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Posts Tagged ‘Whole Foods’

I think I mentioned that I broke down and started buying winter veggies at Whole Foods. Not a lot. And I am careful to avoid buying just anything. So a few days ago I sadly put back my Meyer Lemon when I realized it came from the Middle East. Sigh.

But I have been buying organic lettuce and broccoli from California, and ironically hot house tomatoes from Maine. And, I have begun to buy some of the frozen kid-veggies I know  will get eaten – peas, corn and the lima beans. So far, I’ve bought about 4 bags and I feel guilty every time – but I am not going to not feed my kids vegetables all winter because I did not plan and freeze enough of my summer share.

Enter Winter Sun Farms. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for – a local source of frozen or canned local, sustainable produce. Wow.

Winter Sun Farms partners with local sustainable farms in order to bring to their CSA members a winter share of frozen vegetables once a month all winter long. You can chose two plans either from December through March or December through May.

I spoke to Jim Hyland, the president yesterday and he told me that right now they have about 1300 members and that next year they hope to increase to about 2000. They are completely booked for the season, but I hope that next year I will be one of their new customers.

I asked Jim what types of veggies a shareholder could expect. He explained that unlike a regular summer CSA, you pretty much know what you are going to get in advance. So for example this year members got 7 packs of the kinds of  veggies my kids love like Sweet corn, Edamame, broccoli and string beans. Plus the kinds of veggies I love like Frozen Fall greens (think kale or collards etc) and diced green and red peppers. And, the share also comes with one berry – a blueberry, raspberry or blackberry. This year he said it was mostly blue berries. We would be so fine with that. Here’s a link to this years actual list

Plus he also said that shares included fresh pea shoots from my own CSA farmer Ted Bloomgren at Windflower Farms. Nice.

Like many CSA’s Winter Sun Farms is able to service their members by gathering their produce from many farms. Currently, according to Jim, they work with about 20 farms in the Hudson Valley. And what’s nice is that all the veggies come in individually bags labeled with the farm that produced it.

Unlike your normal CSA summer share, these bags of veggies are partially prepared. The string beans are snapped. The tomatoes are stewed. Even the butternut squash is cut, peeled and puréed –– ready to become a quick winter soup. It sounds too easy to be sustainable.

Of course, like all things convenient, the shares are not cheap. A primary share, which includes 4 months, costs $128. Add in the month of April and the cost goes up to $160. I did a quick calculation and that comes to a little over $4.50 a bag of veggies. It is probably more expensive than my Whole Foods frozen bags, but I would be more than willing to pay the extra money to be able to stay true to my principles over the winter. Jim says that they are looking to have more options in the future including ways to make their veggies more affordable. But until now, there was a lack of infrastructure for farms to package small products.

In order to meet this need, this spring he opened the Farm to Table Kitchen up in Kingston, which will allow small farms to individually quick freeze their veggies or produce basic canned goods like local tomato sauces.

“We are going to be dealing with local farms and giving them the ability to source that stuff,” Jim explained.

Winter Sun Farms CSA has tons of pick up locations both the Hudson Valley and Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can check here for a list.

And they are also in the Saturday Farmer’s market in New Paltz this weekend and then again on March 12th. I can’t do this weekend, but I could see a road trip that includes a trip to Fleisher’s Organic Grass Fed and Organic Meat in nearby Kingston  in my near future.

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Right now, Speaker Christine C. Quinn is New York City's "Green" Champion. I wonder if she knows where to buy organic chicken sans the Styrofoam.

Let’s start with the good news.  Last month The City Council approved a bunch of bills that will finally overhaul NYC recycling laws. This legislation, which has been bouncing around all Spring,  will be the first major change to New York City recycling since 1989.

The new law will mean that finally all hard plastics will be recycled by the city. For New Yorker’s like me, it means we won’t have to be traipsing our #1 and #3 plastic garbage to other states or our#5 plastic to Whole Food. It also means that  they’re going to put more recycling bins in schools and public areas and allow residents to recycle hazardous waste like paint. (via New York Times Green Blog)

According to Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who’s been instrumental in pushing this bill through:


“Our legislation will divert over 8,000 tons of plastic every year away from landfills and incinerators.  That’s equal to the amount of trash produced by nearly 10,000 people each year.”

I first heard about this on the radio a few weeks ago. And I’m completely psyched about this. But can somebody tell me why I can’t buy an organic or at least humanely raised chicken that’s not packed in Styrofoam? Oh, yes, the Whole Foods saga continues.

I know that lots of people will say, just stop going to the grocery store. But the thing is, Whole Foods in Connecticut sells their chickens on recycled paper trays. So why not New York.

So I wondered, maybe the 59 th street Whole Foods was an anomaly. I called the Tribeca store and talked to Jeanette in customer service . Unfortunately, she told me that yes, the store in Tribeca uses Styrofoam trays.

“Are you allergic to Styrofoam?” she asked me.

“No,” I told her, “I”m just committed to not buying Styrofoam.”

Nobody’s surprised. She also agreed that it was against Whole Food’s corporate identity to use Styrofoam and promised me that she’d check and see if other NYC Whole Foods used Styrofoam. She never got back to me.

So yesterday, I ran to Fairways on 125th street. I’d had a good experience getting chicken in a paper wrapper on 72nd street, but 125th street was a bust. First of all I had to explain what I wanted in Spanish — which was tricky. (And no, I don’t know the word for Styrofoam in Spanish.) But the woman behind the butcher counter pretty much understood what I wanted. (She of course tried to take the chicken wrapped in Styrofoam and rewrap it). There was a chance they had more Organic chickens upstairs, but I ran out of patience and didn’t want to wait while they checked on the third floor.

I went to buy grass-fed beef instead, but the London Broil were imported from Australia. I’ve pretty much sworn off eating meat from other hemispheres let alone other states. Needless to say, I left Fairways with no dinner. (Maybe the universe wants me to go Vegan — I’m sure that’s what my cousin Donna will say.)

As I checked out, the man bagging my grass-fed milk was a bordering middle aged white guy wearing a tie — he was atypical for the average Fairway’s  grocery bagger.

“Are you a manager?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“I just wanted you to know,” I told him, “I couldn’t buy any of your meeat or chicken because it was packed in styrofoam.”

“Are you allergic to Styrofoam?” he also asked. (Is there a big styrofoam allergy epidemic I don’t know about?)

“No,” I said, “I’m committed not to making garbage.”

The cashier, a large black teenager nodded. I could tell he completely agreed with me.

The manager guy didn’t dismiss me. He listened thoughtfully to what I said.

“I’ll raise your concerns,” he told me. And, you know something, I believe him.

Note: Several months ago I asked the Cornucopia Institute to check and see if Fairway’s Milk was legit. I also emailed Fairway’s to ask where they sourced their milk from, to see how local it was. I never got a response on either front. I need to dig around a bit more. Unless somebody else out there knows more.

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Three Sisters brand cereal is exclusively in Whole Foods. But will it be exclusively in my pantry? Stay tuned for the kid taste test results and a deeper dive into what this brand is really about.

Working late again. Went to Chipotle because K and J promised that they “try” to source their food locally. Considering I went to Whole Foods last night and bought kid food, I guess that’s about where I am too.

The kid food  issue is an issue. Making choices to give up the convenience and variation in my own diet is one thing, but to switch things up  on my children feels questionable. It’s a a process that shouldn’t be dropped on them like a bomb. My modus operandi used to be to buy “organic” processed food. But really, what are the benefits of organic processed foods? Are they healthier or better for the environment? Maybe processed food is just processed food? Does that mean the days of organic “fruit loops” was over?

On Monday, we ran out of breakfast cereal. We also ran out of broccoli. I have anxiety about having enough food. I have even more about having enough food to feed my kids. And, like most moms, I’m worried about them eating enough veggies. Broccoli is the kid-friendly veggi of the 21st century. On Earth Day, for example, they served macaroni and trees and all the kids were psyched.

I’m developing a love-hate relationship with Whole Foods in general. They’re like the boyfriend who’s super hot and I can’t quite dump but know I should. When I first bought Milk Thistle Dairy milk from the farmers market, I said to the woman selling the milk,”Isn’t this milk cheaper at Whole Foods?”

She shot me a dirty look and said that she thought Whole Foods was terrible. I can’t remember what she said word for word, but her point was basically that Whole Foods pays lip services to organic and sustainable eating but really is just a corporation. I believe she said something about, “I believe in talking to people and not market shares.”

She had a point. But as I said to her, “Whole Foods led me to here.”

“That’s not how it normally works,” she said.

And I can see how she’s right. Why wouldn’t I love Whole Foods? I can buy  the organic equivalent of all the trappings of American kid cuisine. I buy organic “Honey Nut Cherrios and Fruit Loops.” I buy Whole Foods brands Oreo-like cookies that promise no high fructose corn syrup. I get convenient boxes of macaroni and cheese — hey, I even have a package of  Trader Joe’s brand single serving size mac and cheese in my pantry. I buy organic broccoli from California and I’ve bought organic pears  — which I just realized on Monday were from Argentina. (I didn’t buy them, even though Blaise requested them)

I can give my kids the American eating experience and feel good about it.

It’s weird, and interesting, that I actually care enough about “normal” food. I never budged on white bread or soda. (they are just a no way.) And I always gave John a hard time that he never pushed his kids to eat vegetarian (Devon actually came to it on his own!)  But the mass market push is that to give a child a happy childhood you need to buy him or her that good breakfast that will start his day right, feel great, add a snap, crackle and pop to their day. Not to mention that kids marketing imprints on little brains really well, and  even when we grow up, those tag lines from those commercials are like a bad pop song — they’re hard to shake.

In the meantime, since I’ve got garbage on the brain, I was thinking packaging when I went shopping. I ended up buying a brand of breakfast cereal in Whole Foods that came in a bag. I didn’t think about whether it was organic. I didn’t think about the fact that it was made in Minnesota. It was in a bag, and that was what I focused on.

Separating the box from the cereal actually had an impact on me. It actually made me uncomfortable. In fact, I felt so guilty about “weirding up” my kid’s “normal” breakfast  I even bought a kind with marshmallows. The bag said, “Ditch the box and save ad tree!”  The bag said “no phony flavors.” The bag said, “yummy.” That’s probably the hierarchy of how their marketing hooked me in.  If I was in a focus group I’d say, “This is a breakfast cereal my kids will like that’s good for the environment. ” The save a tree caught my interest. But really, the “yummy” sealed the deal.

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