Home making it…

July 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I dislike chemicals. Actually that’s being kind. I loath chemicals. I’m talking the unnecessary ones. The ones that have no place disrupting our hormones, poisoning our foods and erroneously making their way into our precious bodies. So when I pull out the homemade tick repellant I embrace the eye roll of my teenage daughter. I’m okay being the mom that walks around with the yellow handbag inscribed with “love” across it, out of which I may pull any one of my brews. I sometimes remind her that I’m actually pretty tame in my “hippiness” and my ability to embarrass her could be so much more intense.  I hug her and remind her how grateful she is to be my daughter. I toss her the bottle and as she indulges me I know that she understands I do it from a place of love and that the seeds of mindfulness are germinating.

So with that I share some of my homemade brews for which I can not take creative ownership.  That rests solely with the wise crew at Floracopeia.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before so forgive the redundancy.  I choose their oils not only for their superior quality but for their mission.  Floracopeia not only embraces, but actively promotes and participates in environmental sustainability, fair trade and community empowerment where ever their products are harvested.  It’s difficult to find stellar customer service but this company has it.  Their staff is knowledgeable, friendly and willing to lend their time and expertise to answer any question you may have.  Give them a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

Insect Repellent
2 oz. water (or your favorite hydrosol)
10 drops Lavender Oil
10 drops Lemon-Scented Eucalyptus Oil
5 drops Rose Geranium Oil
5 drops Peppermint Oil

Tick Repellent
1 oz. water
1 oz. witch hazel
15 drops Lemon Scented Eucalyptus
15 drops Rose Geranium

Hand Sanitizer (Thieves Blend)
1/2 oz. water
1/2 oz. witch hazel
3 drops Clove
3 drops Lemon
2 drops Cinnamon
1 drop Rosemary
1 drop Eucalyptus

I don’t get any kick back from Floracopeia. In fact they have no idea I’m mentioning them so visit their site knowing there are no strings attached.  Same is true for Susan Nichole’s vegan handbags.

Simple pleasures such as making these can make my day so bright!

Simple pleasures such as making these can make my day so bright!

The hidden gifts of natural dyed eggs…

April 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

When I set out to color Easter eggs this morning with my four year old son, I was unaware of the lessons that the process may be teaching him. At first it was simply about creating memories and instilling a yearly tradition. You may recall that last year was our first attempt at making our own dyes and I was dying to try it again!

As I set the pots of dye on the stove to cook while my son asked me when the eggs would be different colors, it occurred to me that this experience was more than simply a seasonal project to occupy him and whittle away some of the day of a stay-at-home mom. It suddenly became so much more than the end result of what I hoped would be beautifully colored, festive eggs that he would enjoy having created. It occurred to me that it was a lengthy process especially for a little one.

I soon realized I was teaching my child patience. I also hoped I was teaching him that each part of the journey can be really fun and cool even when we so want to get to the end. I was not teaching him instant gratification and that made me smile because so much in our modern world has become just that. There is so much that allows us to have what we want when we want it and because of that there can be suffering and unhappiness when we are unable to do so. As a result we often miss the joy the journey has to offer because we are solely focused on the destination. My son isn’t aware that the process could have taken a fraction of the time if I had purchased a box of Paas color tablets instead of a head of cabbage, bunch of beets and bottle of turmeric. What he does know is that these beautiful colors came from the earth, he helped mummy with a big project, and we have some really gorgeous eggs for the Easter bunny to hide.

My hope is that in some way the seed has been planted in him that most things are about the process, the experience of seeing the beauty in each part of the journey and in turn, the end result becoming all the more rewarding.

This is the experience that unfolded for us:

We set out our ingredients and pulled up a chair.
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We chopped, measured, poured and stirred.
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We waited thirty minutes for each to cook.
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We strained and took the leap into using cheesecloth.
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We put eggs in jars, poured dye and learned about mixing colors.
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Of course we had to smell each one!
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And then we waited hours more.
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The reward all the more beautiful having taken the journey…together.
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This year we are grateful for finding the recipes we used from the dirtyGourmet.

It’s almost that time of year! Local CSA options…

February 23rd, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

Last year I posted part of this article under All CSAs are not created equal part II however I thought it worth posting again and including all our local options.  You can visit each farm’s website for a complete crop listing.  Please note that the prices and pick up days and times may have changed.  Enjoy the anticipation of the harvest!

Choosing the CSA That’s Right for Your Family

How I love this time of year.  For me it is a time of much anticipation.  So close to once again being able to feed my family fresh, locally grown produce.  Time to get out of the grocery stores and back to the farms!  It is also the time when many of us consider joining a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program.  Choosing a CSA can often be confusing and overwhelming.  Do a farm’s growing practices align with my food quality standards?  Will I be able to choose the items I need each week?  Will the offerings be the fruits and vegetables my family enjoys?  The choices are many.

Our first CSA experience was simply okay.  We joined before I was as in tune to the differences in how produce can be grown and since then my food quality standards have shifted.  I also left each week with items I wasn’t familiar with, had no idea how to prepare and ended up wasting.  After two years with that particular farm we switched and I could not be happier.

 So how do you choose a CSA that is right for your family?  For me it comes down to three facto

  1. Growing practices
  2. How shares are distributed
  3. Selection of crops

Growing practices vary from farm to farm and sometimes even within the same one depending on the crops.  Some farms are USDA certified organic while others adhere to, or even go beyond, organic growing standards and are toxin free.  Some farms use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and/or pesticides while others practice a little bit of everything.  While offerings from one farm to another can appear alike they can be anything but the same, and navigating this maze can be challenging.   We live in an area where high quality, non-genetically modified and toxin free produce is available and this is what I look for first and foremost when choosing a CSA.

How a farm distributes each week’s harvest usually falls into one of three categories.  Some farms pre-box their weekly offerings for convenience and to make sure all shareholders receive the same items.  Others provide a pre-selected list of items, similar to a grocery list, and allow you to pick them from their farm stand.  Others leave it completely up to you by simply providing the week’s harvest and allowing you to choose whatever you like.  Since I’m still learning to be adventurous in the kitchen, I look for complete freedom of choice so I can pick the items I know my family will eat.  Many farms also offer ”pick your own” fields that I find to be an added benefit. 

The selection of crops varies from farm to farm as well.  Larger farms typically offer a wider variety of crops.  Some farms focus solely on vegetables while others include additional items in their shares such as fruit, eggs, and cider to name a few.  I enjoy having fruit in our shares so I look for a CSA with that option.

The following is what I’ve learned as I’ve navigated my way through researching and exploring which CSA will serve my family best.  Some of the farms below only offer CSA’s, some have farm stands that are open to the public and most can be found at local farmers’ markets.  All are non-GMO.  My hope is that the information below will help you choose the CSA and farms that are right for you and your family. Enjoy the harvest!

Arrowhead Farm, Newburyport

Farming Practices

No use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide sprays.

Distribution Style

Members choose each item from a pre-selected list however they do allow you to swap out items.  Pick your own fields are often available.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full Share $695 for vegetables only.  Add on options available. 

Smaller Share $545

Pick Up Days

Saturdays 11AM – 3 PM and Sundays 9AM – 12PM

Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury

Farming Practices

According to owner Glenn Cook, Cider Hill has many organic crops however they are not certified organic.  Many crops are chemical free however they implement IPM (integrated pest management) strategies on some, which allows for the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Distribution Style

Pre-selected and boxed for you with a swap table.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full Share $600

Half Share $325

Pick Up Days

Weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays 11AM – 6PM

Herrick Farm, Rowley

Farming Practices

Owner Kristen Herrick states, “no organic certification but we use organic growing practices.”

Distribution Style

Members choose each item from a pre-selected list.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full Share $500

Pick Up Days

Choice of Tuesdays or Fridays 3:00 – 6:30PM

Heron Pond Farm, South Hampton, NH

Farming Practices

Non-certified organic.  Leafy greens and fruit are never sprayed.  Ultra low pesticide spray is used on corn crops.

Distribution Style 

Members choose each item from a pre-selected list.

Share Offerings and Prices

Double Share $1,100

Full Share $550

Half Share $325

Pick Up Days

Weekly on day of your choice

Long Hill Farm, West Newbury

Farming Practices

Owner Cindy Adams states “we pride ourselves on growing from seed to harvest using organic standards, however we are not certified organic. We do not use any pesticides, herbicides or chemicals to produce crops.”  Regarding fruit crops she shares, “our fruit is grown using IPM standards.Only when we see that the insect population would cause extensive damage would we apply a spray to control it. We do not use restricted use pesticides, and we do not use any herbicides at all.”

Distribution Style

Farm stand style allowing shareholders freedom to choose their weekly items. Pick your own is included at no additional cost.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full Share $600

Half Share $350

Quarter Share $200

Pick Up Days

Friday and Saturday however they are flexible with pick up.

Mehaffrey Farm, Rowley

Farming Practices

Owner Maggie Mehaffey states, “we are not certified organic but we are committed to organic practices, chemical free and no GMO.”

Distribution Style

Members choose each item from a pre-selected list. Pick your own crops are often available for herbs, green beans, cherry tomatoes and peas.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full Season Share: You Pick Option $600 or Pre-picked $660

14 week share: You pick $475 or Pre-picked $550

10-week share: You pick $335 or Pre-picked $360

Sampler Shares: 5 weeks for $200, 3 weeks for $120 or 1 week for $45

Pick Up Days

Choose Monday or Tuesday 2-7:00 PM

Middle Earth Farm, Amesbury 

Farming Practices

Non-certified organic.

Distribution Style

Members choose each item from a pre-selected list.

Share Offerings and prices

Full share cost before April is discounted in increments, after April 1st: $600

Pick Up Days Tuesdays 11AM – 6PM

New Harmony CSA, West Newbury

Farming Practices

Certified organic.  Owner Erin Stack states, “While New Harmony Farm is one of only two certified organic CSA’s on the North Shore, we are proud to be going beyond certified organic requirements with our commitment to growing nutrient dense foods, using regenerative growing methods which focus on improving soil health and working in harmony with Nature to create a sustainable and vibrant farm ecosystem.

Distribution Style

Farm stand style allowing shareholders freedom to choose their own weekly offerings.

Share Offerings and Prices

Full share $625

Half share $400

Pick Up Days:

Thursdays 3 – 6:30PM

Fridays 2 – 6 PM at First Parish Church in Newbury

Saturdays 10AM -12PM

Other area CSA’s worth looking into are Colby Farm (Newbury), Marini Farm (Ipswich) and Green Meadows Farm (certified organic in S. Hamilton).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not cool Chobani…

July 18th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Before feeding my family anything commercially produced I do my homework.  I carve out the time.  I make the phone calls.  I send the emails.  I don’t do this for fun.  I do this to safeguard our health and well-being.  So when I willingly jump through all these hoops and scale all these hurdles I trust the response I’m given.  If down the line I learn that it wasn’t 100% truthful it infuriates me and makes me want to throw all the punches I possibly can.  I sign petitions.  I send emails.  I post on Facebook.  I tweet.  I make phone calls.  I blog.  I let anyone who will listen know how I feel.  And I truly believe these acts will help affect change.

Here’s an email exchange I had with Chobani:

On April 29, 2013 at 7:39AM I filled out a contact form at www.Chobani.com asking:

Is Chobani yogurt GMO free? Down to the feed given the cows? Any information you can offer is greatly appreciated.

At 5:03PM that same day I received the following response:

Julie,
Thank you for reaching out to us regarding authentic, strained Chobani Greek Yogurt.  Here at Chobani we’re committed to using the highest quality milk to produce
nothing but good products for our customers. We request all suppliers of our product ingredients to certify that their ingredients do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Thanks for taking time out of your day to contact us.
Helen Heverling
Chobani Customer Loyalty Team

On April 30, 2013 at 9:52AM I sent a follow up message:

Hi Helen,
Thanks for your quick response.  If I read your email correctly you “request” your suppliers to be non-GMO however do you require them to be?  Is there any type of verification or communication on their end that they are in fact providing Chobani non-gmo ingredients?  Any further information you can offer is greatly appreciated.
Warmly,

Julie

At 11:28AM that same day Helen Heverling replied:

Julie,
If a supplier cannot provide a GMO-free certificate, we won’t won’t use the ingredient.
Thanks!

Helen Heverling

Yesterday I awoke to press release posted on the Wall Street Journal website which states “Chobani is the United States’ top Greek yogurt brand and it prides itself on adding no GMO ingredients to its yogurt. However, it is likely that the company is relying on milk from cows eating a diet full of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).” 

Last time I read the above email exchange it confirmed that I specifically asked Chobani if their products were GMO free down to the feed given to the cows.  Based on their response, Chobani has been a staple in what I thought was my GMO free refrigerator for the past several months.  Even if there was the slightest chance that GMO feed was given to a cow whose milk made it’s way into their yogurt they should have done the ethical, professional thing by telling me they could not guarantee their products are 100% GMO free.  And why do I expect this?  Because when asked the same question this is the answer I’ve received from countless companies and it’s simply the right thing to do.

I can, however, thank Chobani for one thing.  One more mass produced store bought item is now off my grocery list…for good!

 

 

All CSAs are not created equal part II

May 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

How I love this time of year.  For me it is a time of much anticipation.  So close to once again being able to feed my family fresh, locally grown produce.  Time to get out of the grocery stores and back to the farms!  It is also the time when many of us consider joining a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program.  Choosing a CSA can often be confusing and overwhelming.  Do a farm’s growing practices align with my food quality standards?  Will I be able to choose the items I need each week?  Will the offerings be the fruits and vegetables my family enjoys?  The choices are many.

Our first CSA experience was not the best it could have been.  We joined before I was as in tune to the differences in how produce can be grown and since then my food quality standards have shifted.  The more I learned about their growing practices the more I look back on that experience and wish I had chosen otherwise.  I also left each week with items I wasn’t familiar with, had no idea how to prepare and ended up wasting.  After two years with that particular farm we switched and I could not be happier.

So how do you choose a CSA that is right for your family?  For me it comes down to three factors:

  1. Growing practices
  2. How shares are distributed
  3. Selection of crops

Growing practices vary from farm to farm and sometimes even within the same one depending on the crops.  Some farms are USDA certified organic while others adhere to organic growing standards.  Others go beyond organic and focus on restoring and enriching the nutrients of the soil in which crops are grown.  Some farms use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and/or pesticides while others implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies which also allows for the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.  Others practice a little bit of everything.   While offerings from one farm to another can appear alike they can be anything but the same, and navigating this maze can be challenging.   Thankfully we live in an area where high quality, non-genetically modified and toxin free produce is available and this is what I look for first and foremost when choosing a CSA.

How a farm distributes each week’s harvest usually falls into one of three categories.  Some farms pre-box their weekly offerings for convenience and to make sure all shareholders receive the same items.  Others provide a pre-selected list of items, similar to a grocery list, and allow you to pick them from their farm stand.  Others leave it completely up to you by simply providing the week’s harvest and allowing you to choose whatever you like.  Since I’m still learning to be adventurous in the kitchen, I look for complete freedom of choice so I can pick the items I know my family will eat.  Many farms also offer ”pick your own” fields that I find to be an added benefit.

The selection of crops varies from farm to farm as well.  Larger farms typically offer a wider variety of crops.  Some farms focus solely on vegetables while others include additional items in their shares such as fruit, eggs, and cider to name a few.  I enjoy having fruit in our shares so I look for a CSA with that option.

As I’ve navigated my way through researching and exploring which CSA will serve my family best I’ve learned not to be bashful in asking questions.  My hope is that this will help you ask the questions that are important to you as you choose the CSA and farms that are right for you and your family. Enjoy the harvest!

My new best friend

April 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Back in August I took this picture:

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I’ll admit I was pretty smitten with myself for making my first garden fresh batch of tomato sauce.  What I was too scared to admit was that my cookware was likely leeching aluminum into those beautiful tomatoes.  Yes I read, and even highly touted, The Conscious Kitchen and knew that anodized aluminum is not the preferred choice for healthy cooking.  And yes I understood completely that cast iron was the way to go.  So why did it take me nearly a year to make the change?  Plain and simple, I was intimidated.

A few months ago I decided to take a baby step.  I ordered a cast iron muffin pan from Amazon and thought I was on my way.  The box arrived, the pan was heavy and despite the manufacture’s claims that it was pre-seasoned and ready for use, my muffins did not fare well.  I cleaned the pan and sent it back as defective.

About three weeks ago there was a post on our local mother’s club seeking advice from cast iron using mammas because she was ready to make the change.  She knew that the price of her All-Clad did not translate into healthy cooking.  She knew that she no longer wanted to risk any aluminum or other metals leeching into the food she cooked.  The responses were inspiring, and in that moment I was ready to conquer my fear.

This time I did my research.  I decided on cookware by Lodge and called the company for advice.  I learned that “pre-seasoned” was misleading and to season any pieces I purchased several times before using.  I chose a 10″ skillet and 4 & 8 qt. dutch ovens to replace my three most used pieces of cookware.  I seasoned each 6-8 times which ended up being much easier than the multi step directions.  I took a deep breath.  The picture now looks like this:

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Cast iron cookware is EASY!  How crazy I was to be intimidated.  No longer do I cringe as I cook knowing that harmful metals are leeching through the scratches on the bottom of my pots and pans.  Tonight as we sat down to dinner I knew, without a doubt, that I was feeding my family the absolute healthiest meal I was capable of making.  That makes me giddy!  The days of coveting sleek, high-end cookware are behind me.  I’m thrilled that much needed iron is being added to my children’s food.  I embrace the extra step of clean up that cast iron entails.  And I envision a couple more pieces in the near future!

Easy Seasoning Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Place a thin coat of cooking oil.  I use olive oil (preferred) or organic canola (however not a fan of it for cooking) in and around the cookware.
  • Place cookware in over for 2 hours
  • Let cool in oven

To clean your cast iron cookware:

  • Let piece cool
  • Water and a wet sponge to clean.   You don’t even need soap however you can use a warm, soapy sponge if no soap feels too risky.  If you do use soap make sure it’s mild and do not use a harsh abrasive.  Do not immerse in water.
  • Dry immediately!
  • Place cookware back on burner or in oven on low to completely dry
  • Once completely dry put a thin coat of olive oil (my choice) on the inside surface of cookware
  • Let cool and put away

If you have ANY questions call Lodge and they will put you steer you right.  Enjoy!

Repurposing

April 8th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Five months ago we needed to have a tree taken down.  As soon as the wind kicked up, be it rain, shine or snow, we watched from the house with fingers crossed that this tree would hold it’s ground.  With each storm another limb would fall and we soon learned that there was nothing we could do to save it. I always feel a bit of sadness when anything nature created is lost so finding another purpose for made me smile…for days.  We had the trunk cut into 10″ logs and rolled them from the front of the house to the back.  This is what it formed:

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Now that Spring is here I could no longer let my son continue to play in what has fondly become known as the “dirt pit”.  So two yards of sand, and an extremely sore body, later this is what he has:

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As much as I’d like to take credit for imagining what that tree could be, I simply can’t.  It is 100% inspired by our Waldorf School sand pits and we are grateful to now have one of our own!

Dyeing to try it

March 31st, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

My experience has been that once you make even one change towards a healthier, more sustainable life style the seed is planted for countless others to follow.  So as we began to anticipate Spring’s arrival I started thinking about our Easter tradition of coloring eggs.  The thought of putting a tiny tablet in a mug of vinegar that would turn our eggs a different color within minutes simply didn’t feel right.  Around the same time an article came through my email inbox titled Celebrate Easter Naturally: Dyeing Eggs with Plants and Spices and with it inspiration.  From this page you can explore all kinds of recipes and ideas.  Many of them felt too ambitious for our first attempt.  For some reason anything that suggests cheesecloth intimidates me so I settled on the simplest recipe (below) with the following ingredients:

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Then I needed to find white eggs that met my quality expectations.  I knew where we live white, organic and pastured was pushing it so I limited my search to simply GMO free just in case one of my non-egg eating children were tempted to take a bite.  After putting out requests to local farms (just in case), our local mother’s club and the Holistic Moms Network, I finally found non-GMO certified white eggs at Whole Foods.  Now for making the dyes…

If you’re sharing the experience with children I suggest making the excitement be about cooking the dyes.

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Blue: Boil together 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 cups frozen blueberries for 10 minutes.  Strain and place liquid in a glass container with 2 tablespoons vinegar.

Red: Boil together 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon salt and a large shredded beet for 10 minutes.  Strain and place liquid in glass container with 2 tablespoons vinegar.

Yellow: Boil together 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 tablespoons turmeric for 10 minutes.  Strain and place liquid in glass container with 2 tablespoons vinegar.

Our attempt at green with spinach didn’t work at all.

Place egg in and enjoy!

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Blueberries work great and you can get beautiful color in an hour or so.  Beets and turmeric work best with an overnight soak in the refrigerator.

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Bring on the cheesecloth!

 

Back in the saddle

March 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I got sick, I got distracted, I continued to advocate for what I believe in, I thought about writing, I procrastinated, I thought about it again, I finally sat down and started typing and now here I am.

Last August I found myself sidetracked with Lyme Disease.  Thankfully it was caught early.  I took the necessary medicine and energetically expelled the Lyme from my system.  Thank you Rebecca for taking care of the latter part of that equation!  My hope is that I’m better for the experience.  Between then and now so much has happened.

We re-elected a president, a GMO labeling ballot initiative was defeated, a horrible event taking the lives of 20 beautiful children and six of their care givers occurred and I was simply one of millions whose life was forever changed.  I started advocating for strict gun control laws and continue to do so.  And while I long to live in a country where only the military and protective forces carry weapons that will never be ours.   That leaves me with two choices.  Continue to advocate for the strictest gun control laws possible within the constraints of our constitution or move my family to Australia where there are enough hurdles in place to achieve gun ownership that it’s simply easier not to have one.  The seed for moving has been planted and in the meantime I continue to let everyone who will listen know where I stand on the issue.  I believe there is a revolution in progress and I’m proud to be one of thousands of moms involved with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.  Please join our efforts.

Another revolution is in progress.  Slowly people are being educated about the adverse affects of GMOs.  Although the ballot initiative to label all GMO products sold in California was lost this past November it ignited a fire of advocacy and education.  Despite millions of dollars spent by big biotechnology companies and food manufacturers to defeat the initiative the movement by no means was stymied.  Currently VT and ME have pending legislation that is showing encouraging signs of making it into law and just today Whole Foods announced that by 2018 they will require all GMO foods sold in their store be labeled.  The tide has turned and there is no looking back.  Our calls are affecting change.  How we spend our food dollars is affecting change. The emails we send both advocating for GMO labeling and thanking those who champion our cause are affecting change.  So right now I’m going to email Whole Foods.  I’m going to thank them for taking the lead and honoring that we all have the right to know what’s in our food and to make our own decisions as to whether or not those foods meet the health and safety standards we set for our families.  I’m going to thank them for honoring the environment and the integrity of our food supply because when all is said and done that is what this is about.  And then I’m going to ask them to put action behind their words now and support the numerous state legislative efforts currently underway.  I’d be thrilled if you did the same.

It’s great to be back and I look forward to sharing our journey once again.  Peace…

Wouldn’t it be nice

August 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

If labels like this were the norm instead of the exception?

Or better yet, simply not needed because we could trust that all products with harmful ingredients, such as GMOs, pesticides and livestock raised on hormones or antibiotics, were labeled instead?

Thank you Alden’s for offering a product that I can give my children, conscience free, on those occasions that call for a special treat and time doesn’t allow for me to make it on my own.