Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Product Spotlight
By Jessica Morel, Organic Valley Co-op
Cooperatives have always been about…well…cooperation. Kingdom Organic Cheddar, La Montanita’s newest offering in premium imported cheese, is the result of an emerging partnership among two organic family farm dairy cooperatives; one in the US, the other in Great Britain.
Hundreds of years ago, farmers in the Somerset area of Southwest England began aging cheese in the limestone caves of a deep gorge in their region. They named this delicious sharp cheese after the village at the bottom of that gorge: Cheddar. Through the centuries, dairy farmers and cheese makers in this region have honed their skills to introduce distinctive English Cheddar to shoppers around the world.
English organic dairy farmers were frustrated, though, because the slight differences in the organic regulations between the US and the European Union prevented them from being able to market a quality organic English Cheddar to shoppers in the US. All of that changed when the United States and Europe negotiated an agreement in 2012 that set up a procedure to allow EU organic products into the US if those products could be verified to meet the USDA organic Standards.
Dairy farmers belonging to England’s major organic milk cooperative went to work to start creating a pool of milk that complied with the USDA standards so that they could make a quality cheddar for the American marketplace. The Kingdom Cheddar they produced has won accolades from cheese experts around the world. The creamy texture with notes of fresh, green grass, make Kingdom a perfect cheese for entertaining, recipes, or just for an afternoon snack.
English organic dairy farmers knew they needed a solid partner in the U.S. to bring that premium cheddar to the marketplace. They reached out to their fellow organic dairy farmers who owned Organic Valley Co-op, the most established organic dairy brand in the United States. The partnership forged among these two cooperatives is allowing the British organic dairy farmers to bring their premium, heritage cheddar to La Montanita through the network of Organic Valley.
Richard Hampton, the head of the British organic cooperative that produces Kingdom Cheddar, said, “Our farmers are very proud of the bold, distinctive premium heritage cheddar that they help produce. By connecting with our fellow organic farmers at Organic Valley, we have developed the ability to bring our unique products to shoppers in New Mexico and elsewhere around the United States.”
Commonbound: New Economy Coalition Shows the Way
By Marianne Dickinson
It looks as if the new economy’s time has come if the New Economy Coalition’s conference, “Commonbound,” is any indication. Held in Boston in June, “Commonbound” was the culmination of ten summits held at colleges around the country. It drew 650 participants, almost double the expected attendance.
Most amazing was the participants’ diversity in age (perhaps half under 30), gender, race/ethnicity, and the paths they are blazing to a “just and regenerative” economy and society. There were even workshops specifically for LGBT, youth and communities of color to articulate what economic justice and sustainability means for them.
Our small New Mexico contingent was drawn to the event by New Economy thinkers— Gar Alperovitz, Hunter Lovins, Gus Speth, Juliet Schor— but we found them to be humbly blended in panels with activists, organizers, policy researchers, funders, worker co-op members, environmental advocates and storytellers.
Changing the story about our relationship with money and with nature is an important role for the creative community, so a significant place in the program and workshops was given to creating a new story of cooperation rather than competition, sustainability rather than endless growth, democracy rather than great inequality. Plenty of books and news media are delivering the story of the failures of our economic system, climate change and governance. At “Commonbound” we heard many stories of change taking place now as well as future possibilities. These included:
- “We make loans to low income housing co-op members, as well as the co-ops themselves. The co-ops are created following the City taking ownership of the buildings due to tax arrears…. [and] are income and resale restricted. The cost of an apartment for a current tenant is $2500. The cost to an “outsider” (who still must meet the income restrictions) is around $50K. We currently have 50 loans outstanding, for a total of $9.5 million. We have 140 co-op apartment loans outstanding, for about $12 million,” reported Linda Levy, CEO of the Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union.
- As Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) gains membership, so has Community Supported Fishery (CSF), reports the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, which has as its slogan “Who Fishes Matters.” New England is becoming highly organized in support of local fishermen, who receive a higher value for their fish so they need to catch fewer fish, placing less strain on fish populations. As consumers learn the huge negative impacts of “factory fishing,” they are learning to ask where, when, and how their seafood was caught. (The fact that 50% of our country’s seafood is shipped to low-wage countries to prep, then sold back to us just highlights the need for more direct marketing.)
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the usual measure of “economic activity,”— including activities such as oil spill cleanup and cancer treatment— is being re-worked to be a full-cost accounting method. Among the panelists discussing the adoption of a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) by four states— Maryland, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont— and moves to adopt it in 16 others, was Oregon’s First Lady and GPI champion, Cylvia Hayes.
Talk of what constitutes the Commons— land, air, water, creative ideas, culture, genetics, the Internet, etc.— that shouldn’t be monetized and privatized got some general agreement, but the devil’s in the details. The true meaning of the so-called sharing economy was hotly debated (For sharing economy information go to www.shareable.net. For critiques of the corporate takeover and undermining of regulations read Andrew Leonard on Salon.com.)
One workshop asked the question, “Is There a Place for Global Corporations in a Regenerative Economy?” Some argue that the New or Regenerative economy must be scaled up to be able to produce what is needed, but question whether WalMart can be made to follow such radical business practices as Patagonia’s. If we still want to have our coffee, tea and chocolate we need global trade, but how that fully transitions to fair trade and sustainable production is a huge challenge. And… what is the definition of “sustainable” anyway? In the tide of greenwashing, the term is almost as murky as “natural.”
The message of Commonbound: there is great energy and vision in the work being done to create a just and regenerative New Economy. See highlights at http://commonbound.org/ and hear organizer Ed Whitfield’s opening speech. “It isn’t enough to teach a man to fish if he doesn’t have access to a fishing pole and the fishing hole. “
School Snacks: Stay on Track and Pack the Best
By Susan Clair
How can it be that the new school term is starting already? Didn’t we just celebrate the summer solstice and figure out what to do on our summer vacation?
Along with buying school supplies and new clothes, it’s time to consider healthful foods that can be easily packed for snacks and lunches. Transportability is important, but it’s essential to pack nutritious foods that your children like and will eat, so the foods don’t end up in the trash or get traded for highly processed, sugary “food-like products,” as described by Clean Gut author Dr. Alejandro Junger.
Two of my friends are K-6 teachers, and they spend many hours talking with parents about healthful foods that their children can easily bring to school. Many parents get it and their kids come to school with creatively prepared, tasty and nutritious foods. Because others don’t get it, the classroom can sometimes become a difficult environment for learning. The day after Halloween is always the worst, they say, when kids’ backpacks are loaded with sugary treats collected at parties the previous evening. Many of the children have eaten several pieces of Halloween candy by the time they arrive at school. With several ounces of refined sugar or, worse, high-fructose corn syrup coursing through their system, the last thing these children are able to do is focus on classroom activities or even sit still for more than a minute. My friends, the teachers, are constantly amazed at how many parents still do not make the connection between out-of-control behaviors and ingested low-quality products.
When helping people to understand the importance of eating real foods, I offer an analogy of fueling one’s vehicle. We would never consider pouring Kool-Aid into the gas tank of our car and expect it to run properly. So, why would we think we can eat highly processed, sugary food-like items and expect our body to function properly and keep us from getting sick? In other words, why do we take better care of our cars than our bodies and our children’s bodies?
Teaching children to choose foods that are healthful and will build strong bodies that will grow into brain-nourished healthy adults is no simple task. Avoiding sugary, high-sodium, over processed foods is the first place to start. Fresh is always best. Most of us are familiar with the array of available whole fruits and fresh veggies. These foods are “alive” and full of nutrients that the body recognizes and can absorb for energy and structural growth and repair. With a little creativity and a few minutes of prep time, we can provide school snacks and lunches that the children will actually eat and not trade away.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make a fruit smoothie or green drink, and pour it into a thermos or other nonbreakable container.
- Heat up the previous night’s homemade chunky vegetable soup, pinto beans and brown rice, or quinoa pilaf, and scoop it into a preheated, wide-mouth thermos.
- Spread almond or peanut butter onto celery stalks.
- Fill a baggie with a variety of bite-sized fresh foods: grapes, berries, dates, figs, veggie florets, and a few nuts.
- Fill a whole wheat tortilla or pita pocket with easy-to-make hummus, sprouts, avocados, sliced cucumbers or other veggies.
- Scoop bite-size pieces of melon into a nonbreakable container.
- Slice a prebaked sweet potato, sprinkle cinnamon on the slices, and reheat. Cool overnight in the refrigerator and, in the morning, wrap the slices in wax paper to take to school.
- Dry your own fruit: apples, apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and more.
New Mexico’s arid climate makes drying food easy with a nonelectric, sun-drying food dehydrator, available for about $70 (http://www.herbkits.com/food-pantrie-dehydrator). Or make your own hanging food dryer for just a few dollars (http://www.ehow.com/how_7699049_make-hanging-food-dehydrator.html). Science project, anyone?
Make this school term the best ever; with a little imagination and planning, you and your children can come up with many tasty, nutritious snacks and lunches!
Eating for your Health
For more than four years, I have been helping people learn how to stay healthy through organic, plant-based nutrition. I invite you to join me at the next “Eating for Your Health” workshop on Saturday August 30, at 10:30am at the Highland Senior Activity Center, 131 Monroe NE. Registration is required, seating limited. Suggested donation is $5. For more information call 505-281-9888 or email email@example.com.
Co-op Connection News
La Montañita, in business since 1976, represents several generations of good food, family, and cooperation.
Read about many of the families who have multiple generations working at La Montañita, and so much more.
And, now you can get many of the Co-op Connection articles on our Community blog!
Hands on Organic Integrated Pest Management:
Farm Walks Scheduled for August and September
By Joanie Quinn, NMDA Organic Program
Squash bugs, grasshoppers, flea beetles, aphids, borers, hornworms, codling moths and bagrada bugs will be front and center in a series of Organic Integrated Pest Management Farm Walks presented by New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program this August and September. The Spotted Wing Drosophila—new to New Mexico in 2013, and a very difficult-to-manage pest of soft fruits and berries will also be up for examination.
‘Farmscaping’ and other techniques aimed at increasing the numbers of beneficial organisms will be discussed including the use of ‘insectary’ plants, hedgerows, cover crops, nest boxes or roosting sites, etc., that can attract and support beneficial organisms such as predatory and parasitic insects, spiders, birds, and bats, all of which can help suppress insect pests and/or problem vertebrates such as mice and gophers. Use of pheromones, trap crops and row covers will also be discussed in this holistic, all-farm approach to management of agricultural pests. Monitoring for pests will also be covered.
The farmwalks are hosted by certified organic producers of a variety of crops throughout New Mexico. The walks will provide organic farmers and market gardeners (and those thinking about converting to organic practices) with an informal overview of approaches to pest management in organic systems, and – perhaps more importantly – an opportunity to connect with other growers and share experiences. Each walk will be led by Dr. Tess Grasswitz (Urban/Small Farm IPM Specialist at the New Mexico State University Agriculture Science Center at Los Lunas) and Joanie Quinn (New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Advisor).
To insure that everyone is able to participate fully in the discussions, attendance at the walks will be capped at 50 participants. No refreshments will be provided, plan to bring at least one bottle of water. Please wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing. Bring sun protection and a hat. Restroom facilities may not be available in all locations. In consideration of the farm hosts and their pets, and the well-being of your pets, dogs will not be allowed on the walks and will not be allowed to stay in vehicles during walks. This will be strictly enforced. Parking may be in fields off-road. The walks are free, but you must register at least one week in advance by calling (505) 865-7340. The walks are funded by a grant from the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Schedule (all walks will take place from 1:00-4:00 pm):
Wednesday, August 20, ARCA Organics, Corrales: Mixed vegetables, berries, cover crops, strip tillage
Wednesday, August 27, NMSU Ag Science Center, Los Lunas: Fruit and mixed vegetables, pollinator plants, field trials of organic pest management techniques, and habitat for beneficials and predators
Wednesday, September 3, Hidden Acres Farm, Hobbs: Mixed vegetables on drip irrigation, wildlife shelter belt
Wednesday, September 24, Farside Farm, Mendanales: 6,000 grape vines, cut flowers, hoop houses, mixed vegetables, constructed wetlands