This holiday season, most of us know to steer clear of conventional turkeys. Though they’re surely less expensive than organic or natural turkeys, there’s almost no question that conventional turkeys have been given growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO-feed. Not to mention, these turkeys have also been raised in confined spaces or other inhumane conditions.
If you’d like to get a truly better turkey this holiday, you’ll need to choose a natural, organic, or heirloom turkey. But what are the differences between these three labels?
The turkeys we eat today little resemble those that the first American settlers ate. Luckily, many turkey growers have revived “American Heritage” turkeys, which are increasingly popular each year. These birds typically have darker meat and smaller breasts, because they haven’t been bred to satisfy the American palette, which prefers lighter breast meat in general. It’s important to note that heritage turkeys only specify the breed, and don’t ensure that the turkey has been raised humanely, or with an antibiotic or GMO-free diet. For that reason, it’s always best to buy a heritage turkey that’s been organically raised, or at least raised by a grower you know and trust.
If you’re a more price-sensitive shopper, natural turkeys are probably the best way to go. Consumers should be aware that the word “natural” doesn’t mean much. So when buying these birds, shoppers should need to ask questions about the turkey’s diet and living conditions. After all, “natural” turkeys can still be treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, and raised in confined spaces. Customers should always read the fine print when considering their “natural” options.
The best option of all is to always buy organic. This ensures that the bird was not fed GMO feed, because it is required to eat an organic diet from the day it’s born. Therefore, buying organic birds supports organic grain producers around the country and, by extension, supports a healthier ecosystem.
At Alfalfa’s this year, we’re proud to offer organic heritage turkeys, along with GMO-free natural and organic birds.
Farmers, especially organic farmers, have faith in the predictability of nature—spring will follow winter, healthy ecosystems will operate in balance, and waste matter, properly managed, will become nature’s richest fertilizer and bring new life. But farmers must also contend with nature’s most unpredictable extremes. Northern Colorado’s farmers have seen years of arid drought, hot summers and nearby forest fires, but it’s safe to say that few of them have seen the kind of historic, late-season rain and flooding that we saw in September. As one unusually gray and misty Tuesday turned into days of unrelenting hard rain, Boulder County was changed, putting farms as well as homes, roads, and lives at risk.
Some farms emerged mostly unscathed but feeling for the entire community. “We were spared the unfortunate consequences that others were not,” said Paul Cure, an owner/farmer at Cure Organic Farm, “and our thoughts are with those who were affected in Boulder and Weld County.” Flooded roads limited access to and from some farms while flooded fields washed away late-season crops for others. Farmers’ markets were canceled and stores were closed, or operating with limited power, water and workers. September, usually a celebration of Colorado’s bountiful late summer harvest, demanded a different kind of community spirit this year—neighbors helping neighbors in the most trying and unexpected circumstances.
Natural disasters also ask us to think more carefully about farm and food security. Research such as the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial, which Rodale says is America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic versus conventional farming, has shown that organic outperforms conventional farming methods in years of drought. It seems likely that, in the long run, organic farming’s priorities of biodiversity and soil health may also help farms recover more quickly from flood damage.
When roads are washed away and access is limited or even eliminated, as we saw with some mountain towns, local foods and farms, ranches, dairies and bee colonies, small producers and community-minded markets all become not just a vital part of the community but an absolutely essential one. When crops and gardens are at risk, the presence of many varieties of plants increases the chances that some will survive. When waterways are polluted by potentially toxic runoff, it’s a reminder that chemical-dependent farming (including genetically modified crops designed to withstand greater amounts of pesticides) has extensive consequences that cannot always be controlled.
In short, all of the benefits of sustainable and organic farming methods become more apparent and more valuable when nature goes to extremes. In times of greater need, we have even greater reason to thank our neighbor-farmers, our food producers and suppliers, and all the advocates working hard for organic and sustainable food systems.
How to Help
- Buy regularly from Colorado’s organic farmers and producers, whether directly or through markets like Alfalfa’s with a commitment to organics and the community.
- Consider a donation to the Family Farm Disaster Fund, established by the national nonprofit Farm Aid to help farmers surviving weather-related crises. Farm Aid is aware of the flood situation and ready to help. Farmers in need of help can call 1-800-Farmaid or visit the Farmer Resource Network.
- The Colorado Farm Bureau has also established a fund to help farmers and ranchers in all of northern Colorado. According to the website, “100 percent of the funds will go directly to aiding these producers as they face the aftermath of this disaster. This flooding has led to a large impact within the agricultural industry within these areas, including damaged fields, stranded livestock, damaged facilities and infrastructure, including roadways and waterways.”
Elaine Lipson is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (Contemporary Books, 2001), a consumer guide to the meaning of organic and the benefits of organic foods and farms, and former organic program director for New Hope Natural Media. She lives in Niwot.
by Paula Hocherl, Alfalfa’s Assistant Front End Manager
One of the farming and food industry’s most critical fights is the one against the giant biotech companies and their genetically modified seeds. These companies are genetically altering the DNA of the food we eat. Americans are ingesting GMO corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, papaya, zucchini, alfalfa and sugar beets without a clear idea of the possible ramifications. Nearly 88% of corn and 93% percent of all soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. These ingredients are in over 70% of our processed foods. Conclusive studies have not been conducted us to understand the potential medical and environmental impacts these crops.
Monsanto, the mightiest of the biotech giants, has persuaded the US Government to not require labeling for GMO ingredients in our food supply. Currently 40+ countries around the world require labeling of GMOs or have a flat-out ban on the production and use of GMOs. The European Union banned the cultivation and sale of GMOs ten years ago. Two states–Maine and Connecticut–have voted ‘Yes’ to require a mandatory label of GMOs.
Alfalfa’s Market was founded on the belief in providing the highest-quality organic and natural foods for our customers and we want to help you make the best food choices. In the absence of federal or state regulation we have decided to take it upon ourselves to label GMOs at a company level. To ensure all new products are GMO-free our Purchasing Director, Shelly Burke, requires each vendor to provide verification of the raw material used in each product. If the vendor cannot provide proof that their ingredients are non-GMO, the product will not make it to the shelf. “There are a lot of companies who are currently changing their ingredient statements to move in the direction of all non-GMO ingredients,” Burke states. “It’s exciting and a pretty big deal on their part”. There are a few products on the shelf that may contain GMOs, and we have carried these products since the store opened. Due to customer demand we continue to carry these products with signage stating “may contain GMOs” informing the customer and allowing them to make their own choices about the foods they eat.
How can you make the choice to avoid GMO’s? Choose organic every time. As defined by government standards, a certified organic ingredient or product cannot be genetically modified. Read food labels, purchase organic products and look for the third party certified Non-GMO Project label on products. Vote with your dollars and support your local organic farmer.
Hundreds of braided garlic bulbs lie drying in the shade as oinks, quacks, and a honeybee buzzsaw fill the air at Cure Organic Farm. A rebel rooster sounds off, unwilling to limit his crowing to dawn at the acreage east of Boulder.
On a warm, late summer morning, full-time farm manager and mom Anne Cure simultaneously directs work in the field while getting paperwork ready for the regular “broccoli audit” from the folks who certify the farm as an organic operation. They track a crop from seed to purchase. She is not concerned about retaining the certification.
Cure has been an organic endeavor almost from the moment Anne and her husband Paul started farming in 2005. “We were able to get organic certification for our land the first year,” she said, because the land had been so well-treated by earlier farmers including a local legend, John Ellis. “They used to farm organically before it was ever labeled that way,’” she said.
The farm’s customers care whether the food is grown locally as much as they do about organic certification. “They want to know where and how the food was grown,” she said. For CSA (community supported agriculture), the link is strengthened because they must come to the farm to pick up their share of the produce.
“At our booth at the farmers’ market I’ll hear our members point to us and say ‘This is my farm.’ That’s great to hear,” Anne said.
Cure currently grows about 100 varieties of organic vegetables and flowers on 12 leased acres. Greens including chard and kale, roots from beets to shallots, as well as haricot vert and eggplant are still coming in from the fields. “But September is all about tomatoes around here,” she said. Anne makes a panzanella (bread) salad almost every day for the farm family using the ripest, sweetest tomatoes and is planning on freezing, canning, and drying more.
A few precious pounds of honey will also be harvested soon from the farm’s vital beehives and available at the farm store along with their farm-raised chicken, duck eggs, Berkshire pork, and Rambouillet lamb.
When Anne and Paul say they focus on being local, they really mean it. Besides selling in season at their farm store and the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, the farm supplies 190 families who are part of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You’ll also find the greens and vegetables mentioned by name on the menus of notable eateries like the Flagstaff House, Frasca, and The Kitchen. Everything produced by the farm is used within 50 miles of the farm, and the only grocery store that sells Cure organic produce is Alfalfa’s Market.
Anne Cure and Alfalfa’s go back a long ways. “I shopped at the original Alfalfa’s when I was a student at Naropa,” Anne says.
“Before the new store even opened they reached out to the organic growers in Boulder and we talked to the produce buyer about our farm.” That close relationship with the community of local organic farmers, ranchers and food producers has only grown, she said.
‘What inspires me to grow organic is that it’s the closest to mimicking nature. It focuses on diversity in the field which is healthier for the farm and the consumer.”
The future is always now when you work on a farm. “Farmers are always thinking three to five years ahead, planning what they will grow,” she said. In order to spread the word about organics, sustainability and to entice a younger generation of growers, the Cures give tours, offer classes and dinners, host farm interns and stage a kids’ farm camp every summer.
On this particular day, the future of organic looks bright at the Cure’s home on the farm. Georgia, the Cure’s always smiling older daughter, already gets it.
“She heads to the kids’ vegetable patch and tells me ‘I’m going to harvest from my garden,’ Anne said with a wide smile.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Cure Organic Farm Store (southwest corner of 75th and Valmont in Boulder) is open through December 15. Upcoming classes at the farm include Jam Making (Sept. 14). For information on the CSA, volunteering opportunities, farm tours, and summer farm camps, visit cureorganicfarm.com
A TOMATO TIP FROM CURE ORGANIC FARM
How to freeze whole fresh tomatoes:
Wash tomatoes. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time as needed. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.
WHAT DOES CERTIFIED ORGANIC MEAN?
“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”
- Source: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop
To be honest, the idea of organic food was not always that appealing to me. I associated it with higher prices and a shorter shelf life than conventional food. When you’re raised with lots of processed foods and junk foods it can prove difficult to give organic food a fair shot. Growing up in the South did not make it any easier. Food was food. There was no significance given to how it was grown or where it came from. Several years ago, I decided to stop buying into hearsay and all the health food stereotypes and do a little research of my own.
First and foremost, there is a lot of information out there on organic food, and its practices and certifications, and it can appear overwhelming at first. So let me share with you the things that I’ve learned over the last several years.
- The people who grow my food care about me and my health. I appreciate the fact that the people who are growing and cultivating my food could choose an easier and more industrial path for growing their produce. They choose not to use synthetic pesticides or chemicals to help grow their food often at a higher cost to them. Chemicals that historically have been shown to have environmental consequences. If organic farmers are willing to invest a little more in my health and my food, then I can too.
- Growing organic food encourages other humane practices. I work in the coffee and juice department at Alfalfa’s Market and in that world we throw around terms like fair trade, direct trade, and organic when it comes to coffee. Typically a company that sells organic coffee is often treating the farmers who grow their coffee beans fairly with sustainable importing and wages.
- Eating organic makes you feel better. Your body is not taking in highly processed ingredients and preservatives that are difficult or dangerous for your body to process and break down. You can definitely distinguish between an organic food versus one that may be genetically modified or doused in pesticides. Additionally, it is encouraging to know that my dollars spent on organic food are supporting sustainable farming and environmental practices.
- Nothing beats fresh. Organic food is often the best tasting and freshest food you will find. There is an emphasis on getting the food to you in the best condition possible as well as from local farms if possible. That way you can enjoy your food the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
September is organic month here at Alfalfa’s Market so stop by our store and see what all you can learn about organic food!
“It’s too late to build a garden this year” is a statement we hear over and over again at The Urban Farm Company of Colorado. Having installed hundreds of raised bed vegetable gardens for homeowners and businesses along the Front Range, we’ve realized the statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Our goal is simple: to help people grow their own food in their backyard in an easy and fun way. We believe that the best time to install a garden is actually in the mid-Summer or Fall.
Step 1: Garden in the Fall
It sounds crazy, but planting most cold season vegetables—such as spinach, radishes, lettuce, kale, chard, broccoli, sugar snap peas—in the fall yields abundant harvests as the weather cools in September and October. A fall garden is also perfect for those who like to impress friends with more exotic non-grocery vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, mache, sorrel, and Hon Tsai Tai—greens that thrive in cooler temperatures.
Every Colorado gardener has experienced their leafy greens “bolting” in June and July as the summer heat stops the plant’s leafy production. If you plant these same vegetables in August and September the warm weather in late summer allows seeds to germinate quickly and then mature as the weather cools down. The soil structure and ecology is also given time to develop over the course of the winter, setting the stage for the prized purple heirloom tomatoes, beans, and kohlrabi planted in the spring.
Step 2: Use a Raised Bed
At The Urban Farm Company, we’ve found that the key to easy and successful gardening is the raised bed. By gardening in a raised bed, you can avoid the Colorado clay by creating 12 inches of soil high in organic matter that doesn’t take years to create with constant soil amendment. We create our soil mix with topsoil, high-quality compost, worm castings, rice hulls, composted pine bark, and biochar. Also, adding sand and peat can help with drainage and provides more oxygen to the plant roots.
Step 3: Try Using a Cold Frame
Raised beds will also allow you to attach a cold frame to your garden—an easy trick to extend the season even further into the winter (and to start your gardening earlier in the spring). The simple frames with greenhouse plastic create an insulated micro-climate for plants. Nothing is more exciting than harvesting a salad of premium greens in the middle of December with a foot of snow on the ground. The frames also let you beat the farmers’ market by several weeks, by producing the first salad greens of the year in March.
More and more, people are realizing the benefits of homegrown food—taste, health, sustainability and fun. Don’t wait until next spring to start a garden. If you plant now, harvesting your own backyard veggies is only a month away!
Bryant Mason is the founder of The Urban Farm Company of Colorado.
The Urban Farm Company is offering a FREE Cold Frame with a purchase of a garden.
by Edmée Knight
Love the convenience of those re-sealable baby food packets, but can’t stand the non-ecofriendly packaging? How about your energy bar wrappers, plastic produce bags or those beauty products with spritzers on them — where do you put them when you’re finished? The trash?
Here at Alfalfa’s, you can now keep these items out of the landfill! Our new recycling program was designed to help you (and us) keep package-heavy items out of landfills and back on the shelves. We now provide recycling and up-cycling centers for your hard-to-recycle beauty products such as toothpaste tubes, deodorant sticks, and hairspray bottles.
These items are either sent to Terracycle where they are up-cycled into tote bags, wallets and other useful items or they are melted down and recycled into park benches and trash cans. All of our plastic bags are recycled through Ecocycle.
Just bring your empty packaging with you the next time you shop at Alfalfa’s and drop them in the bins located by the front registers… Turn your trash into another person’s trash can!
These days, it seems like scores of my friends and acquaintances are jumping into an array of different diet crazes. Gluten free, paleo, raw—what’s right for me and how do I know?
When I was in grad school, just thinking about changing my diet made me tired. Simply put, I was caught in a cycle of bad eating habits. I wasn’t unhealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t understand how closely my mood was linked to what I’d consumed an hour or two before. I’d have a cookie or a cup of coffee in the afternoon just to get through a 3 o’clock class. The thought of giving up that habit was slightly daunting.
One day in my final semester of school, a friend of mine told me about the Conscious Cleanse. The goal wasn’t to shed a bunch of pounds, and you didn’t subsist off of only liquids like in some of the more common cleanses. Instead, this program encouraged eating wholesome foods and keeping potential allergens like dairy and wheat off your plate. The cleanse stood out to me because it sounded reasonable and rational. It also seemed like a great way for me to break the bad habits I’d acquired during my 2 years of grad school.
This June, I joined a group of about 60 other individuals as they embarked on a 2-week experiment of eating simple, unprocessed foods. The first few days were tough. I craved that morning cup of coffee and that sugary treat in the afternoon, but instead had to resign myself to lemon water or a handful of raw cashews. I must admit that by the end, I didn’t want to give up this new way of eating and thinking of food.
Things I learned:
- A small handful of nuts is more filling than you might think.
- Former habits included reaching for some type of food when I was tired, not hungry.
- When you break from the old habits, foods like vegetables and fruits actually taste better.
What I liked:
- The cleanse taught me to nourish my body with whole foods.
- Though weight loss wasn’t a goal for me, I did wind up losing about 5 pounds, and as an added bonus, I felt more energetic and positive overall.
by Dennis Sweeney
It’s no secret that your grocery bill can add up quickly when you’re at Alfalfa’s: with so much delicious natural food within reach it’s hard not to get carried away. As an independent market, we strive to provide the highest quality local, organic, and responsibly sourced food, and this can often cost a little extra money. But being independent also allows us to create unique deals for folks who are looking for them. Here are a few tips on how to shop at Alfalfa’s for less:
1) Check the dollar bin! Because our standards for our produce are so high, we often can’t sell certain fruits and vegetables at full price. These end up on the left side of the produce cooler, wrapped in green sacks or labeled with orange tags. You’ll find peppers, oranges, apples, and greens that have slight imperfections or are nearing their last sellable date. The secret is, most of the fruit in the dollar bin is the sweetest because it’s ripe!
2) Look for Sustainable Value stickers. We’ve picked out more than 200 products around the store and marked them down so they’re the same price as or less than any other store in town. These aren’t sale prices: they’re the same every day.
3) Day-old bread is a great deal. If you like sweets, we wrap up scones, danishes, croissants, donuts and bagels the day after they are baked and sell them at a discounted price on the right hand side of the pastry case. You can find day-old Breadworks loaves in a wooden box next to the bakery. Check the baskets on the bakery counter, too, where there are other reduced-price, homemade baked goods from Kaiser rolls to raspberry-chocolate bars. Just be sure to get here early, because the best stuff goes fast!
4) Using our bulk section is a great way to shop efficiently day in and day out. If you only need a small amount of a spice, just put as much as you need in a plastic bag and we’ll charge you by the ounce. Many of the granolas we offer pre-packaged can also be found in the bulk section—for less money per pound. We even offer a huge selection of bulk oils and vinegars, from everyday organic olive oil to pomegranate balsamic from Italy.
5) Pick up our sale flyer! New items are on sale every month and you can find out what they are right here on our website. Along with some really spectacular deals, you’ll also find a list of events and a recipe every month.
So happy shopping! And don’t forget: just because you make it a priority to buy food that’s healthy for you, your family, and the earth doesn’t mean you can’t buy food on a budget.
Alfalfa’s is partnering with its close neighbor, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMOCA), to beautify and bring art to the Boulder community. Young artists participating in BMOCA’s Art Stop on the Go program are painting a mural on a 20’ x 4’ wall on the south side of the Alfalfa’s parking lot. The Art Stop on the Go program works with children from the Family Learning Center – engaging underserved students who are at risk of dropping out of school with curriculum based art education.
In the next few weeks the young artists will be painting their renditions of fruit, vegetables, and pollinators on the wall. The final project will be a colorful abstract of the importance of fresh food and the pollinators that make them grow.
The space below the wall consists of bike racks and tables for any and all Boulder residents. Alfalfa’s is excited to make this space a more enjoyable place. Please feel free to stop by Alfalfa’s to watch the mural being completed during our Hometown Throw Down on July 4th.