Tag Archives: local farmers

On Being Cooperative

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In my previous post, I recounted my evolutionary steps through varying grocery store aisles. Today let’s continue on the black-cobra road (you know, reality’s version of the yellow-brick road) and if you’ll lend me your attention for a moment, I’ll tell you how the Fort Collins Food Co-op feeds me, with plenty to share.

I remember being virtually introduced to the Food Co-op through its seemingly simple, yet dense website. The signature blue-green, earthly hues of this vibrant brand immediately registered and resonated with me, which compelled me to dig in and read through the embedded pages.

“The Co-op is a place where people can reconnect with their food. This is a place built on understanding what we are consuming and why. These ideas grew out of a buying club started by CSU students and community members in the early 1970’s.”

Upon visiting the historic store front on 250 East Mountain Avenue (est. 1978) for the first time, I experienced a subtle inner knowing that this was an authentic place I genuinely wanted to be a part of, a local business I would happily support with my personal— admittedly limited, albeit significant—buying power.

That day I left handsomely, with a backpack full of provisions for a week and a heartfelt, longer-lasting impression, as if a tiny seed of a mighty tree had been planted within the food desert of my mind, body, and soul.

Frequent, returning visits to this shop for staples and splurges allowed me to not only begin to recognize friendly, familiar faces, but also to further develop the intrinsic kinship that interweaves each of us as singular, scrappy threads into a more reliable, more resilient fabric that is part-and-parcel of any co-operative true to its roots, true to its word.

“The Co-op seeks to serve all those in our community who want to support their local circle of profit through buying locally sourced grocery items. Anyone can shop at the Co-op, the member-owner structure simply exists to reinforce a local circle of profit by sharing the profits of the Co-op amongst its member-owners.”

I became informed of its not-for-profit business model—guided by the internationally recognized Seven Cooperative Principles—supported for 44+ years, sourcing primarily from the well-spring of the “community, volunteers, the people who shop once to those who are in every day, farmers and producers, local businesses and restaurants who buy from us, and from the greater need to create a more positive connection between people and their local community.”

So one day I decided to jump into the deep end of the community pool by becoming a fully invested member-owner because in doing so I acknowledged and honored the privilege of having an “alternative, eco-centric” business that exists to balance the triple bottom line, with potential for kick-backs for the ‘pillar’ people it caters to, consists of.

And while profit-sharing is indeed a welcomed, beneficial boost to anyone’s budget in theory, I soon realized for myself that this rare fruit can only be fully enjoyed through considerate cultivation of the crop, which honestly requires the kind of hard work and dedication that is not always convenient and seldom expedient, although I strongly believe in my experience thus far: It is well-worth the time, money, and energy invested.

One of the most common remarks our attentive ears receive is about expensive prices.

Trust me, we understand because we feel the pinch as much as you do.

Consider this: You are getting what you pay for. You are also giving when you pay for it.

When you shop our Co-op, you are helping contribute to 12 individual’s livelihoods—your fellow friends, neighbors, community member-owners, who are in the laborious service industry not simply because of its decent pay and modest benefits, but more truly because it is a labor of love.

When you select our Co-op, you are voting with your dollar—with each purchase—every time you choose local, chemical-free, certified organic, non GMO, humanely raised, and so forth.

When you support our Co-op, you are joining a global movement that engages each other’s awareness of the undeniable impact we are all having on our only inhabitable planet, on our fellow human people, all-too-often at the expense of profit.

The Co-op is one small part of a much greater whole, where those “some day…” ideas are put into practice every day, one day at a time.

Because to be a member-owner of our food co-operative is to be a catalyst of world change.

Inquire within.

 empowerfool

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Before I Became Co-operative

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Growing up in suburban Upstate New York, I eagerly anticipated the weekly three-mile trip down the street to Price Chopper, the locally owned & operated supermarket chain.

The only knowledge and understanding I had about food—let alone the complex agricultural, industrial, and commercial web—was that it tasted good, although somehow it always looked bigger (“enlarged to show texture”) and better on the picture-perfect packages it arrived in (Photoshop).

Like a kid in a candy store with a tab I never had to pay (thanks dad!) and with the supersized metal basket with wacky wheels that became my go-kart, I would zoom by the produce section, opting instead for what I politely refer to, in retrospect, as ‘foodlike stuff.’

Nutrition, to me at that point, was just a boring bunch of black-and-white words and numbers on the otherwise colorful, intriguing boxes and labels.

The cartoon characters enticed me. The bite-sized stories of the brands enchanted me. The word searches, optical illusions, and brain puzzles entertained me.

Despite these silly distractions, those nutritional facts and figures still fascinated me. I remember having a lingering feeling about the lengthy laundry list of ingredients that didn’t even seem to resemble English in many cases.

Throughout my sleepwalking, awkward high school years and my awakening, awkward college years, I gradually recognized the greater implications of what, how, and why I was consuming, and it all slowly started consuming me. (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., and Earthlings each had profound impacts on me).

I suspected Walmart to be some secretly nefarious corporation, and yet I shopped there anyway because it had the cheapest prices and getting the most for my money seemed to matter more to me, rationalized by fixed mindsets: scarcity (“I’m broke”) and self-interested (“It’s about me”).

However, as time went on, I could no longer deny that the bottomless pit in my stomach was actually a different kind of hunger pang.

I discovered it to be an intuitive gut feeling that is fed only by following through with the moral compass directly connected to one’s better conscience. 

An inner, ethical revolution ensued.

It started with ending my subservience to the tyranny of King Soopers and tearing down the wall (mart) of my comfort zone—mindlessly consuming and unconsciously contributing to global catastrophe.

As a millennial might be inclined to do, I consulted the modern–day oracle, Google, who provided me with Maps to some alternative, health–food stores. (Indeed it is a rather SAD [Standard American Diet] state of affairs when healthy food is considered alternative).

Instantly Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage (now Natural Grocers) & Whole Foods showed up. While they all have an undeniably diverse array of quality goods they are also mega national chains, and I preferred something more homegrown, more attuned to the pulse of the community that supports it.

With fewer offerings for those with holistic, vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, there was plenty of room for improvement. I had just about resigned myself to settle. After much (re)consideration, I knew I’d feel better about supporting a local, family-owned business because it’s not all about me.

Still, I wondered if there might be another source of sustenance I had yet to tap into, where it wasn’t as much of an ethical compromise on either side as it was a cooperative effort on all parts…

And so, with the backdrop set up for the main co-operative act, I must respect both my word limit and your attention span! In my next blog post, I’ll be sure to write more about my evolving involvement with the Food Co-op.

Until then, I encourage you to keep reading our thoughts, keep visiting our store, keep conversing with each other, please keep co-operating more.

 empowerfool

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Preserve Our Food, Preserve Our Planet

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As summer winds slowly die down and our sunlight begins to dwindle so does our beloved growing season here in Colorado. Though modern conveniences such as refrigerators, freezers, supermarkets and mass food distribution companies create a world of food accessibility and the illusion of a year-round growing season, there use to be a time when we didn’t have such luxuries and surviving through the winter relied heavily on food preservation and storage.

Much to our dismay, we are literally living in a time where we are seeing and feeling the effects of our consumption and watching our world’s finite resources, such as oil reserves, water-tables and land, decline and degrade, while simultaneously seeing costs increase.

Fortunately for us, the art of food preservation has not been lost. Preserving foods through methods such as canning, smoking, salting, drying and fermenting, not only provide us with delicious and nutritious foods with long shelf lives and no need for chemical-based food preservatives, but also helps us lower our overall carbon footprint. Preserving food at home lowers gas use of refrigeration storage and transportation of food from long distances, as well as lowers food waste and minimizes packaging waste that ends up in landfills.

How does one do such food preservation? One very simple and delicious method is by lacto-fermentation. This form of fermentation pickles vegetables in an oxygen-free environment in which “good” bacteria release lactic acid to produce the tangy flavor we desire. Fermented foods not only maintain high levels of nutrients already in vegetables but also increases the absorption of these nutrients and aids in the digestion of foods.

Please note that any vegetable you desire may be used in this process. At the Fort Collins Food Cooperative, we have over 30 locally sources fruits and vegetables available this time of year. We have local green beans and carrots from Native Hill Farm, garlic, cucumbers, and green peppers from Sunspot Urban Farm, cabbage and hot peppers from Ole Dern Farm, onions from Fossil Creek Farms and much, much more for your fermenting pleasure. We also carry over a hundred different spices in our bulk department, as well as a variety of iodine-free salts such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt that are packed with essential minerals that keep our bodies strong.

Here is a recipe published by the web-resource, The Kitchn, written by Emily Han.

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Lacto-Fermented Mixed Pickles

Serves 8

3 tablespoons sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt (see Recipe Notes)
1 quart water (see Recipe Notes)
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1 cup carrot chunks or slices
1 cup red bell pepper chunks or slices
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1-2 grape leaves (optional, to help keep pickles crisp)

Combine salt and water in a measuring cup and stir until the salt is dissolved. (You can heat the water first to make the salt easier to dissolve, but it’s not necessary. Let it come to room temperature before making the pickles.)

Place the remaining ingredients in a very clean, large jar (a half-gallon mason jar works well). Pour the salt water over the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. If necessary, add more water to cover the vegetables. (Optionally, place a small bowl or jar on top of the vegetables to hold them under the brine.)

Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature. About once a day, open the jar to taste the pickles and release gases produced during fermentation. If any mold or scum has formed on the top, simply skim it off. (If using a jar fitted with an airlock, you don’t need to “burp” it; just open occasionally to taste.)

When pickles taste to your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. They will continue to ferment very slowly, but cold storage will largely halt fermentation. As a fermented food, these pickles will last for quite some time, at least a month or longer.

Recipe Notes:

  • Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
  • Water: Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water if you can. It is also recommended to rinse the vegetables in un-chlorinated water rather than tap water.

Happy food preserving!

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For the Love of All That Is ‘Whole–y’: Food

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Next Wednesday the 23rd signifies the Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, as we harvest and celebrate the fruits (veggies and whole grains) of our labor.

With a healthy heaping of satire and a (whole) grain of salt, this week I ponder: What is the difference between Whole Foods and ‘whole–y’ foods?

To this I respond: How much of your (soul’s) paycheck is spent after shopping!

At the Fort Collins Food Co–op, your favorite, friendly, natural grocery store, since 1972, we do our best to emphasize the local, hometown heroes who provide wholesome foods, liquid life elixirs, and other healing products we sell (as distinguished by the various blue ‘L’/product cards in bulk and produce). A fun Food Co-op fact: all this “local business” consists of more than 20% of our overall sales and upwards of 40% of what we as a Food Co–op purchase directly from the farmer/vendor.

When you choose to purchase Wisdom’s eggs and/or poultry, you are supporting a local family–owned and operated farm from Huxton, CO where chickens live in a “stress-free environment with full access to water that comes directly from our deep well [and are] given full access to the fresh air and sunshine of the great outdoors.”

When you select produce from Native Hill Farm, located in Laporte, you are supporting not only this fantastic farm that continues to offer the highest quality veggies, but you are also investing in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, which allows increased accessibility and affordability for individuals/families to obtain nutritious food.

When you decide to try Turtle Mountain kombucha/tea/kimchi, you are literally supporting your life with these probiotic products (from its Greek origins, bios meaning life and pro– meaning in support of). What’s more, you are supporting a woman–owned, Fort Collins startup that recycles beer bottles for all of its kombucha creations. Backing bacteria has never been more beneficial.

We, the foodies of the Food Co–op, exist as individuals with a mind of our own, choosing to share the profits and the losses in this cooperative investment in the heartfelt whole.

For the love of all that is ‘whole–y’, the next time you are fixin’ to go to Whole Foods, consider supporting our community’s organically homegrown shop and see for yourself what’s in store with our envisioned relocation (r)evolution!

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Ask the Doc: Why is Grass-fed important?

Why is Grass-fed important?

By: Joan D Waters, Naturopathic Doctor

More and more people are eating and talking about grass-fed meat and poultry…is it just a fad?

Grass-fed meat and poultry and the eggs from pastured chickens provide a natural source of Vitamin K2. The intestinal flora in animals converts chlorophyll, the green pigment in forage, to Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2, not to be confused with Vitamin K1, which is needed for clotting, removes calcium from soft tissues and deposits it into bones and teeth by activating osteocalcin, a protein found in those tissues. When activated by Vitamin K2, Osteocalcin binds to calcium and draws that calcium into the bones and teeth. Vitamins A and D are needed to cause the osteoblasts, or bone-building cells, to secrete osteocalcin. Some people believe that the increased prevalence of atherosclerosis may be associated with the buildup of calcium in soft tissues brought about by the practice of feeding cattle grain, rather than grass. More research is needed to determine whether this is true.

Vitamin K2 can be obtained naturally by eating grass fed meats and poultry, the eggs from pastured chickens, and milk, butter and cheeses from cows that are grass fed. Natto, a fermented Asian food, is also a potent source of vitamin K2. Those who can’t consume dairy may make ghee from butter made from the milk of pastured cows. It is the presence of Vitamin K2 in fatty foods that gives them their deep yellow or orange color. The Vitamin K2 content of grass-fed but grain-finished beef is much lower than in grass fed beef. When buying ‘grass-fed’ meat in a store, you may have to ask whether they were grain-finished.

We need to support our local farmers and CSAs who fill this important niche in our ecosystem – by providing meat, poultry and eggs that contain adequate amounts of Vitamin K2. Conventionally raised and processed meats cost less to produce. The government subsidizes farmers who grow certain grains so this brings the cost of grain feed down. Farmers and ranchers can raise cattle up to butchering age much more quickly if they feed them grain rather than grass, so are able to minimize the labor costs of raising each individual head of cattle. Conventionally raised cattle are often given low doses of antibiotics, which can cause antibiotic resistant bacteria to grow in these cattle. Poultry are sometimes sprayed with chlorine to kill bacteria on them. We can usually avoid these perils in our food supply when we purchase local meat, poultry and eggs from our local farmer. More on these subjects in later posts.

If you choose to supplement with Vitamin K2, 45 mg of menaquinone-4 (MK-4) three times daily or 120 mcgs of menaquinone 7 (MK-7) once daily are the recommended doses. MK-7 has a longer half-life so needs to be taken only once per day. More is not necessarily better. Since calcium is utilized for clotting and for muscle contractility, including cardiac contractility, we need to release it from the soft tissues very gradually to avoid causing other health problems. For the body to utilize Vitamin K2, we also need Vitamins A, D and E. These vitamins are all fat-soluble so they will be absorbed better when taken with food, especially with oils.

For more information on this subject, you may want to read the book entitled Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue.

By Joan D Waters, naturopathic doctor Practical Health Solutions 1304 S College Ave #4 Ft Collins, CO 80524

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