Tag Archives: Local

EVERYONE CAN AFFORD TO BUY ORGANIC

I’ve been buying organic produce, grass-fed beef and free range chicken for several years, and I don’t have an unlimited grocery budget.  This is how I do it.
Take a look at the items and costs below, then stay with me, and start thinking outside the box.

1/2 gallon of ice cream – $3.50
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Large bag of chips – $2.50
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Six pack of soda – $2.50
wiki.answers.com

Bag of oreo cookies (17 oz) – $3.95
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Frozen pizza – $7.00 – $9.00
blogs.wsj.com

This is just a sampling and prices will vary where you live, but everyone is aware  that this “stuff” is VERY expensive.  We all have our cell phones with us everywhere these days, so here’s the challenge:  The next time you go grocery shopping, use the calculator on your phone.

You may be surprised when you actually discover what you can save by eliminating the items above.  Then go to the organic produce area (most supermarkets now provide some organic produce – YAY!) in your market, and see if the credits you gave yourself by eliminating junk food will pay for your organic purchases.  And, don’t forget your local farms; buy from farmer’s markets if you can find one in your area.  Go to Local Harvest, a Farmer’s Market locator.

Here is another thought:  If you eat out once in a week you have probably used up all the credits you would need  to buy organic produce and grass-fed and/or free range meat.

We are talking about lifestyle changes, and they are never easy, but these types of change not only benefit our health, but the earth as well.  And, if you are serious about eating better you can now eliminate the false concept that organic is not affordable.  I’m not suggesting that we give up everything at once, or even forever.  Start small, and eliminate a couple of things – think of it as gradually trading up to a healthier lifestyle.  And, by all means, treat yourself once in awhile.

FIND A FARMERS MARKET – SUPPORT LOCAL FARMS

Why is it important to support local farmers?

“The loss of small family farms has dramatically reduced our supply of safe, fresh, sustainably-grown foods; it has contributed to the economic and social disintegration of rural communities; and it is eliminating an important aspect of our national heritage. If we lose our family farmers, we’ll lose the diversity in our food supply, and what we eat will be dictated to us by a few large corporations.”
Go to:  Sustainable Table, to read entire article.

To find a Farmer’s Market in your area go to Local Harvest.   Put in your zip code and you’re on your way!
To find out what’s in season year round, go to:  Eat The Seasons

There is good news, however, in the same article above, “Over the last several years, there has been an explosion of interest in small family farms, local food, and the preservation of rural communities and their heritage. Chefs, food lovers, citizens, parents, activists, students and many others are coming together to rediscover the benefits of eating sustainably-raised, locally grown food.”

When you find a Farmers Market, take your grandchildren along.  Turn it into an event, or if possible, take them to a farm.  They will love it, and they need to know where their food comes from.

JOIN A CO-OP / CREATE A CO-OP

Let's Cooperate

Communities are facing economic hardship everywhere, but in the midst of these difficult times the cooperative business model is thriving.   The National Cooperative Business Association provides these statistics:  “Worldwide, roughly 750,000 cooperatives serve 730 million members.  Here in the U.S. some 72,000 co-op establishments operate, providing more than 2 million jobs and serving 120 million members, that’s 4 in 10 Americans.” The significance of supporting and using this model in our culture today cannot be overstated.  Who among us is not “fed up” with giant corporations who care only about their bottom line.  Obviously, every business needs to profit, but the co-op business model is about so much more.

Three main types of cooperatives exist: retail, marketing, and worker, but they all function primarily by the Rochdale Principles. To summarize, cooperatives are formed to meet their members’ needs, and are focused more on service than investment.  In our rapidly changing world, I believe we need to take a step back, and review some of the principles that were working for communities in the past.  I’ve stated several times on this blog, that I do not want to give up our innovations and technology; we are living in an awesome age, this 21st Century.  But, sometimes I believe we move too fast, and perhaps discard systems that are working.   The co-op model is one that we need to keep alive.

I’ve been a member of a retail food co-op for many years, but I’m becoming aware of myriad other options to be involved as a consumer.  I’ve detailed some of them below:

FIND A RETAIL FOOD CO-OP NEAR YOU:  Go to this website – Local Harvest
BABYSITTING CO-OPS:  Grandparents are babysitting ever more these days, sometimes full time.  Find a babysitting co-op near you, or learn how to set up one:  babycenter.com 
ARTIST CO-OPS:  Art Chain or The Sketchbook Project
CAMPING GEAR:   Mountain Equipment Co-op
BANKING CO-OPS:  Cobank  and National Cooperative Bank
Grameen America  You must read about the Grameen Bank.  It has made a tremendous difference in lives, internationally, and it is now in America.
COOPERATIVE HOUSING:  National Assoc. of Housing Cooperatives

The  list above is very brief, but will give you a sample of the opportunities available to get involved with co-ops.  If you are interested, the links below will provide more information about starting a co-op:

For a detailed definition of types of cooperatives download:  The Structure of Cooperatives.  Also visit the Cooperative Development Institute. (A great resource)  Or, download a Co-op Start-up kit.

We’re all feeling a little uneasy these days.  My thoughts often wonder to the future, and what it holds for our grandchildren.  A lot of things in life have gone awry since we (The Boomers) were growing up.  But, as always it’s a balance, the yin and the yang.  We still have the power to affect positive change in our remaining years, to influence the world toward better options.  I believe one of those options involves huddling closer, holding onto things like the co-op model,  and remembering the value of our local communities.  Let’s make sure these options are still viable for those who come after us.

KNOW YOUR BEEF

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Ahhhh summer!  Hopefully, we are all out there gathering produce from our gardens, or farmers’ markets and eating those luscious vegetables.  However, most of us aren’t vegetarians, and I’m increasingly concerned about the handling of cattle, and the potential for related health problems in humans.

Most of us are now familiar with the term “grass-fed beef,” and I’ve been buying it for years, but I wanted to know more.  Why is it better than grain fed?  Wow, did I get an education, almost more than I wanted to know.  To begin, steers are supposed to eat grass.  Well, I knew this, but anatomically, their systems are structured to process grass, not grains.  When we were kids (Baby Boomers) all cattle were grass-fed. On this site:  What About Grass-Fed Beef?  I learned that years ago steers were 4 – 5 years old when they were slaughtered.  Today they are 14 – 16 months old, and this is not possible without enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and hormones.  Of course, the reason for this is obvious, and we all aware.  It’s about the bottom line in the industry.

During my research I read about myriad health problems for the animal, associated with this process of rearing steers, as well as many that are passed on to humans.  In summary, the animals become sick on grain.  As noted above, they are supposed to eat grass. Their problems range from bloating, to diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system. Right now I’m thinking – oh yeah, this is a steak that I want to eat?  The article referenced above notes that the animals would die “…..if it weren’t for the routine and continual feeding of antibiotics….”  There are those who believe that this process is contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Read how resistant bacteria can be transferred from animals to humans:  This article noted that “Seventy percent of all U.S antibiotics and related drugs are used non-therapeutically in animal agriculture.”  And also stated that the low-level exposure in feed over long periods of time is an ideal way to encourage bacteria to develop resistance.

Another problem associated with grain fed cattle is the E. coli issue.  Again, in this article: What About Grass-Fed Beef? the author notes that E. coli recently appeared.  “First isolated in the 1980s, this pathogen is now found in the intestines of most U.S. feedlot cattle. The practice of feeding corn and other grains to cattle has created the perfect conditions for microbes to come into being that can harm and kill us.”

A few more statistics from the article above:
*  “Grass-fed beef not only is lower in overall fat and in saturated fat, but it has the added advantage of providing more omega-3 fats.”
*  “Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil.”

There are multiple additional issues related to the world’s consumption of beef, i.e. methane gas production, “Methane is actually 24 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide……..and, the primary reason that concentrations of atmospheric methane are now triple what they were when they began rising a century ago is beef production.”  There are slaughterhouse issues (I’ve had a first-hand description), and the troubling statistics with regard to energy consumption required to raise cattle, “Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil…….. a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime.”

It’s all about education and choices.  As noted in the first paragraph, I’m not a vegetarian, but my consumption of meats in general is very low.  Today there are multiple sources for foods that contain the nutrients found in red meat.  Their names may sound strange to our American ears, i.e. Tempeh, Seitan, Tofu, etc. The following site lists alternatives to red meat, as well as chicken and fish, along with recipes:  Vegetarian Substitutes  I have the opinion that I’ll try anything once (well, almost anything – I haven’t eaten escargot)  Change is always difficult, but times are changing around us.  As I’ve written before on this blog, we can no longer assume that anything on the supermarket shelf is ok, just because it’s there.  It isn’t the 50’s – we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We have to do our own research, keep an open mind about food, and make careful choices.

Find Local Grass-Fed Beef In Your State   (Eatwild’s State-By-State directory of farms).

WHY ORGANIC?

Coming into the organic loop was a slow process for me.  A number of years ago I started reading labels on foods, and about the same time we began to hear that processed foods were probably not all that good for us.  So, I started to pay attention.  Not all at once, but gradually I stopped buying items that listed chemicals in their ingredients.  If I wasn’t sure what a word with eighteen (exaggerating) letters in it was, then I simply wouldn’t buy the product.  In today’s world, with our technology, smart phones, etc. we can simply check immediately while shopping in the store.

Putting this much effort into shopping may seem cumbersome or impractical, but let’s take a serious look at our priorities.  We’re talking about what goes into our bodies, our health!  And gone are the days, unfortunately, when we can just trust that if it’s on the shelf in the supermarket then it’s safe to buy.

Fortunately, over time and during the years when I grappled with whether to buy this product or that one, and which one had fewer chemicals, the organic revolution was coming on the scene.  And now, organic products seem to be everywhere, even in the mainstream supermarkets.  Along this path, I also discovered our local Farmers’ Markets, and my husband and I have now evolved into growing our own produce.   It may seem like a huge task, and there will be initial effort and a little expense, but once you’re set up, it’s easy, really!  Listed below are some websites that will help you get started.

GETTING STARTED – QUESTIONS TO ASK

GARDENING 101 – BASICS FOR BEGINNERS

ORGANIC GARDENING ON A BUDGET

COMPOSTING MADE EASY

I’ve chosen the sites above for their simplicity, especially for beginners. There is some work involved, but the process of growing your own food is another wonderful opportunity to get the grandchildren involved, and a great chance to see them more often.  Once the plants start to appear, they will be anxious to follow the whole process through the summer.  On the sidebar, you will see that I’ve listed several sites that relate specifically to gardening with kids.

We all know that gardening is fun and we benefit from getting our hands in the dirt and eating organic, but there is a much more serious side to “Why Organic?”
It’s the issue of pesticides.  They are still there – in our produce.  Back in the day, when I was unaware and trusting, I heard that DDT had been banned, and I some how translated that into the concept that all our produce was safe.  NOT!

On this website HELLO LIFE it is stated, “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S.”  One billion pounds! Of course it’s sticking to our produce, but where else is it going, into storm drains, water systems?  This site also states that,  “Approximately 100 percent of all fungicides, more than 50 percent of all herbicides and about 30 percent of all insecticides are known carcinogens and toxic to humans.”  I have also read from more than one source that pesticides are extremely dangerous to children.  

This is not happy news, but we can’t stick our heads in the sand.  I know that everyone of you wants to protect your family, and we can do something about this problem.  We don’t have to try and tackle the giant corporations making these chemicals, we can succeed, once again, by our behavior.  Choose to buy organic and grow your own food, and hopefully, in time the decisions we make will create change.

We’re the Boomers, we’re still here, and we still wield a lot of power by the consumer choices we make!