organic food

This is a list of links to information resources related to sustainable agriculture, organic farming and gardening, and growing and buying good, safe food.

Image created by Matt FarrarThese resources are organized into the following general categories (though some are relevant to more than one category): Organizations, Magazines and Blogs, Educational Programs, Funding & Investing, Permaculture, Urban Farms, Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours, International/Non-U.S. Initiatives, Films and Books.

At the end, you will find a few suggestions of simple ways to get involved in the good food movement.

Organizations

Magazines and Blogs

Educational Programs

Funding and Investing

(including some crowdfunding sites)

Permaculture

[Partial list; please mention other groups in the Comments.]

Urban Farms

[This is just a small selection; there are many, many more. Please mention other urban farms you are familiar with in the Comments.]

Agri-Tourism / Farm Tours

International/Non-U.S. Initiatives

Films and Books

Many films about food and farming have come out recently. One of the most recent is Symphony of the Soil.

There are also many good books on these topics. One new one is called Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, MD.

I also recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as books by Wendell Berry, Michael Ableman, Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, and Marion Nestle.

For other relevant books, check out the offerings from Chelsea Green Publishing, Mother Earth News, and New Society Publishers.

Taking Part

You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in sustainable agriculture and the good food movement. Here are just a few of the steps that almost anyone can take, to create a healthier family, healthier community, and a healthier planet:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO, and locally grown foods whenever possible (from the grocery, a farmer’s market, local farms, a CSA, etc.) To find local farms, farmer’s markets, or food providers, go to LocalHarvest.org, and if you live in California or New York, check out Farmigo.com, which is basically an online Farmer’s Market or CSA for small or large groups.
  • If/when you buy meat (from stores or at restaurants), avoid getting factory-farmed meats. Look for and ask for meats from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, that are free of antibiotics and added hormones, and that also, ideally, have third-party certifications (such as Animal Welfare Approved) verifying that the animals were raised and slaughtered humanely. Boosting the demand for such products will help shift the industry away from factory farming. (We’ll be adding a blog post with more information on humanely raised meat in the future.)
  • Buy organic, non-GMO seeds and organically grown plants, and plant them in a kitchen garden, window boxes, porch pots, raised beds, a greenhouse, a community garden, or wherever you can.  Use organic/natural rather than toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. It’s fun and satisfying to swap your surplus harvest with friends and neighbors.
  • Replace water-intensive, conventional grass lawns with a garden, or no-mow native grasses or groundcovers. Choose low-water (drought-tolerant), native or adapted (climate-appropriate) plants and flowers, including those that attract and feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

 

Related posts:

Sustainable Agriculture in the Spotlight: Fresh films, books, etc.  [August 2009]

Sustainable Ag: Marin and Sonoma County Resources

Recent Films with Green Themes: Food, farming, energy, etc.  [2011]

Quotations for Gardeners, Farmers, and Others  [MotherEarthNews.com blog]

Chocolates of Choice: Organic, Fair Trade, and Delicious

 

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July 24, 2013
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Some people might call me a chocolate enthusiast…or, a chocoholic. I crave chocolate. And I usually indulge this craving, because after all, high-quality dark chocolate has been proven to have a slew of health (physical and mental/mood) benefits.

I have a little bit of chocolate almost every day. Not a lot on any given day, mind you…but since my cumulative consumption of chocolate is considerable, I’ve been very pleased to find that many of my favorite chocolate bars are made by companies that address the social and environmental issues related to the production of chocolate.

The following chocolates are a few of my favorites; and they are all made with organic ingredients and/or their cacao has been sourced through fair-trade arrangements. Some of them also support other types of sustainability or conservation programs and practices, which are noted below. I am not being paid to recommend any of these companies or products.

1. TCHO

  • Organic (certified by CCOF)
  • Fair trade (certified by Fair Trade USA)
  • Started the TCHOSource program “to obtain the best beans in the world while enabling the producers of those beans to earn a better living.” They “partner with growers and coops and transfer knowledge about growing and fermentation to enable farmers to escape commodity production and become premium producers and to create a relationship of mutual self-interest that goes beyond Fair Trade.”
  • They also “raise consciousness about the reality of modern slavery in our industry and in the world, and set an example by refusing to use cacao produced by slaves.”
  • Manufactured in San Francisco

 

I recently tried TCHO’s SeriousMilk Milk Chocolate “Cacao” bar (with 53% cacao), and I think this has now become my #1 favorite chocolate bar.  It’s the perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate. I look forward to trying their other bars, as well.

 

2. Newman’s Own Organics

  • 100% organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified, which “guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.”
  • “We have confirmed in writing that the cocoa products we purchase have been produced on farms that treat their workers fairly, and pay them a fair wage. Our suppliers do not and will not support any farms or plantations that mistreat children and adults or engage in Slave Trade Practices.”

My favorite Newman’s Own Organics bar is: Dark Chocolate (54% cocoa), which is a light/creamy dark chocolate.

 

3. Endangered Species Chocolate

  • Some of their bars are organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • “10% of net profits donated to charitable organizations supporting species and habitat conservation in harmony with humanity”
  • “100% ethically traded: Cacao used to create our All-Natural and Organic chocolate products is grown on farm co-ops that foster responsible labor practices, community enrichment and sustainable farming… On-the-ground endeavors, like Project Ecuador are helping empower communities in cacao growing regions.”
  • “All of our chocolate is shade-grown.  Shade-grown chocolate supports lush forests and the species that thrive there promoting biodiversity, providing shelter for migratory birds, and combating global warming.”
  • Information about an endangered species is provided inside each wrapper.

My favorite Endangered Species Chocolate bar (that I’ve tried so far) is: Dark chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds.

 

4. Seeds of Change

  • Organic (certified by QAI)
  • “Directly contributes 1% of its net sales to sustainable organic farming initiatives worldwide.”

I’ve had their Milk Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains, and they were really tasty. I haven’t tried their various dark chocolate products yet, though I plan to. (One point against this company’s chocolates: I don’t love that they put 3 small, individually wrapped bars inside of the larger package. Though the smaller serving sizes are good for portion control and for keeping the unopened chocolate fresh, using that extra wrapping material seems a bit wasteful.)

 

You can find many of these chocolates at most Whole Foods stores and other natural foods stores. There are a number of other companies that make organic chocolate and/or fair trade chocolate (e.g., ALTER ECO, Equal Exchange, Amy’s, Theo, Angell, and Divine, to name just a few; commenters have also recommended Taza and Green & Black’s). I haven’t gotten around to trying all of them yet, but I surely will in the near future…

P.S. Fine chocolate makes a great last-minute gift for any chocolate lovers you know!

What’s your favorite kind of organic or “ethical” chocolate?

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December 16, 2011
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About a year ago, I posted a piece with tips, ideas, and considerations for selecting green gifts. Here’s a summary recap of the 7 types of gifts I suggested in that post:

  1. Non-“stuff”  (e.g., activities, services, or donations, rather than products)
  2. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown stuff
  3. Locally made or Fair Trade goods
  4. Products with green attributes or purposes
  5. Re-gifted items or lightly used finds
  6. Eminently useful things
  7. Small stuff

Take a look at last year’s post to see the specific ideas that I suggested within each of those categories. This year, I’d like to supplement those suggestions with a few more. In addition to the criteria listed above, you also might want to consider choosing the following types of gifts:

  • Products (or services) made and sold by small, independent (and ideally local) businesses, rather than national chains or multi-national corporations. Or at least try to buy things that were Made in the USA (or whichever country you live in) to help boost the domestic economy.
  • Goods made or sold by companies that are members of the 1% for the Planet campaign: “a growing global movement of 1,395 companies [as of Nov. 2011] that donate 1% of their sales to a network of 2,691 environmental organizations worldwide.”
  • Goods made or sold by Certified B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations), which “are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of Nov. 7, 2011, there are 451 Certified B Corporations. That number will be growing, as more companies achieve this certification and as more states pass laws establishing the legitimacy of Benefit Corporations. One of the Founding B Corporations is BetterWorldBooks.

Speaking of books, here are a few green-themed books that might interest some of the people on your gift list:

Also, I might as well mention a few green product brands that are personal favorites of mine: Newman’s Own Organics; Seeds of Change; Sustainable Seed Co.; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; and Patagonia. I am not getting paid to recommend any of these companies.

Lastly, here are some online resources for additional information on green products and reducing wasteful consumption:

Related posts:

Green Goods: Beneficial Products and Gifts (added November 2012)

Good Duds: Sustainable and Responsible Clothing (added October 2013)

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good (added July 2013)

Lesser-Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support (added December 2012)

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November 8, 2011
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This is a listing of green-themed films that came out in the last few years (between 2006-2011). I have not seen all of these films, so I can’t say that all of them are worth seeing, but many of them have won awards or been critically acclaimed. Click on the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a list of some green film festivals; those sites provide videos and information on even more films.

UPDATE: Also see our newer post on Films on Green Topics, 2012-2014.

Films on energy, fuel, and/or climate change:

Films on food and/or farming:

Films on other topics (e.g., health/toxins/pollution, water, localization, dolphins, etc.):

If there are other relevant films that you’ve heard of or seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

* Films that are marked with an asterisk are films that have a more positive or funny bent than many of the others. There are only so many bleak films about reality that people can watch in a row without getting depressed or angry and feeling helpless to make a difference. I find that it’s best to take in some positive stories, solutions, and humor now and then, to keep myself sane and motivated…

UPDATE: Also see our newer listing of Green-themed Films from 2012-2014.

 

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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August 1, 2011
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This is an addendum to the previous post for those of you who live in (or near) Marin or Sonoma County, California.

ca-seedbank-store-frontWe are fortunate to have a plethora of amazing farms and sustainable agriculture resources in this area. One very cool new addition to our local scene is the “Seed Bank” store, located in a historic bank building at a major intersection in downtown Petaluma (Washington and Petaluma Blvd.). The store sells more than 1,200 varieties of non-GMO Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Our area is also home to many farmers markets, as well as wonderful organizations (and businesses) such as:
Marin Organic :: MALT (Marin Agricultural Land Trust) :: Grown in Marin :: Petaluma Bounty :: Sonoma County Farm Trails :: Occidental Arts and Ecology Center :: Ag Innovations Network :: Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery ::  Mostly Natives Nursery :: Permaculture Skills Center [NEW: Added 2014]

You might also want to check out the Hidden Bounty of Marin, a recently produced 1/2-hour film about the farms and farmers of beautiful West Marin; it shows the rich variety of agricultural enterprises in this region—from dairy, produce, and oyster farming to cattle, hog, and sheep ranching.

There are many great family farms in this area. Wild Blue Farm, Toluma Farms (goat dairy), and Straus Family Creamery are some of my favorites, as they’re the farms that I’m most familiar with.

And lastly, here’s my list of links to other sustainability-related resources in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. If you have other favorite local organizations or resources to recommend, please share them in the Comments section below. Thanks!

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August 6, 2009
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Building on what Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation did to expose the health problems associated with eating fast food, a veritable cornucopia of new documentary films have recently come out, bringing attention to a broader array of issues related to factory farms and feedlots and to the benefits of sustainable farming and ranching. These films include:

FoodInc-movie_poster

Update (8/13/09): A dozen other important food-focused films have just been highlighted by Serious Eats.

And on Showtime TV, Season 1 of This American Life had a great segment on factory-farmed genetically modified pigs. (The show can be rented through NetFlix, etc. I highly recommend watching both seasons.)

A fresh crop of books have recently been published on these topics, as well, including:

For additional information on sustainable agriculture and good, real food, check out resources such as: Organic Consumers Association, The Land Institute, Roots of Change, Slow Food USA or Slow Food International, Fields of Plenty, Animal Welfare Approved, and Certified Humane.

Please support small, organic farms and your local farmers markets; consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm or growing some organic produce in your yard or a community garden; and if you eat meat or dairy products, choose products (e.g., Niman Ranch) that come from humanely raised, non-hormone-boosted animals. To sign the Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture (from Roots for Change), click here.

On a related note: Today (August 5) is Wendell Berry’s 75th birthday! Wendell Berry is a prolific writer and poet, a life-long Kentucky farmer, and an advocate of sustainable agriculture.

Please see our NEWER POST: Sustainable Agriculture, Farming, Gardening, and Food-Related Resources [July 2013]

 

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August 5, 2009
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