Organic Primer by the USDA

In a series called Organic 101, the USDA has blogged about the meaning of the USDA Organic label. Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Director, has written the series, which provides a helpful primer on just what organic means, in terms of USDA involvement. Here are the installments you’ll find on their blog, along with just one or two examples of the kinds of information contained in each segment:

Part 1: What Organic Farming (and Processing) Doesn’t Allow. When it comes to dairy and meat products, for example, the USDA organic label insures that the animals were raised in living conditions “that accommodated their natural behaviors, without being administered hormones or antibiotics, and while grazing on pasture grown on healthy soil.”

Part 2: Allowed and Prohibited Substances. In this installment, you’ll learn that while organic agriculture allows natural substances and prohibits synthetic, vaccines are considered an important part in maintaining animal health.

Part 3:  What the USDA Organic Label Means. No foods labeled with the USDA Organic label can be grown or handled using genetically modified organisms. And packaged products that indicate they are “made with organic something” must contain at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients.

To learn more about the USDA Organic Label, read the blog at USDA Blog.

This article also appeared in our Frontier Member News, the monthly enewsletter for our co-op members.

Here’s how you can become a co-op member.

Sustainable Lodging at Inn by the Sea: Cape Elizabeth, Maine

We’ve been on a little travel break from blogging! One was a personal vacation trip and one was a business trip.

We’d like to share some links today about a place we came across that impressed us with their commitment to some of the same principles that guide us at Frontier.

We traveled to Maine for a relaxing weekend at a beautiful place called Inn by the Sea, on Cape Elizabeth along the southern coast near Portland.

The Inn is a designated wildlife habitat, one of the first hotels certified by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection as a “Green Lodging.”

They successfully blend luxury and service with sustainability, minimizing the impact of hotel operations with of eco friendly initiatives and an appreciation of all things local.

Guests are surrounded by an indigenous garden which provides food and habitat for wildlife, and rooms are cleaned with non-toxic products. Room amenities are natural, in recycled bottles and displayed on recycled glass trays. The sheet and towel program helps protect the endangered monarch butterfly. They recycle and use post consumer paper products. The cardio room has recycled rubber floors, the spa has recycled sheet rock walls and bamboo towels, and the  Inn is heated with biofuel and the pool with solar panels. The Inn also recognizes the value of the community by supporting local charities.

The Inn offers classes to guests to pass on the eco-friendly message. Weekly seminars and garden tours are offered on the Inn’s 5 acres of indigenous seaside gardens, teaching guests how to plant for wildlife. The Inn helps environmentally-conscious couples plan unique White weddings in green and, for the corporate traveler, responsible green meetings. You can read more about the Inn by the Sea’s green initiatives here.

At the hotel’s restaurant, Sea Glass, Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich specializes in creating dishes featuring Maine’s local bounty – both seafood and seasonal produce sourced from local farms.

Here’s one of his favorite recipes using local ingredients that you’re sure to find nearby as well.

RED WINE & OLIVE BUTTER COMPOUND

2 c red wine

2 ea peeled shallots, minced

4 ea fresh thyme sprigs

2 ea fresh bay leaves

4 lbs unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 c balsamic vinegar

1 c pitted Kalamata olives (reserve brine)

Combine red wine, minced shallots, thyme and bay Leaves in a large sauce pan.  Reduce to half and discard the herbs.  Put butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment and add the red wine reduction.  Whip until combined.

In the meantime, use a food processor to puree the Kalamata olives and balsamic vinegar using some of the olive bring.  Once pureed, add to the whipped butter in the stand mixer and whip until the liquids are combined into the soft butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Let us know what seasonal produce is making an appearance on your table right now!

Well Earth™ Making a Difference in Sri Lanka

One of Frontier’s valued Well Earth™ partners is the Small Organic Farmers Association (SOFA), a 2,043-member cooperative of small scale, organic farmers in Sri Lanka.

The president of SOFA, organic farmer Bernard Sri Kantha, is proud to tell us that the cooperative is founded not only on the principals of organic agriculture and Fair Trade, but also on that of shramadhana — a Sinhalese word for the giving of one’s self, whether time, energy, knowledge, experience, wealth or physical labor, to help improve the welfare of the community.

In the spirit of shramadhana, Frontier donated $25,000 in Well Earth™ grant money to support the construction of an organic training center in Sri Lanka.

Completed in late 2010, the first classes are already underway, educating farmers on sustainable cropping techniques such as composting, erosion control, rain harvesting, and natural pest management. Aside from offering participants a classroom setting, the training center is also a fully functional research and development farm, allowing students to immediately put their education to use with hands-on field demonstrations and exercises.

Co-op members like Mahinda Karunarathna, the father of two children, exemplify this ideal. Mr. Karunarathna grows pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and a myriad of other spices on just a few acres of mountainous land, along with tending a rice paddy and keeping chickens to feed his family. Although his farm and family life are enough to keep him busy, he makes time to share his experience and expertise in sustainable farming methods with other local growers.

The result? During 2010, the cooperative earned a total of $150,000 in Fair Trade social premiums. For communities where farmers typically earn $900 to $1,200 annually, these premiums have enabled the construction of clean water sources and schools, as well as funded scholarships, education programs and a vast array of other beneficial projects.

And while the premiums have made the financial aspect of these programs possible, it has been the volunteered time and effort of people like Mahinda Karunarathna that have ultimately made these things a reality.

Our new May 2011- April 2012 includes a feature on this project written by Kai Stark, Frontier’s sourcing expert who works closely with these farmers on this project. As Kai explains, “The seeds of our farmers are able to grow due to the water provided by you, our customers. Thanks from Frontier, and our growers, for sharing in our vision to make the world a better place.”

Check out the video to visit Sri Lanka along with Kai:

As always, we invite you to read more about our Well Earth™ program.

We created it with you in mind.

Guest Post: Cole Daily

Cole Daily is Vice President of Global Sourcing for Frontier Natural Products Co-op. As a member of Frontier’s sourcing team, Cole has helped build Frontier’s pioneering organic spice business into one of the largest in the United States.

Most recently, Cole and our company have focused on developing strong relationships with organic suppliers around the world through our Well Earth program.

Cole has served as a board member for the American Spice Trade Association and holds a B.A. from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and an M.B.A. from the University of Iowa.

Cole Daily, Frontier Vice President of Global Sourcing. Photo courtesy of Cole.

Cole recently shared some insight with us about how the situation in the Middle East impacts us at Frontier, and why our Well Earth program continues to be a positive force when these very situations occur.

Here’s what he had to say:

In 1814, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, a brilliant Austrian/German statesman, said, “Quand Paris eternue, l’Europe attrape la rhume” or “When Paris sneezes, Europe catches a cold.”

What he meant was that whatever happened in Paris had major ramifications throughout Europe. Since those days of the Napoleonic Wars, the world has become a much smaller place, and, as you know, Frontier has become involved in countries all around it. So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that, to paraphrase the prince, “When the Middle East sneezes, Frontier catches a cold.”

In this case, Egypt has sneezed and triggered some wheezing and coughing among our purchasing group. A number of our products come from Egypt, a key one being organic onion, and we have seen some ramifications from the political upheaval there. Our supplier is located in the 6th of October City outside of Cairo. The city’s name commemorates Egypt’s military operations in the 1973 6th of October/Yom Kippur War.

Although our supplier was not affected directly at their location, they’ve seen the ports shut down, and the disruptions in day-to-day services has affected their plant as well. To date, we haven’t had any out-of-stocks because of the situation — nor do we expect any, as we have some contingency plans that we are quickly implementing — but it points out the fact that we are a global company, and we must continue to evolve our sources as the world evolves.

That’s why our Well Earth program continues to be the cornerstone of our sourcing efforts. By creating strong relationships throughout the world, we can, to stay with our metaphor, avoid any germs that come from a sneeze here or there.

While buying more than 2,400 different products from over 45 countries throughout the world has its challenges, our focus remains on providing exceptional quality products with exceptional service to our customers — even though we require a “gesundheit” every once in a while.