Yelm Farmers Market Now Hiring

farmers marketIn the past two years as manager of the Yelm Farmers Market, Karen Rae has done a fantastic job of increasing attendance and sales, attracting sponsorships and implementing new programs. In 2016, Karen is moving on to her next adventure and the Yelm Cooperative is seeking a new Farmers Market Manager.

Every Sunday from late May until the end of October, the market is a community gathering place, attracting families from around the South Sound. Live music, a popular children’s program that allows kids to interact directly with the farmers, and more than 25 unique vendors create a welcoming atmosphere for anyone who enjoys fresh, locally grown food and locally produced crafts.

The Market Director is the master of ceremonies, coordinating with vendors, sponsors, musicians, and volunteers to make the market happen every week. The role is demanding, rewarding, and ideal for an individual who combines people skills, big picture thinking, and organizational ability. 

The market’s mission is to build community and to create a place for local farmers, producers and artisans to build relationships with their community and open up new outlets for their products. The Farmers Market also strives to:

  • give support to small farmers who want to develop new skills of direct marketing to their customers
  • provide a place for the community to become directly involved in local food and the farmers who grow it
  • bolster community spirit and excitement about local seasonal produce and sustainable food practices
  • cultivate an atmosphere of learning to the public by providing customers with free educational opportunities, how-to information on farming, and advice on storing fresh foods
  • encourage giving through donations of excess product to local charities

To view a full job description, download an application and learn more about the position’s scope of work, click here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thank You for a Great 2015! Co-op Year in Review

To all of our members, volunteers, shoppers, and supporters,

Yelm Food Co-op2As 2015 closes we want to thank everyone who has made the continuing effort to sustain the vision of the Yelm Cooperative.

On December 6th the board hosted its annual celebration to recognize working members who put in time as volunteers in multiple capacities. “Many of them have been here for long periods and continue to make the commitment to keep the store going,” says General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. Yelm Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae also hosted an end-of-season gathering for all of the vendors and volunteers that made the 2015 market possible.

Barnaby also acknowledged the store staff, many of whom have been part of the co-op for many years.  “They keep us moving in a positive direction,” he says. But perhaps most importantly, the members and customers are what drive the evolution of the co-op. “Without them, it really doesn’t matter what effort we put in,” he says. “It’s their decision to sustain our store by buying their groceries here.”

The year saw changes and improvements on multiple fronts. Here are a few of the highlights:

Yelm Food Cooperative

Facilities and Equipment

The store installed a new misting system for the produce case and brought in a new two-door freezer. Anyone driving down Yelm Avenue can now enjoy new signs with the co-op logo on the front and back of the store. Currently efforts to provide new lighting for the signs and better lighting for the entire facility are underway.

Growth and Recognition of the Wine Cellar of Yelm

“Probably the biggest surprise for 2015 was the growth in the Wine Cellar,” says Barnaby. “It’s starting to reach the levels that Anne Marsh has anticipated.” The Wine Cellar was voted 4th out of 105 wine shops in King 5’s Best of Western Washington Contest.

Training and Development

In an ongoing effort to improve training throughout the store, the staff began meeting on a semi-regular basis with working members to discuss changes in store operations, recent improvements, and goals for the store. “We been working at improving our material internally for employees and volunteers,” says Barnaby. “We update them and reinforce the updates through meetings. Both new and seasoned working members have the opportunity to review those manuals for improvement and input.”

What to Look For in 2016

In the year ahead, says Barnaby, there is the potential for a full remodel, dependent on funding. “We hope to be able to provide better service by adding a full-service deli, fresh meat section and a beverage section,” he says.

Yelm Farmers Market

Power of Produce

Over 600 children signed up for the new Power of Produce Program at this year’s market. The program encourages children to make healthy food choices and have more awareness of where their food comes from and what they’re eating. Every week flocks of children showed up with their red shopping bags to claim their $2.00 worth of tokens that they can spend on fruit or vegetables or a plant that grows food.

Sponsors

Both the business community and individuals stepped up and supported the market through sponsorships this year.

More Vendors and Live Music

The market included weekly live music this year, creating a wonderful atmosphere for browsing, tasting and interacting with all the treats on offer. Several great new vendors joined the seasoned veterans as well, contributing to a greater variety of offerings.

Record Breaking Attendance and Sales

On opening day the market broke last year’s record with over 1,000 people in attendance. Despite this summer’s heat wave, attendance and sales both exceeded previous year’s totals.

Events and Projects

Beer and Brats

Sales were up from at this year’s event, where volunteers braved the sweltering heat to serve over 400 bratwursts to the community.

Gift of Gobble

The Gobble team exceeded its fundraising goal this year, raising over $8,000 and feeding 126 local families.

Thank you for your support and Happy 2016!


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Community Comes Together to Support Gift of Gobble

gobble 2015Since it began six years ago, the Gift of Gobble has been helping families through rough patches when they may not be able to afford a Thanksgiving meal. This year, one of those families turned around and donated, says Project Director Barbara Morando. “Now they’re doing very well and they wanted to contribute. They’ve also become members of the Yelm Food Co-op.”

The project fed 126 families this year and a team of volunteers exceeded their fundraising goal, raising over $8000. “We had an excellent response from the business community,” says Barbara. “Most of the people we contact contribute and that’s a big part of it. Co-op members and shoppers and the general public are also very supportive.”

Over time, local businesses and shoppers have become familiar with the project, which helps when it comes to not only raising funds but identifying families that could use a little extra support around the holiday. “I think that we have really been able to create good connections with the Yelm and Rainier Schools, the military and local churches,” says Barbara.  “The outreach has evolved very nicely so that we can include a broad spectrum of the community.”

Barbara says it couldn’t happen without a huge collective effort. “I want to thank everybody who participated: the Co-op staff, because Gift of Gobble creates an extra burden for them and they’re very helpful, the volunteers, the businesses who donated and all of the contributors from the community,” she says.View Photos


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Nali Naturals = Great Gifts for Procrastinating Holiday Shoppers

IMAG1373 (1)Anita Jones didn’t want to make soap. Her passion was naturopathic and homeopathic medicine, which she’d studied since the early 70’s. In her Nali Natural Body Care line, she offered high quality European soaps along with her own creations.

But a little voice kept telling her to make her own, and one day as she was leafing through a merchandising catalog, she turned the page and there was a soap making kit. “I decided to try this and see what happens,” she says.

Nine years later, Nali Natural Body Care includes 24 varieties of 100% glycerin soap along with five butter lotions, scented dead sea salts, body and facial salts, and bath salt soak bags.

She started her business in 2006 because she wanted a small ticket item to sell in her downtown Tacoma antique store. Instead, “The skin care outsold the antiques,” she says. “The antiques are in the garage.”  Eventually she began selling her products online and next year is looking to expand around the country into markets like Chicago.

Anita’s formulas and recipes are all proprietary, as is her process. She combines ingredients that helped her cure acute eczema after her doctor couldn’t help her. “I learned how to cure it myself,” she says. “I was finding that people were coming into the store asking for something for eczema.”

Both online and in person, she has a strong base of repeat customers. “What keeps me doing this is the customers’ feedback,” she says.  “When I see them again, tell me that whatever issue I recommended a particular soap for, it’s resolved or resolving. It’s getting back to nature and using stuff that’s good for you. I see the results on my own body. I test everything on myself, but I test it across a wide demographic as well.”

After beginning life as small ticket items for her now defunct antiques store, many of her products are still the perfect inexpensive gift for a co-worker or friend, she says. For the procrastinating shoppers among us, there’s still time to pick them up in the health and beauty section at the Yelm Food Co-op.


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Shop Local This Christmas! Rainier Women Offer the Gift of Essential Oils

Yelm Food Co-op1If your workplace could use some holiday cheer, instead of calling a team meeting why not spray a little Citrus Sunshine throughout the building? Citrus oil functions as a natural anti-depressant, says Diane Binder of Nature’s Higher Healing. “Smell goes directly into the limbic system of the brain,” she says. “If you can use it to calm emotion and bypass the personality, that’s a good thing.”

Based in Rainier, Binder and her business partner Lori Drayson offer several lines of essential oils body butter and sprays that are currently available at the Yelm Food Co-op. All of their products are hypo-allergenic, organic, and cruelty free, and contain no synthetic fragrances or colors.

One of their first products was the Palo Santo Sacred Spirit Collection. Palo Santo translates to “Holy Wood” and the tree has been used by shamans in Ecuador in purification and cleansing ceremonies and as an aid to meditation and prayer.  “It was a dream of Lori’s to bring out a line of palo santo,” says Diane. “In this collection we offer the purification spray for people who are not in a position to burn wood for smudging. The spray is an alternative for people who might be in the hospital or other circumstances where burning wood is not feasible.”

The pair’s next effort was Citrus Sunshine which comes in both spray and body butter form and includes ruby red grapefruit, lemon, sweet orange, bergamot, and mandarin red oils. They also added a line of French Lavender. While citrus oil uplifts, lavender calms, says Binder. “It’s such a full spectrum oil and there are so many benefits to it,” she says. “You could diffuse lavender in the air and affect everyone in a very positive way.”

Nature’s Higher Healing was born after Lori, a massage therapist, met Diane, who at the time was running a bed and breakfast and taking care of Alzheimer’s patients. “My job was taking a toll on me,” says Diane. “We both knew we wanted to be of service but we wanted to do it in a way that made us happy. Lori encouraged me to quit.”

After learning about essential oils from her neighbor Anita Marriott, Diane became a certified aromatherapist through Bastyr University. “I wanted to know why the oils work and understand their chemical components,” she says.  These days, “I’m the alchemist and Lori is the motivator,” she says.  “She’s got that New York on fire energy. I’m more in my head. We balance each other out in a lot of ways.”

They’re achieving their goal of serving in a way that makes them happy. “If someone can feel really good after a full day and our products give them some tranquility, in the long term we’re being of service but also adding to the world,” says Diane. “We feel really good about what we’re presenting for people to put on their bodies.”

Visit the health and beauty section at the Yelm Food Co-op to find Nature’s Higher Healing products.  


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Saturday Food Adventure! Sample Specialty Ice Creams and More this Weekend at the Co-op

Yelm Food Co-opAt a recent trade fair in Portland, Florence Vincent had a memorable experience with ice cream. “Our gal dragged us over to the Choctal table and said ‘You must taste these’”, she says.  The company offers ice cream based on specific vanilla and chocolate beans from around the world. “There were eight different tastings. We would take a breath and take time to savor each little bite. “You can tell the difference with the beans from different countries. It’s like a wine tasting experience with ice cream.”

This Saturday Co-op shoppers will have a chance to share that experience. Between 1:00 and 3:00 a representative from Choctal will be on hand offering samples. Additionally, Tish Watford of Olympia’s Sneaky’s Savory Spirulina Popcorn,  Patty Bahney Warter of A Blend Above Gluten Free Products, and representatives from Cannavest hemp products will have tables set up for customers to try their wares.

“I’m very excited about people getting a chance to taste these foods,” says Florence. “It’s going to be fun. Why not come and experience some things that aren’t available anywhere else in Yelm? It’s going to be a fabulous experience.”

Join us!

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Saturday, December 5th

308 E. Yelm Ave in Gordon’s Garden Complex


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Understanding a Non-Profit Organization

So what is a non-profit organization (NPO)?

Since the membership of the Yelm Cooperative voted in Jan 2012 to reorganize our business from a Washington state non-profit corporation to a federal non-profit corporation, under the IRS Code 501(c)3, there have been many questions about what that means. To simplify the explanation, we are summarizing a white paper created by Social Venture Partners Boulder County, Boulder, CO, entitled Understanding Financial Statements.

Although this was written as a guide for Directors of a non-profit organization (NPO), it is information that all members and donors or other stakeholders should be familiar with.

These 2 parts of the post presents the differences between NPOs and for-profit organizations as presented in the SVP white paper:

Understand the differences between profit and non-profit organizations

It is important to remember that there is a fundamental difference between non-profit and for-profit organizations. A for-profit organization exists for the sole purpose of making money for its owner or shareholders. A non-profit organization exists to fulfill a societal mission, contributing to the community, and hence it is given a special exemption from paying taxes (section 501(c)3 section of the IRS Code). For this reason, non-profits can accept gifts and grants, and the companies, organizations, or individuals making these gifts can use them as tax deductions. Non-profits may also run fundraising events to collect money in a tax-free manner. Unlike for-profit organizations, no one is legally permitted to make money or profit from the success of a non-profit. A non-profit is allowed to make money on a yearly basis and save that money to enhance programs in future years, to build a nest-egg for rainy days, and to pay their employees reasonable wages that are comparable with the local marketplace. Another fact that is often confused is that non-profits pay no taxes whatsoever. This just isn’t true, it depends on the state as to whether they pay sales taxes or other fees, and any income generated by a means that is not directly related to its mission is taxable as “unrelated business income tax” (UBIT).

See non-profits as a business

Outside of some basic differences in taxation and measurements of success for non-profits, it is imperative to recognize that in most (if not all) other respects, these organizations must conduct their business in the same manner as a for-profit business. They need to be able to make payroll. They need to pay their bills in a timely manner. They need to build up a good credit history. They need to build up enough financial reserves to survive difficult economic times. They need to understand how much (if any) money they are making or losing on various programs, so they can accurately predict how much outside support they will need in order to continue operating these programs. They need to understand whether they have a reasonable administrative overhead in operating their organization. While a host of other comparable processes could be enumerated, the bottom line is that even non-profit organizations have a bottom line. This does not in any way say their goals or missions are the same; they are not! But they are businesses that face all of the usual business challenges. Non-profits have noble missions and a need for passion in serving a critical social role. However, unless solid business practices are adhered to and board members are actively reviewing and making decisions based on financial statements, the organization will likely not be around to serve those key missions. These organizations must be run in a business-like fashion; not with the goal of making a profit, but rather with the goal of meeting social, educational, religious, or other causes that are deemed beneficial to the community and to society at large.

We hope this has been helpful in clearing up some of the confusion and misunderstand that has existed since we changed the Yelm Cooperatives’ structure.




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Which Wine Should You Be Drinking This Thanksgiving?

0001wXIf you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, now’s your chance to find out the answer to the all-important question: What wine should you be serving? Whether your turkey is simply seasoned with salt and pepper, herb-infused, or spicy cajun, the Wine Cellar of Yelm’s “Virtuose de Vin” Anne Marsh can help to find the perfect bottle(s) for you and your guests.

In the days leading up to the holiday, Anne will be offering tastings and free consultations at the Wine Cellar. Here’s the schedule:  

Saturday, November 21st   12:00 to 5:00

Monday, November 23rd   2:00 to 4:00

Tuesday, November 24th 2:00 to 5:00

Wednesday, November 25th 12:00 to close

If you can’t make it into the store or want to get a jump start on your grocery shopping, Anne has recommendations to get you started.

Reds

Basic simply seasoned turkey:  “You can pair that with any light to medium bodied dry red. I like Rhone reds, meaning a Syrah-Grenache blends,” she says.

Example: Domaine Boisson Cotes du Rhone

Herbed Turkey: With this style of bird, you can explore bigger, fuller-bodied Cotes du Rhones. “One wouldn’t normally associate white meat bird with a big powerful red wine, but it depends upon how you do the stuffing, and how you herb it,” says Anne.  “When you consider the gravy and the potatoes and typical rich side dishes, you’ve got all the fat to cut through the tannins, plus the bigness of the herbs rounds it out.”

Example: Vacqueyras, Domaine Le Couroulu

Cajun Turkey: “Hot and spicy goes great with fruity wine,” says Anne. Most people think the only red that would be appropriate for a turkey would be Beaujolais Nouveau. It actually is a really great wine if you’ve got that Cajun style or hot spicy dirty rice stuffing. I offer an alternative called Fleurie or an Italian red called Matte that pair perfectly with that syle.”

Example: Fleurie, Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois

Other than Turkey: For wines that will go with pork, turkey, lamb or duck,  Anne recommends Pinot Noir especially from Burgundy France.

Example: Lou Dumont Savigny les Beune

Roses and Whites

“Rose is not just your light, when it’s hot outside wine,” says Anne.   “I have an array of rose wines that will compliment your turkey feast and these wines are full bodied, dry and not at all sweet.” She will be opening a Beaujolais Blanc as well as a non-vintage Grand Cru Champagne for tasting, along with a Soave Brut sparkling wine.

Examples: Belleruche Cotes du Rhone Rose

After dinner

“We have a great selection of Finnriver organic wines made in Washington. I’m going to open their Blueberry Brandy for tasting. It’s great after dinner,” says Anne.  “I’m also opening a Late Bottle Vintage Port and a Vermouth. Vermouth is yummy poured right over ice. You can have it while you’re cooking or after dinner.”

Example: Finnriver Black Currant Brandy

Anne’s specialty is pairing wine and food, and she offers free consultations for dinner parties and gatherings any time of the year. Consultations are complimentary with your wine purchase and many folks love the experience of tasting and choosing their wines. It gives them a confidence in serving the wines they wouldn’t normally have.” says Anne.  “If you tell me your recipe, I will point you to the exact bottle that not only will fit your budget, but you’ll love it with your meal. It will be a whole new experience.”  


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Reasons to Buy a Mary’s Free Range Turkey This Thanksgiving

happy turkeyIf you want to feel confident that your post-Thanksgiving dinner food coma is strictly due to tryptophan and not say, antibiotics, GMOs or unpronounceable chemicals, come pick up your turkey from the Yelm Food Co-op. If it matters to you that your dinner was raised in humane conditions, all the more reason.  The store will have a limited number of free range, GMO-free, hormone-free and gluten-free birds from Mary’s Free Range Turkeys on hand in the week before the holiday.

Since a highly infectious strain of Avian bird flu hit midwest poultry plants this spring, decimating 20% of the population, the demand for healthy birds has spiked, along with an interest in their living conditions. Unfortunately, in high-volume commercial plants, it’s not a pretty picture.

On factory farms, turkeys are hatched in incubators. A few days after they’re born, their upper beaks are snipped off, with the effect that they can no longer pick and choose their food. Subsequently, they’re fed a regular diet of corn-based grain that contains antibiotics.  

The first three weeks of their lives are spent crammed into a brooder with hundreds of other birds, but in the fourth week they’re moved to a giant, windowless room with 10,000 other turkeys. Bright lights blare 24 hours a day, disrupting their natural eating, sleeping, and fertility patterns. Kept awake – and eating – non-stop, they have no opportunity to roost on the crowded floor. Eventually, 45 million of them are slaughtered at Thanksgiving alone, with an additional 22 million following at Christmas.

Factory farms also contribute to environmental degradation, generating 61 million tons of waste each year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, waste from industrial hog, chicken, and cattle farms has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.

In contrast, the birds at Mary’s Free Range Turkeys are fed a high protein, vegetarian diet and allowed to roam in an area four times the size allocated by commercial turkey ranches. Their feed does not contain antibiotics, animal byproducts, GMO corn or soybean meal, pesticide treated grains, or grains grown with chemical fertilizers. The company has been family owned and operated since 1954.  View Video

Get a turkey you can truly be thankful for! Order yours today at 360-400-2210.


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No More Sawdust! Gluten-Free Products Your Tastebuds Will Love

Patty Bahney WarterSawdust, with the texture of hockey pucks. That’s what most gluten-free products tasted like when Patty Bahney Warter was diagnosed with a wheat allergy in 1995. “There was very little out there at that time,” she says. With four children to feed, several of whom were wrestling with their own food allergies, Patty continually tried to bring something home that everyone could eat. “The kids were very verbal in their feedback,” she says, laughing. “Two of my sons played hockey, so that’s where the hockey puck analogy came from.”
 
Compounding the problem, what was available was also sold in small quantities at a high cost. “As time went on it was very costly,” she says.  “I was used to buying in bulk, but that wasn’t an option.”


“People will call for me when I’m back in the kitchen, and I’ll assume that they have a question,” says Patty. “But when I come out, they want to thank me. They hug me or they shake my hand because they’re so grateful to have something that tastes so good. That’s the blessing of it. I would feel selfish if I kept this to myself.”

By 2000, she was ‘pretty sick’ after attempting to cheat, she says. “I tried not eating the gluten-free lifestyle.” Deciding that enough was enough, she went to the public library and started researching everything she could find about gluten free options. “I wanted something that had a bit more nutrition than brown rice or tapioca,” she says. “Legumes were nutritional but the taste was too strong.”
 
After much trial and error she hit upon her own recipe, one that combined the nutritional benefits of gluten-free with the taste advantages of wheat-based flour. She calls her product line ‘A Blend Above.’ 

“I slowly created what I came up with as my blend,” she says.  “When I first introduced it, it still had cornstarch in it, but I discovered that many people who are allergic to gluten are allergic to corn starch as well.” She wanted the product to be available for people with multiple allergies, and to be usable for both baking and cooking. Her ingredients include brown rice flour, tapioca flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, millet flour, organic sugar, gluten free oat flour, potato starch, potato flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum.
 
Patty began incorporating her product into menu items at the Country Rose Cafe in Tacoma. “People would say, ‘I can’t tell that this is gluten free. It rises and it looks normal,’” she says. “They wouldn’t believe me, so I would take them back in the kitchen and show them. Then, they wanted to buy it.”
 
After checking into FDA requirements she started shopping around for a co-processor and discovered GF Blends in Richmond. Since then she’s gone public, published her first cookbook, Family Recipes Made Gluten-Free, developed a pancake and waffle mix and introduced banana bars which will be going on sale this month. She is also developing an online presence.
 
Currently at Country Rose Cafe the chef uses a dedicated gluten-free waffle iron, and 75% of his waffle sales on weekends come from that iron. “People will call for me when I’m back in the kitchen, and I’ll assume that they have a question,” says Patty. “But when I come out, they want to thank me. They hug me or they shake my hand because they’re so grateful to have something that tastes so good. That’s the blessing of it. I would feel selfish if I kept this to myself.”

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Harvest Festival Ends Farmers Market Season With a Bang

unnamed (9)When the skies opened up in the early morning hours of Sunday, October 25th, Yelm Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae experienced a moment of misgiving. Rain, today of all days? Would the first annual Harvest Festival get pre-empted by Mother Nature before it even got off the ground?

The answer was an emphatic no.   Hundreds of adults and children turned up to paint pumpkins, bowl with pumpkins, paint their faces, enjoy live music, and end the 2015 Farmers Market season with record breaking sales. The rain persisted, but wasn’t enough to deter families from waiting in line for wagon rides and enjoying everything the festival had to offer.

“It was incredible to have so many families and kids come, even in the rain,” says Karen. “They kept light hearts and I heard so many people say, ‘When you live in Washington you have to expect some rain.’  The general attitude was to keep going and have fun.”

It was incredible to have so many families and kids come, even in the rain.The general attitude was to keep going and have fun.  – Farmers Market Manager Karen Rae 

The day took a combined effort from volunteers, she says, including members of the Schorno family which hosts the market at Nisqually Springs Farm. “Glenn Schorno did the wagon rides and explained the farm’s history, and his daughter Laney sang to everyone,” she says. As usual, her own family was out in full force along with a group who has been volunteering throughout the season. “One of our regular helpers introduced three new volunteers that were gifts from heaven,” says Karen. Several board members from the Yelm Cooperative were also on hand.

As is often the case with first time efforts, a few hiccups occurred. “We had lots of learning curves,” says Karen. “We’d never done any unnamed (4)of it before so it was all experimental. We could definitely have done more with the parking.” The designated parking area has limited space, and at one point the lot was so full that there was a line out to Highway 507 waiting to get in.

Overall, she’s pleased. “It was  a wonderful event and we’ll be doing it again bigger and better,” she says. “There was so much positive feedback from the vendors. People in the community came up and said, ‘This is what we dreamed of all these years ago.’ It was a lovely atmosphere having all these families and the joy and the laughter. We’ve got so much to grow from. I’m very excited about it.”

Congratulations to the Yelm Farmers Market on a great season! View Photos


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Why the Co-op Continues the Fight for GMO Labeling

non_gmoCome visit the Co-op this month and you’ll notice something unusual: every item in the store is labeled according to its GeneticallyModified Organism (GMO) content. While being GMO-free is important every month of the year, October is when you get to find out exactly what’s in every item that you buy due to the diligent research of buyer Florence Vincent.The Co-op has always been at the forefront of the fight for consumer rights, says General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz. “Yelm Cooperative is the only local organization that I know of who has actively lobbied for the labeling of GMOs,” he says. “Safeway has funded the fight against GMO labeling, and Wal Mart has only started to consider supporting it because of consumer pressure.

Yelm Food Cooperative has consistently been part of the consumer pressure that has led to companies changing their minds and we continue to remove products from our shelves that have GMOs or growth hormones.”

The United States currently lags behind sixty-four other countries who have mandated labeling, leaving it up to states and municipalities to decide. In Washington State, Initiative 522 failed by a slim margin in 2012 but the pressure to label continues. To understand why, says Rintz, you first need to understand what a GMO is.

“GMOs are plants and animals that have had their genetic composition altered through the process known as splicing,” he says. “Splicing is when a genome fragment from a different organism is incorporated into the intended organism, normally with the use of a dormant virus.”

According to the Non GMO Project, virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicides and/or to produce an insecticide. “This makes the altered plants more resistant to synthetic herbicides like Roundup, which contains glycophosphate – a likely carcinogen,” says Barnaby. “As a result, farmers are encouraged to use more synthetic herbicides, thereby increasing our dependence on hazardous chemicals for the purpose of food production.”

Increased usage also leads to increased resistance to products like Roundup. “This means that dependence on the herbicides not only increases, but eventually they will not work at all,” says Barnaby.  “At that point, if GMO crops continue to prevail in our agriculture, a new gene will need to be spliced-in so that the GMO plants will have a new herbicide that it will have a resistance to, meaning even more herbicides and pesticides will pollute our biosphere.” This will eventually foster new, resistant ‘superweeds’ with a perpetual increase in cost, pollution, and dependence on huge multinational corporations for the production of food, he says.

Although some groups, including the Gates Foundation, point to GMOs as the solution to the world’s food crisis, the reality looks quite different. A growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights, according to the Non GMO Project.  “GMO crop production in areas like India have already compromised biodiversity, and dropped the value of commodities to the point of leading to greater starvation, destitution, suicidal stress, and even death,” says Barnaby.

“The only way science and technology will help is if the methods applied look at the holistic aspects of the effects of our impact on the planet,” says Barnaby. “In other words, what happens in Washington State can directly affect the environmental health in place like India, China, and Africa.

As the largest per capita consumer of energy, the United States directly impacts the global environment. If we do not begin to accept our collective responsibility to reverse the negative effects of our day-to-day lifestyles, then this problem will never get properly solved.”

Another important issue has to do with the patenting of crops and other life forms, the result of a landmark judicial decision from the 1980’s. “As a result, major GMO – developing corporations like Monsanto have been suing farmers when the farmers’ crops have tested positive for signs of the GMO genome within their crop yield,” says Barnaby. An analogy? “It would be similar to someone putting a loose stack of $100 bills right next to their property border, and then suing the neighbor for stealing when the neighbor picks the bills up off of his land,” he says.

While the situation is absurd, its larger implications are more sinister. “The important issue to note is that these companies are patenting their GMO crops, and they are also buying up all of the other seed companies smaller than them in an effort to make money on every plate of food produced anywhere in the world,” says Barnaby. “This profit motive will directly increase the cost of food, disenfranchise local food empowerment, and cause more global hunger and starvation as a result.”

More recently, GMO production has been moving into new areas like genetically modified animals such as salmon. “Just like with plants, if GMO salmon is allowed in waters with wild salmon, it will invariably alter the natural genome of salmon during the mating process,” he says. “Moreover, splicing animal genes into plant genomes is also being experimented with, which is a huge concern for vegans and vegetarians.”

All of these reasons and more are why October is GMO awareness month at the Yelm Food Cooperative, he says.  “In Yelm, Yelm Cooperative is the only organization that I know of which actively advocates for a different future which would require the labeling of GMOs, ban the approval of any future GMO crops, and demand a change in the direction of corporate control of our food systems through: education of the reality of our food system; access to local and non-GMO foods; and fighting against the ridiculous concept that a living creature can be patented.”

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