this gesture as a means to step away from the company he had created so he could ease into a comfortable retirement. He did so because of his firm belief in putting people before profit, and giving due appreciation to the people who’ve made a company strong. Despite hundreds of lucrative offers to buy his company as he approached “retirement age”, Bob chose the rare path of putting people first and gifted his company to his dedicated, hard-working staff.
Milling, Testing, Packaging, & Distributing Under One Roof
The folks at Bob’s Red Mill knew from day one that if they wanted to ensure the best products possible and ensure quality every step of the way that they’d have to be able to do it themselves. Their facilities in Milwaukie, Oregon include the 325,000 sq ft headquarters, laboratory, and manufacturing plant, plus a 127,000 sq ft distribution center! Their gluten-free products are produced and tested in their separate gluten-free-only facilities to ensure product safety.
Sourcing the Finest Products From Their Farms to Your Table
At Bob’s Red Mill, the relationship with the final product begins at the source. They maintain personal relationships with farmers across the country and make an effort to visit their farms. Together, they are able to ensure that they’re offering the best product available, while always using best practices.
Clear out your Cupboards – the Co-op’s Winter Case Lot Sale is Coming to Town! We’ve turned our former one-day Truck Load Sale into a whole week of savings on cases of the products you need to fill your holiday cupboard. No need to line up in the cold, fill out a form or place an order outside. Stop by any time Friday, 11/29 – Saturday, 12/7. Pick up cases of featured products right in the store and pay for them at the register along with your usual grocery shop. And guess what? You can look forward to another week of Case Lot Sales each season! But for now, here’s what’s in store:
The Coop hosted a public talk last month by Dr. Teresa Mares, an anthropology professor at the University of Vermont. Dr. Mares gave a presentation on farmworkers and food justice in Vermont.
In her 2019 book, Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont, Dr. Mares explores the personal vulnerability and food insecurity experienced by migrant farmworkers in our state, and analyzes the inequities, fear, and invisibility experienced by those who sustain our dairy industry. She speaks to these farmworkers’ humanity and resilience; their efforts to remain connected to the foods and customs that link them to their homes and families of origin.
While most of us take our ability to move freely about the state to shop for food for granted, nearly 95% of the migrant farmworker population in Vermont lacks personal transportation, despite the passage of legislation that allows state residents to obtain driving licenses regardless of citizenship status. Access to grocery stores (and healthcare) typically depends on the assistance and support of the farmers who rely on this workforce; or on volunteers. This disenfranchised and vulnerable population is uniquely challenged to access these basic necessities.
It is difficult for most of us to relate to these challenges and as a Coop Board, we want to understand our place as buyers and sellers of Dairy products produced in Vermont. In addition, there is a well-founded fear among migrant farmworkers that visiting a local grocery store, farmers market, or food shelf could result in detention or deportation. There is a reluctance to speak Spanish in these public spaces, and efforts are made to call as little attention to oneself as possible.
An estimated 1000-1200 farmworkers reside in Vermont, and it is calculated that nearly 70% of Vermont’s milk originates from dairy farms that rely on the work of migrants. Although these workers pay taxes and contribute to Vermont’s economic wellbeing and food security, there is an illogical disconnect between these farmworkers and their own access to food. Work schedules can approach 70 hours a week, thus there is little time in the day to prepare and eat wholesome meals.
Dr. Mares’ presentation highlighted the following topics:
The reality and life experience of migrant workers and their families who sustain Vermont’s dairy industry include a deep connection to family, both local and beyond, along with considerable knowledge about agriculture. These are resilient individuals with a strong work ethic and a desire to be self-reliant, despite the challenges of limited access, choice, and opportunity.
Vermont is a border state and, as such, migrant dairy workers face many of the same dangers as migrants at our southern border. The reach of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) extends up to 100 miles from the Canadian border, thereby presenting very real obstacles to food security, a healthy diet, and the overall well-being of workers and their families.
Huertas means “kitchen gardens” in Spanish and the Huertas Project is a collaboration with volunteers and undocumented farmworkers that promotes growing and preparing food that has cultural relevance and helps diminish food insecurity. Participation in this project, which has largely been in Franklin County, has allowed workers to demonstrate their agricultural knowledge and skills, though gardens are often situated to reduce visibility from the road and therefore attract little attention. Efforts to expand this project to Addison County are important.
Dr. Mares’ presentation concluded with a multitude of questions from the engaged group. Speaking for myself, this was a beginning step in education about the unseen group of hard-working people who underpin our dairy industry. Next steps would include:
Learning more about how our agricultural system and immigration policies are misaligned and how this has an impact on our overall food system in the United States.
Exploring opportunities to become involved in actions that promote greater interaction with these invisible members of our community, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion of these neighbors.
Investigating affiliation with existing local groups that have established trusted connections with migrant dairy workers and engaging in activities that would alleviate food insecurity and promote access to foods that meet the cultural preferences of Latinx workers and their families.
For more information about this topic, please see an earlier post on our blog:
“There is this violent irony in our food system, in that the people who provide food security for all of us are the most likely to be food insecure themselves”. This was the heart of the message shared by University of Vermont Scholar Teresa Mares at a recent gathering at the Middlebury Unitarian Universalist Society. Mares was sharing insights gleaned during research for her book Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont, which aimed to shed light on the intersections of structural vulnerability and food insecurity experienced by migrant farmworkers in the northeastern borderlands of the United States.
By the Numbers
Half of all workers on U.S. dairy farms are migrants and most are from Mexico. Losing them would double the total retail price of milk and cost our nation’s economy more than $32 billion. Across the U.S., Latinx farmworker food security occurs at 3-4 times the national average and Mares recognized that there was a lack of data on food security among farmworkers in Vermont. Through her research, Mares was able to identify that there are approximately 1,000-1,200 Latinx migrant workers sustaining the Dairy Industry in Vermont. Most of these individuals are from Southern Mexico, but some also come from Central America. These workers are mostly men, but steady numbers of migrant women are also employed on Vermont’s dairy farms. They are concentrated most heavily in Franklin and Addison County.
Roughly 90% of these workers are undocumented, due in large part to the fact that dairy workers are ineligible to work seasonally on farms on an H2A Visa, as is common in Vermont’s apple industry. A whopping 68% of Vermont’s milk comes from dairies employing migrant laborers, representing annual sales of $320 million, translating to 43% of New England’s milk supply. These individuals pay taxes, yet they’re unlikely to have the opportunity to utilize any of the resources that their tax dollars support. They are not eligible for food assistance resources like 3-Squares VT or WIC unless they have a U.S. born child and even then, they must be able to endure the risk of exposure associated with the completion of a government form.
After surveying 100 migrant farmworkers (75 men and 25 women) in Vermont, Mares discovered that 18% of the state’s migrant farmworkers experience food insecurity, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. She also recognized that these numbers fail to paint a completely accurate picture of the data, as the standard USDA survey that is used to asses food security operates on the assumption that if one has money then one must have access healthy food. This assumption fails to account for the various other barriers that the average migrant farmworker experiences when trying to access healthy food. The reality for most migrant farmworkers is that access presents a greater challenge than financial instability. The survey also makes assumptions about what constitutes a household. Migrant farmworkers are often living in cramped quarters with many of their peers and are thus not representative of a typical household. Given this multitude of factors supported by information gathered during a series of in-depth interviews with farmworkers, Mares determined that 50% or more of farmworker households likely struggle with access to food.
Challenges to Access
When working 70 or more hours per week without a day off, as is the reality for most migrant dairy workers, it can be rather difficult to find time to shop for groceries. Add to that the rural isolation, lack of transportation, and a crippling fear of deportation experienced by a migrant farmworker living in a predominantly white community located well within the 100-mile jurisdiction of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and it’s easy to understand why most members of this community (96%) rely on a third-party to access food. Mares also shared that there’s limited access to culturally-appropriate food in Vermont and a general lack of awareness of the kinds of food available in many stores. If you’ve never been able to enter a Vermont grocery store, you can only take your best guess as to what might be available when preparing your grocery list for a third-party shopper. Additionally, when you’re living in a household with 5 or more adults and you’re only able to shop every 15 days, there becomes a need for a significant amount of refrigerated storage space that is often lacking in the substandard housing where these individuals live. Mares expressed her strong belief that any strategies aimed at alleviating food insecurity among this group must be willing to travel to the farms and meet the farmworkers where they are.
While it’s clear that Vermont’s Dairy Industry is heavily reliant on migrant farmworkers from a financial perspective, Mares challenged those in attendance to avoid measuring the worth of this hard-working group of individuals in economic terms. Their true value to our community runs much deeper. Mares’ book sheds light on the many ways that these individuals display resiliency and creativity in the face of a very challenging and isolated existence. They’re a culturally-rich group of people who often possess agricultural knowledge that far exceeds the actual farmwork that they’re employed to do and our failure to engage with them as members of our community results in a lost opportunity for valuable and meaningful cultural exchange.
Thanks to their brave willingness to organize and advocate for better working conditions, combined with the efforts of organizations such as the Huertas Project, the Addison Allies Network, Migrant Justice, and the Open Door Clinic, creative solutions are emerging to help support and foster increased resiliency among our migrant farmworker communities. We’re grateful to Teresa Mares for her willingness to shed light on this important issue and we’re grateful to the local organizations that are finding solutions to the challenges Mares outlined in her work. We look forward to exploring ways to support this effort.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we’ve got everything you need for a delicious, stress-free holiday spread. Here’s how to make it happen:
Turkey pre-orders may be placed online, by phone, or in-person. Click here to see the full menu of offerings and complete your order online. You can also give us a call and a staff member will be happy to help you place your pre-order by phone. Starting November 1st, you will also find paper copies of the order sheets at the customer service counter. You’ll see one sign-up sheet for local turkeys from Stonewood Farm and another sheet for certified organic free-range turkeys from Mary’s Free RangeTurkeys. We will continue to take turkey orders through Saturday, November 23rd. If you miss our pre-order deadline, it’s still very likely that we’ll be able to accommodate your needs, but pre-order is your best guarantee.
Stonewood – $3.19/lb (same as last year)
Mary’s Free Range Organic – $4.69/lb
Stonewood turkeys will range in size from around 14 lbs to over 30 lbs. When you place your order, you’ll have the opportunity to specify what size turkey you’d like. We’ll aim to get you a turkey within 3-5 lbs of your requested size.
Organic turkeys from Mary’s are available in various sizes ranging from 8 – 20 lbs. Let us know what size you’d prefer and we’ll aim to get you a turkey within 3-5 lbs of your requested size.
Wondering how much turkey to buy to accommodate your guest list? A handy rule of thumb is 1.5 pounds of turkey per guest. And note that it’s always better to have too much than too little – especially during the holidays when leftovers are key to feeding out-of-town guests throughout the week.
All turkeys will be fresh (not previously frozen).
New! Side Dishes!
The Co-op Kitchen will be cooking up a mouth-watering array of side dishes and desserts for your holiday table. The same pre-order and pick-up schedules apply. We will have a limited supply of these items, so be sure to pre-order to guarantee that we’ll have what you need. Your order may be placed online, by phone, or in-person at the customer service counter. If you miss the pre-order deadline, please check with any Deli staff member to see if your request can be accommodated.
Turkey and side dish pick-up will begin on Sunday, November 24th and end on Wednesday, November 27th. When you come to pick up your pre-ordered turkey and sides, please follow the signs to the holiday pick-up station located in our meat department. A staff member will be waiting to assist you!
Questions? Give us a call at (802) 388-7276 or ask any staff member next time you’re in the store!
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Scott Farm this week to shed a little light on the work they’re doing to preserve heirloom and unusual apples on their 571-acre land trust in Southern Vermont. All of their fruits are 20% off for member-owners from October 24th – 30th! Read on to learn more about this unique organic orchard and its rich history:
Scott Farm Orchard is a 571-acre gem located in the rolling hills of Dummerston, VT. The orchard is home to over 130 varieties of ecologically grown heirloom apples and other fine fruits. The farm itself is something of an heirloom, settled in 1791 by Rufus Scott. The orchards were planted in 1915, and in 1995 Scott Farm was gifted to the historic preservation organization Landmark Trust USA, a non-profit organization whose mission is to rescue important but neglected historic properties and bring them back to life. At Scott Farm this has meant revitalizing the entire farm operation from orchard to farmhouses to barns.
The renowned apple maestro, Ezekiel “Zeke” Goodband, took over the management of the orchard in 2001. His search for old varieties has taken him to abandoned orchards throughout New England and as far as Kazakhstan, the birthplace of apples. A long time ago, Zeke learned that the less he sprayed the orchard, the less he had to spray. Zeke’s formal educational training was in the field of ecology and he realized early in his orcharding career that if he respected the orchard as an ecosystem there were fewer “pest” problems.
Their goal at Scott Farm has been to enhance the biodiversity of the orchard ecosystem – the more complex the ecosystem, the more stable it becomes, minimizing the potential for significant pest explosions. They have moved beyond organic into what they refer to as ecologically grown fruit. Scott Farm produces 130 varieties of ecologically grown apples – with beautifully poetic names such as Roxbury Russet, Belle de Boskoop, and Cox’s Orange Pippin, along with unusual apples like Winter Banana and Hidden Rose. Other fine fruits grown at the orchard include gooseberries, medlars, quince, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, pears, plums, and peaches. The apples and quince can be found at the Co-op, and the remaining fruits are sold directly through the orchard’s Farm Market which is open every day at 707 Kipling Road, Dummerston, Vermont from Labor Day to the day before Thanksgiving. Over 75% of the Scott Farm crop stays in Vermont!
October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op produced, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 17th – 23rd!
Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.
Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.
Authentic Fair Trade:
Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farm workers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers
What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?
According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is notorious for low wages and heavy chemical use, causing major health problems across banana producing regions. You can read more about that here. Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. By buying Equal Exchange bananas, you are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange banana purchases in 2018:
Equal Exchange partners with PRAGOR, a progressive group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. PRAGOR is composed of 18 producer members who each own an average of 10-15 acres of land, all 100% organic. This region of Mexico is called “the avocado capital of the world.” However, powerful corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete. In response, PRAGOR courageously organized and decided they would collectively control the entire process from growing to exporting. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world!
In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru, Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry.
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange avocado purchases in 2018:
This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Colombian Solstice, in our bulk department.
Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned or ignored with nowhere to go. Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year. The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.
Since inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $80,000 for survivors of sexual violence and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here and you can support Dr. Mukwege’s work by purchasing the Congo Project coffee in our Bulk Department.
October is Fair Trade Month! Throughout this month-long celebration, we’ll feature fun store promotions on many of our favorite Fair Trade Certified items. Look for them in our weekly sales, weekly Member Deals, and see the coupon in the Addison Independent for $3 off any Fair Trade Certified item. We also want to spread the word about the meaning behind the Fair Trade Certified labels. Read on to learn about this important certification and the impact that fair trade is having around the globe:
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a way of doing business that ultimately aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace, and aims to empower consumers to make purchases that support their values. Fair Trade commerce relies on a set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals including:
Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
What do the Fair Trade Labels Mean?
Fairtrade International is probably the most recognized fair trade label, certifying over 30,000 products worldwide. This certification signifies that a fair cost has been paid to small farmers and also ensures a Fair Trade Premium above the fair price, which goes towards the social, environmental or economic development of the local community. It also means the product is fully traceable (kept separate from non-certified products) from farm to shelf. You’ll see this mark on single-ingredient products, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, and rice. To learn more about their standards, click here.
Fair Trade USA envisions a world where conscious consumers can achieve a “Fair Trade Lifestyle” and be able to shop ethically in all product categories. Products certified by Fair Trade USA include everything from coffee, cocoa, fruits, grains, seafood, and veggies to apparel, home goods, body care products, and sports equipment. These products are produced according to rigorous standards that protect farmers, workers, fishermen, and the environment. Since 1998, Fair Trade USA producers have earned a total financial benefit of $610 million through sales of Fair Trade Certified products, including over $400 million in Community Development Funds and $200 million as a result of the Fair Trade Minimum Price. Click here to learn more about the impact of purchasing products bearing this label.
Fair for Life’s certification system is based on a non-product-specified standard. Every step of production can be certified, including producers, manufacturers, traders, and entire companies, whereas most other certifiers simply certify the finished product or only a few steps of the production process. This more holistic model allows for a shift toward responsible supply chains and corporate social responsibility. Fair for Life Certification assures that human rights are safeguarded at any stage of production, workers enjoy good and fair working conditions, and smallholder farmers receive a fair share. All certified companies must also comply with a comprehensive set of environmental criteria including important aspects of water conservation, energy management and climate change, ecosystem management, and waste management. Certified companies must not be engaged in habitat destruction and should work on continuous improvement of their energy use. All operations have to be certified according to an acknowledged organic or ecological minimum standard. Read more about these standards here.
The Fair Trade Federation is a force in the global fair trade movement’s efforts to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable trading partnerships. They are a community of verified businesses that are dedicated to holistic, 360° fair trade. This commitment means the entire business is socially and environmentally responsible in everything they do. They seek to alleviate poverty by continually and significantly expanding the practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people. This commitment represents a high bar of fair trade, where each and every business decision is made with the well-being of artisans and farmers in mind, while also prioritizing sustainability. The Fair Trade Federation embraces the United Nations’ definition of sustainability “to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Click here to read more about their defining principles.
The World Fair Trade Organization is the global network and advocate for Fair Trade, ensuring producer voices are heard. The interest of producers, especially small farmers and artisans, is the main focus in all the policies, governance, structures and decision making within the WFTO. Spread across 76 countries, members are verified as social enterprises that practice Fair Trade. To be a WFTO member, an enterprise or organization must demonstrate they put people and planet first in everything they do. The organization is democratically run by its members. Their direct impact includes 965,700 livelihoods supported through the operations and supply chains of these enterprises. 74% of these workers, farmers, and artisans are women and women made up the majority of the leadership. They pioneer upcycling and social enterprise, refugee livelihoods and women’s leadership. Click here to learn more about their collective impact.
Happy non-GMO month! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to their grassroots rice revolution that is helping to bring sustainably grown, fairly traded, organic, and non-GMO rice to your dinner table! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners from October 10th – 16th. Read on to learn more about the groundbreaking agricultural practices that are making this possible and the impact that it’s having in rice-growing regions of the world:
Lotus Foods was founded in 1995 with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting the production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living. They learned that up to one-third of the planet’s annual renewable supply of freshwater is used to irrigate rice and recognized that this practice is not sustainable. These wasteful agricultural methods are depleting our water resources faster than they are being recharged, creating water scarcity. For this reason, in 2008, Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more.
Lotus Foods feels strongly that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. They believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice must begin with agriculture and must be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to more than two billion people, most earning less than $200 per year.
A Grassroots Rice Revolution
More Crop Per Drop is how Lotus Foods refers to their rice grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is a not a new seed or input, but rather a different way of cultivating rice that enables small-scale farmers to double and triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, and less or no chemical inputs. That’s revolutionary!
Why is SRI so Important?
This unique agricultural method addresses some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. SRI has been largely grassroots-driven, fueled by marginalized male & female farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is that it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.
Lotus Foods sees SRI as a logical extension of its mission. They offer exceptional SRI-grown rice varieties and call them More Crop Per Drop to bring to special attention to water as a diminishing resource. Fully one-quarter to one-third of the planet’s annual freshwater supplies are used to irrigate and grow the global rice crop. And in Asia, where most rice is grown and eaten, about 84% of water withdrawal is for agriculture, mostly for irrigating rice. Water scarcity is having an increasingly significant impact on agriculture. According to the WWF, “The SRI method for growing rice could save hundreds of billions of cubic meters of water while increasing food security.” Check out this cool video from the Better U Foundation to learn more about SRI:
What about Organic Certification, Fair Trade Certification & Non-GMO Verification?
Most of their rice varieties are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still, others are working to help develop a certifying program in their country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Their rices are 100% fair-trade certified and non-GMO verified. Lotus Foods has also been B-Corp certified since February of 2012. B corporations are legally obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and their environment. Lotus Foods shares the conviction that we can change the world for the better with how we choose to do business.
At the Co-op, you’ll find several varieties of Lotus Foods rice in our bulk department, and in the grocery department, you’ll find their packaged rice and also their delicious Rice Ramen and Pad Thai noodles. Visit their website for excellent tips and recipes!
October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley! All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:
Friends and neighbors around the Coulee region were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and were told to “get big, or get out!” Industrial, chemical farming was the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.
But they didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers. And they didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. They knew something had to be done. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling his fellow farmers to band together. And they did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse and all agreed: There had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming like they always had. In a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEO.
This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley.
Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first. Their CEO is a farmer, one of the original founding farmers of Organic Valley. Even after all these years, George is pretty stubborn about the whole idea of giving consumers better food for their families while helping other small family farmers earn a fair wage for a quality product. Click here to read more about George, the “reluctant CEO”.
Why Grass Matters:
While most dairy cows spend their lives confined to dirt feedlots, all Organic Valley cows are free to roam pasture, eat green grass, and do what cows are supposed to do. Forgoing chemicals in their fields and raising cows on pasture keeps everyone healthier, reduces harmful runoff and builds living soil that actually draws carbon out of the atmosphere. It’s how cows were meant to live.
Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!
Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.