Environment, Social Implications in Agriculture, Travel, well-being, What is Organic

Chocolate Love and Cocoa Equity – Celebrate Fair Trade

Chocolate is good for you – but not all chocolate is equal
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I discovered chocolate was a drug in my early forties, the way it folded across my tongue, dispensing a sensation of wellbeing—almost like love. Then I went to Ecuador and witnessed the complexity of growing and processing magic cocoa beans. I met the good people who performed multiple ministrations, working under poverty-like conditions to bring this elixir to my 90% cocoa bar.

Cocao has a dark history of slavery and exploitation
Photo by Social History Archive on Unsplash

The cocoa bean is also referred to as cacao—not to be confused with coca when going through customs. Cocoa beans are embedded in an elongated leathery pod filled with a sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called baba de cacao). The appendage-like pods are harvested straight off the trunk, opened with a machete—the pulp and cocoa seeds are removed. Piled in heaps, bins, or laid out on grates for days in the Equatorial sun. Trodden and shuffled about (often with bare feet), sometimes, sprinkled with red clay mixed and water, to obtain a finer color and polish. This process protects them from moldering during shipment to other countries.

Cocoa beans are fermented dried and roasted
Photo by Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

Dried and fully fermented, the seeds are finally roasted; only then can the cocoa solids (the powder) and cocoa butter (the fat) be extracted.

That’s a lot of work for one little bean, and the history of colonialism remains an enduring legacy of inequality in the lives of these producers today.

The British comedienne and author Jo Brand once proclaimed, “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.”

I would add that good is made when chocolate is grown with ethical practices, Organic and Fair-Trade.

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Environment, Social Implications in Agriculture, What is Organic

Brewing a Better World: Celebrate National Coffee Day with Grace Farms 

Enjoy a cup of coffee, knowing it is sourced exclusively from women-led co-ops in Ethiopia, Colombia, and Indonesia.

Most of us begin our day with a steaming cup of hot java, be it expresso or drip; we love our cool beans. Their rich, dark flavor gives us the daily courage to go out and do good work.

But how many of us think about where those beans came from and who planted, harvested, and packed them? How did this delicious brew get to our morning mug? 

The history of coffee has a dark side steeped in human exploitation. 

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Environment, Organic Policy and Regulations, Social Implications in Agriculture, What is Organic

Building a Better Food System is a Political Journey You Can Make 

You don’t have to climb these steps to get involved in Food Policy

I just returned from The Organic Produce Summit in Monterey, Calif., where 2100 of my favorite friends gathered to celebrate. Finally connected in person—after a year like no other—growers, buyers, friends, sometimes rivals—we celebrated the part we played in 2020.

As the world changed, organic food sales went wild. OTA reports that organic food sales soared to $62 billion, growing twice as fast as the year before. Yet organic food huddles still at around 4% of all food sales.

There’s clearly work to be done beyond growing, selling, and buying organic food—it’s policy and political work.

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Culinary Delights, Environment, Social Implications in Agriculture, well-being, What is Organic

True Confessions of a Sometimes Vegan

Great armored bugs once lived in a basement hewn from Iowa bedrock. Amongst fermenting sauerkraut and tangled webs, my father took on the heroic battle of exterminating their presence. I cried every time, begging him to stop.

I was born with an innate belief that all beings have a right to live – they all serve a function in the web of biodiversity. It was a philosophical no-brainer for me to adopt a vegan diet.

My confession then; as the years went by, I slid in and out and became a sometimes-vegan.

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Social Implications in Agriculture, well-being, What is Organic

Life Lessons: Growing Food in an Iowa Backyard

I was digging it early on!
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I recently interviewed my sister for an oral history project. She evoked images of the place we grew up next to our German grandparents. She proclaimed, “Those two small houses side by side, they were so close to the street!”

The houses (one purchased from the Sears and Roebuck catalog) were close to the street for a reason – it afforded us a large backyard of fertile soil – once a flood plain of the Cedar River.

From this patch of land, we ate well.

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