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Going Organic in the North State

03/01/2007 11:36AM ● Published by Sandie Tillery

Fresh From the Farm

March 2007
By Sandie Tillery

 The family dinner table saw some dramatic changes through the decades of the 20th century. Fast-paced lives ushered in fast foods, ready-made meals and processed, refined products with long shelf lives.With a new millennium ahead of us, many families are rediscovering the joys and benefits of foods fresh from the farm, free of the chemicals that have been added to give products their longevity.With a commitment to take care of the land and a desire to grow healthy, nutritious food that promotes wellness, organic farmers, ranchers and gardeners, and their vendors, have been enjoying more and more attention from their North State neighbors.

An increasing number of us are changing our lifestyles and embracing a more earth-friendly, health-conscious approach in all aspects of living. The list includes gardening practices, food, health care, clothes, skin care, fuel, and animal feed. Though controversy swirls around definitions and marketing practices in the midst of competition for the consumer dollar, consumers are becoming more informed and more interested in the processes as well as the products that sustain their lives.

Last year, ABC News broadcast a series of investigative reports in an effort to define organic. In its Nov. 29 report “Are Organic Foods Better for You?” the question was raised: “Can mass-produced food grown on factory farms be truly organic?” The news report raised questions without definitive answers. The truth is that the term itself is interpreted differently in every state and every country when it comes to standards and practices.

According to Caryn Moen, agricultural and standard investigator with the Shasta County Department of Agriculture, organic is a “protected” word that applies to producers, handlers and processors of products registered as organic. In order to be classified as organic in California, applicants must first apply for registration, which entails a thorough interview process with a county investigator exploring such issues as soil quality, sustainability, storage practices, insect and disease control, among others. Certification is the next step in the process for producers, handlers, and processors if their sales exceed $5,000 per year. This is a lengthy and costly process. Topping a long list of registered organic food items grown and produced in Shasta County are wild rice, grapes and grape rootstock, cheese, lavender, beef, basil and other herbs, pecans, and garlic. According to Moen, there might have been a handful of registered organic businesses in the county 20 years ago. Now, there is more than 30.

Lynette Gooch of Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens in Whitmore considers organic to mean “a promise to Mother Nature” to care for the land. She said, “You get back what you give.” Lynette and husband, Richard, had a great harvest in 2006, their first as registered organic growers. Their soil had never been cultivated. They amended it with gypsum, fertilize with liquid fish emulsion and line the beds with oyster shells to add calcium. Though Lynette cannot guarantee all the handmade lavender products she sells at craft fairs and shows and at the gift shop on their land to be completely organic, she makes every effort to use ingredients that are as pure and pollutant free as possible. They do guarantee their lavender oil (steam distilled themselves) and their garden with over 140 varieties of lavender to be organic.

As health-conscious consumers have demanded food and nutrition products that they feel will enhance their long-term health, mainstream marketers have taken up the challenge, following in the footsteps of health food stores.

Most large grocery and drug stores now carry organic, all-natural products and showcase them more prominently than in years past.Holiday Market, a locally owned chain of grocery stores here in the North State, has increased its organic and all natural product lines throughout its stores, as have Raley’s and Safeway. Doug Duggins, director ofmarketing forHoliday, stressed the chain’s commitment to address the growing demand. “Three or four years ago, wemade the decision to focus on offering the largest organic selection in the North State.”Duggins reported that they offer a full spectrum and consistent selection of organic grocery and specialty items from Summers organic beef to their extensive organic produce department.

Kent’s Meats and Groceries discovered a niche by providing Prather Ranch beef, and chickens from Rosie’s and Rocky’s, all raised as organically as possible and labeled as “all natural”. Kent Pfrimmer also carries organic produce, as much local as possible, he said, depending on the season. He commented that he has a new younger clientele looking for more natural products. This demand has helped increase his sales in the last two to three years by more than 50 percent.

Ronda Nelson, an herbalist and nutritionist, counsels clients at her business, Restoration Health, to eat for health. She confirms that organic foods have more vitamins, minerals and amino acids, especially in their raw form. She said, “Eating raw organic food is the best way to provide bioavailable nutrients, including the critical enzymes.” Nelson offers on-going classes including “Nutrition Boot Camp” and other services such as a monthly “Raw Food” Dinner Club.

A new lunch counter has been added to Enterprise Health Foods’ array of products that support the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. Eden at Enterprise Health Foods is open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. offering soups and sandwiches made with all natural, organic ingredients for people on the go.Many folks call in ahead and come in to pick up their orders to avoid the rush or competition for the limited seating. Mary Pryde, general manager of the store, said they have seen a dramatic rise in sales over the last several years as customers make an effort to avoid synthetics and toxins. “The body recognizes food. The intake of whole foods and supplements helps with absorption of nutrients,” Pryde said. She emphasized that organic foods are picked at their peak of ripeness ready for immediate use by consumers. “They may not be as beautiful to look at,” she explained, “but the flavor is so incredible.”

Availability is not an issue any longer.With the increase in demand, North State shoppers will find their favorite healthy foods at health food stores, the local markets, organic farmers markets, and through home delivery services. During the spring, summer and fall harvesting seasons, many farmers invite customers to pick or purchase right from the source. Some families are making it a recreational activity to go shopping for their weekly menus. Take some time to enjoy the experience of eating for health!

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100 Main Street
Red Bluff, CA 96080
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(530) 527-6220
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