Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stop Complaining About High Food Prices And Start Your Own Damn CSA!!!

I'm getting sick and tired of people complaining about high food prices! Seriously, I don't care where you live in the US, you are not immune to the great drought of 2012... You are not immune to Climate Change and more disastrous weather events coming... And you are not immune to guaranteed price hikes! So, let's face it, you can either eat cheap canned food or you can get to know your neighbors better. Let' me make this simple.

If you live in or near an urban neighborhood or a long established residential neighborhood, then chances are you're not tapping into the best kept secret for low "real food" prices! The backyard homesteader. I'm talking about your neighbors or someone less than 5miles away who's really into backyard beekeeping, sustainable gardening, composting, and free range chickens! Most of which are either retired and young couples hyper focused on self sufficiency. Now, I've been going to such a master for about 8 months now to buy delicious organic eggs, local avocado honey, and loaves of honey baked bread made with fresh ground organic wheat berries.

His name is Don Axe and his wisdom is deep. He grows a lot of organic food. Kale, chard, onions, garlic, peas, broccoli rabe, beets, carrots, fennel, parsley, leeks, butternut squash, and other cool season crops. And just this week I made a visit to buy eggs and bread, and toured his latest endeavor, a hydroponic green house, when I saw his raised bed full of what I love to eat and the LED light bulb turned on!

I grabbed a box and asked him if I could start a CSA box with him. He said, "Well, what do you want in your box?" And I said, "I'm willing to buy weekly for eggs, bread, and vegetables for some much money per week, what do you think?" He said, "Ok!" Now for anyone who knows all about CSA's or currently subscribes to one, you already understand the benefits of eating seasonally, but guess what... It doesn't get any cheaper and more local than in your neighbors backyard. Cheaper because you can barter for each bunch by buying in bulk. And they'll let you help grow the food! Also, I'm asking him to grow my favorites too like Romanesco broccoli, and strawberries!

Now, I don't want to create the false expectation that every Backyard Homesteader uses sustainable gardening practices nor is right for you. Many gardeners still know nothing about the harmful effects of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, or feeding their animals with GMO crop feeds like corn, alfalfa, or soy beans, so I cannot guarantee the quality of the food. However, if you discover that the homesteader you're talking to is either studying or teaching (and implementing) permaculture, biodynamics, organic soil amendments, vermicomposting, and or seed preservation, well then at least you're on the right track. Also the San Diego Master Gardeners has a program you can introduce your homesteader to be called a certified Earth Friendly Garden!
If you like my idea, follow me on Twitter and Facebook and use the sharing options below. Let's also share what kind of subscription agreements we come up with and boast about how much money we're saving in 2013! It's time to stop complaining and start getting to know the passionate people around us and live GMO free.

Friday, December 28, 2012

GMO Free Eggs - How Hard Can It Be?

The old saying goes 'you are what you eat' and we may not want to think about it, but that goes for chickens, too. I realize this makes buying eggs harder, but have you priced out cancer lately? I decided to reach out to Alicia Finley, the Co-Founder of Living Earth Ranch and Farm, out in Potrero, Ca for some expert advice. Alicia's mission is to create a local, organic poultry source for San Diego County so I asked her about GMO free eggs, where to get them, and how Prop 37 has affected her flock. 

Alicia on Prop 37: 

We attended 4 markets every week from April-Oct and had the opportunity to talk to many people. Often we were diffusing confusion brought about by the misinformation from the opposition: explaining why labeling wouldn't cost more and, no, GMOs haven't already been in our foods for a 100 years. I think sales did increase towards the end of the year and that could have been because of the increased volume of the conversation. Many customers were very happy knowing the chickens were fed gmo-free organic corn, soy and wheat. But many of out customers were only interested in the good taste, supporting local farms and the excellent humane treatment the animals receive. 

I have many recipes on our website. Please check them out and use whatever you'd like. We love chicken tortilla soup and adding the feet early to simmer adds collagen and glycosamine.

Alicia's thoughts about how a consumer should ask a chicken farmer what they feed the chickens to ensure the eggs are gmo free:

To be GMO free the feed needs to be certified organic. It is 90% (est) likely that conventional animal feed containing corn and soy and likely wheat is GMO. It may be possible to avoid these ingredients but not likely. At home chicken owners could try raising and feeding black soldier fly larva as a source of protein, fat and calcium.

Alicia's advice on who should we buy eggs from in SD County:

I'd recommend Descanso Valley Ranch or Suzie's. They're a couple more using organic feed. Eben-haezer ranch sells at the Rancho San Diego farmers market and sells an organic Pastured egg.

More About Alicia's Living Earth Ranch and Farm: 

A traditional small-scale family farm grounded on the principles of sustainable organic agriculture and permaculture systems for land management. We raise heirloom and traditional meat chickens on pasture and certified organic grain creating the highest quality meat for you and your family. Our chickens are moved to fresh grasses everyday, never degrading the land or nearby streams, but actually improving the soil and in return creating the healthiest and tastiest poultry possible. You may buy directly from us at or find us at a local farmers market. Follow us on Facebook, too.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Try My No GMO Crackers For Toddlers

So guess what I was doing for fun last night and then writing about it until 3am? I invented a snack for toddlers that will get them to eat their greens! And after my batch, I decided I want to sell them since they we're so good! Not to mention, California passed the Homemade Food Act AB 1616, which permits someone like myself to produce baked goods out of my home. But, my adventure began so innocently this weekend after reading charges against General Mills for putting GMO ingredients in Cheerios and spending over 1 million to help defeat Prop 37! Now, I don't know about you, but to me GMOs in Cheerios is the ultimate betrayal, because every kids in America has eaten Cheerios! Just image all the daycares and preschools and activity centers, even hospitals --- they all offer Cheerios to kids!

Well, enough is enough! I took wheat dough into my own hands tonight and handcrafted a simple baked cracker mixed with chopped kale, flax and chia seeds, and pink sea salt! I really just want to make something I could take with me on the run that I felt 210% good about feeding them in a hurry! So, then I made a 6 ingredient wish list that would provide my kids with fiber, protein, and greens!

And since I live in San Diego, I figured my main green being Kale should be a no brainer since it grows so abundantly here! Also, the wheat flour,  Kale, and olive oil used are all certified USDA organic! Next, I had to give my creation some character by pressing the dough in the pan without a rolling pin. I'm definitely no Martha Stuart, so why bother making pretty crackers for toddlers who are just going to devour them without saying, 'thank you Daddy'.

You're welcome kiddos. Now eat your greens!
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

GMOs In Trader Joe's: Are You Really Still Eating Farm Raised Fish?

I'm really not looking to pick a fight with Trader Joe's, the grocery chain that exclusively sells in-house items (not really) under a so called "private label," who is largely supplied by Ralcorp (NYSE: RAH), which was ConAgra recently bought the food supplier giant (who also supplies food to Costco) for 5 Billion. Oh, before I forget, ConAgra donated 1.7 Million to the No on Prop 37 campaign in successful efforts to defeat GMO labeling their food in California, but I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm just a follow the money kind of guy and explains why Trader Joe's refused to support Prop 37 at all.

So, the holiday party shopping season is upon us and you have to buy food at least 50 times this month. Well, my questions is simple. Is Trader Joe's hiding behind a misleading statement (given who their food suppliers are)? I raise this question for many reasons. But I will just throw rocks at their label. Please note this image below is a shoppers guide to understanding their private label and meant to ease any concerns you may have.

And yet, for a grocery chain that exclusively sells in-house items (not really), Trader Joe's still sells farm raised salmon and other fish. The management has known this to be on the dreaded "Red List" and on 3/14/2011 in a statement on their website called, "A note to our customers about Trader Joe's seafood," the committed to the following goal: all our seafood purchases will shift to sustainable sources by Dec. 31, 2012. This applies to all formats of seafood we offer. And yet, the science overwhelmingly clear that farm raised salmon have est. seven time the level of PCB's than wild caught, are fed chemicals to give them color, and are fed pellets of chicken feces, corn meal and soy (the two largest GMO crops), genetically modified canola oil and much more good stuff.

But wait a minute! The label clearly says, "No GMOs!" It clearly states on their website that, "Our customer can be assured that all products in Trader Joe's private label are sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients." This nice lady believes it.

Well, then who am I to question Trader Joe's? It's not like I work for them and my name is Pat St. John and my title Vice President of Marketing for Trader's Joe's West Coast Division and I was quoted on the Organic Consumer Association's website for clearly contradicting that Company's quality assurance statement. In the article called "Trader Joe's & US Supermarkets Claim Impossibility of Going GMO-Free," Pat St. John said the chain sources organic products whenever possible (meaning not all), and objects to being targeted by Greenpeace for selling GM foods, when 60% - 70% of the food on anybody's shelf is likely to contain GMOs. "We don't carry, nor do we claim to carry GMO-free products," St. John said. Now here's my favorite line: "Trader Joe's is not going to say we aim to do something that we are not sure we will ever be able to do. To test down to zero percent is impossible now." But surely the CEO Chairman and CEO Dan Bane cares and stands by his company's statements especially after claiming to shift to sustainable sources by Dec., right? Nope. Radio silence. *Note: Dec. 31 is after the holiday rush and this statement was made well before ConAgra bought out Trader Joe's largest supplier of food.

Today, I believe ConAgra controls what Dan Bane will do and won't do and I suspect that new words are being brainstormed now and will be switched on their website in the coming days. The original Joe - Joe Coulombe - is gone and ConAgra is in. Now, don't get me wrong, I would sing a different tune if Dan Bane went to the Non-GMO project to get verified and partnered with Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute to implement their groundbreaking aquaculture program for truly sustainable fisheries management. I also don't blame Joe 100% as it appears he was doing it right in the late 60's and 70's until he left and GMOs entered in the food system big in the 90's. Listen to good ole Joe talk about his story so you can see how far off they've come.

So, if you voted Yes on Prop 37... let's ban together, stay out of Trader Joe's, and force Dan Bane to do something crazy. Either label it (products) themselves or test down to zero, which are both very possible. Or you can Label It Yourself (#LIY)! And in the meantime (for San Diegans and North County Residents), join/demo a CSA, visit the San Diego Public Market, go to the local farmer's market listed by Edible San Diego, go to a farm to table restaurant, download the Non-GMO shopping Guide, eat from a community garden you trust, join my Meetup Non GMO Parenting and Cooking for Moms, Dads, Singles + More, and become a member of Slow Food San Diego.

I swear to google you can find a CSA with 100 miles of you if your town population is more than 5,000.

PS. If I've been shot, we know Trader Joe's put a hit out on me.

A Cool Tweet from ‏@labelityourself About GMO Labeling

Great video about GMO labeling. Watch and share!                                   

Please Retweet below or click share on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Prop 37 Effect on Spring Hill Cheese, Barn and Butter

Hi Rachel,

How much has the GMO conversation effected Spring Hill, Barn & Butter? Good or Bad?

Hi No GMO Man,

Good to hear from you.  Sales are up since it is holiday and comfort food season!!
Customers are in their kitchens baking and entertaining this time of year so we do see a bump in sales.

The conscious customer does ask about GMO's but honestly there is still a lack of awareness and understanding in the public and most people still don't really know what it is and why it can be harmful.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
In health and happiness,

Rachel Peter
Spring Hill Cheese
introduces a new culture
Barn and Butter