Millions of people are planning on buying, giving and eating chocolate in celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. This time of year means big sales for chocolate companies. If you are interested in buying chocolate that supports fair labor standards, as well as those that do not harm the environment or your body, make sure you are well educated as to where your chocolate comes from and how it was harvested.
Of the many types and varieties of chocolate on the market, not all adhere to certifiable fair trade standards, which means there is little concern about the environment or the people who work hard to bring your sweet treat to a store near you. Those that do however will display the words Fair Trade on their labeling, making it easy for the consumer to be aware that they have kept up with the requirements necessary to be certified fair trade.
One notable chocolate manufacturing company that does not flaunt a fair trade certification, however surpassed fair trade standards and brought their harvesting and processing techniques to a remarkably high level of ideals. Kallari, the only line of world-class, certified organic dark chocolate is operated by an indigenous cooperative of organic cocoa growers who gain 100% of the profits for which they work so hard.
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In 2002, a federal law passed that only allows products to be labeled “organic” if they have gone through the USDA certification process, but not every farmer who uses organic practices has the certification. The process is time consuming and also comes with a thousand dollar fee, and some small farmers simply find that the USDA’s program is a bad fit for the scale of their operations.
However, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers farmers and beekeepers a way to assure consumers about their practices. We are frequently warned that the word “natural” is a marketing term used in greenwashing, but the farmers who participate in this program are committed to healthy and sustainable agriculture. “The O-word is forbidden unless you get special permission to use it, so we’re the alternative way to describe what they do,” explains Alice Varon, the executive director of Certified Naturally Grown. “It can be a very convenient short-hand way of communicating about their growing practices.”
There are 800 farms and apiaries located in 47 states that have the grassroots certification. From a consumer’s perspective, produce that carries the Certified Naturally Grown seal is equivalent to that which carries the USDA certification. It’s grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic herbicides or fungicides. Certified Naturally Grown’s standards are based on internally recognized standards. “We’re not trying to define anything radically different,” says Varon.
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Five new members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be taking office this January, having won approval from the USDA earlier this month. The 15-member board is responsible for setting and upholding the national organic standards, in addition to determining what substances may be used in USDA-certified organic products.
The NOSB is comprised of four farmers, three environmentalists, three consumer interest advocates, two handlers, one retailer, one scientist and one USDA certifying agent, in order to properly represent the different interests of the organic farming community.
The new members will be:
Harold V. Austin (Handler)
Austin current is the director of Orchard Administration at Zirkle Fruit Company, an organic fruit tree grower and shipper. He is also a board member of two organic advisories, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Board and the Northwest Horticultural Council’s Science Advisory Board.
Carmela Beck (Farmer)
Beck is the National Organic Program Supervisor and Organic Certification Grower Liaison for Driscoll’s, one of the largest organic berry producers in the country. She previously worked for a an organic certification agency, and for the American Indian Resource Center.
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The National Organic Standards Board will be holding their biannual meeting at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in Savannah, Georgia, November 29 – December 2, 2011. “We think this meeting may well decide the fate of organic food and agriculture in this country,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. The mission of the Cornucopia Institute states that they are “dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy and economic development [their] goal is to empower farmers both politically and through marketplace initiatives.”
During this NOSB meeting, the Cornucopia Institute will be presenting formal testimony on several subjects including genetically modified and synthetic additives that have been petitioned for use in organic foods and drinks, including baby foods and formula. Part of their testimony will include findings from a consumer survey done by PCC Natural Markets, the largest member-owned food cooperative in the United States, that shows more than three fourths of consumers are opposed to such synthetic additives in their food.
The Cornucopia Institute is also concerned about a petition to the NOSB to allow the use of the synthetic preservative sulfur dioxide (sulfites) in wine. “Approving sulfites, not only a synthetic preservative but a common allergen, would represent another blow to consumer confidence in the organic label, which has always signified the absence of artificial preservatives,” Kastel noted.
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Years ago, people went to one market or general store to pick up all of the groceries and household items on their shopping list. Today, we have a variety of choices when it comes to purchasing food and beverages, from super stores and warehouse clubs to farmers markets and joining a CSA in your community.
CSAs and farmers markets are similar in that both offer local, homegrown produce to customers at prices that are often much cheaper than at the grocery store, however they can differ in price, convenience and quality depending on where your food was grown. Regardless of whether you shop at a market or join a CSA, you are receiving fresher, higher-quality produce because it hasn’t been treated with the chemicals or preservatives necessary to mass-distribute and ship it around the world.
What is a CSA?
CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a program that lets you purchase “shares” from a farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of fruits, vegetables and other farm products like milk, eggs and dairy.
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