Organic Food is Not Just A Luxury

Organic Food is Not Just A Luxury

Organic food is not too expensive for school meals, even by cash strapped school councils. Everyone could learn a lesson from Copenhagen where 90% of the food in public kitchens is now organic.

Organic foods are most often just brushed off as being a luxury, but it’s not. It is suggested that we are in a climate emergency, and the environmental impacts of all this cheap and ultra processed foods have too much of a cost in the long run, including on our health and well being. The public sector needs to step up and support more environmentally friendly farming practices, and international examples are showing that it is possible.

A few trail blazing countries such as Denmark and France are setting the world stage and leading the way using public procurement to improve their nation’s relationship with food, while supporting local farmers and producers to show everyone just how possible it is.

Report after report suggest the true scale of the climate and biodiversity emergency that we are facing, ultimately humanity’s ability to survive is at stake. Organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have made special reports on land use and food security, which are among the latest calls for an urgent transition to more sustainable, ethical, and healthy food and farming which will help to revitalize rural communities.

This report shows how agricultural intensification has fuelled soil degradation, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. We don’t need more of the same, and more GMOs, what we should be doing is moving towards nature and nature friendly farming which will help to repair and build soil health that will in turn protect the environment, wildlife, and us. This kind of farming is not new, it is called agroecology, and organic is just one way of doing it.

Present day we face collapsing insect populations and global soil loss, looking at what goes into school plates may seem less important. But food and farming are linked, if farmers are to use methods that are more protective of us and the environment there needs to be a stable market for what they produce. The public school sector is a steady demand for food and it sets children up to know these organic foods are the way to go. Rather than pumping money into intensively farmed meat or pesticide laden produce imagine if all that money went into local farmers, and helped to rebuild thriving rural communities all while contributing to a greener environment and protecting our health, wildlife, and environment.

Organic farming will deliver on these goals, and it will improve the environment, animal welfare, fewer pesticides, less antibiotics and GMOs, while supporting more jobs, better soil, collapsing beneficial insect populations, wildlife, and better overall human health and well being.

Over 15 years Copenhagen has collectively converted 60,000 daily meals that it serves in all public kitchens to being 90% organic, and it stayed within its existing budget. The French Ministry of Agriculture and Food has announced that half of all food served in its public canteens must be organic, sustainable, or of a specific quality by 2022, and the French Organic Food Agency announced that a record number of farmers had converted to organic production, increasing the number of organic farms by 13%.

Even the Scottish Government is supporting organic targets in schools through a Food For Life programme, and is also showing that it is possible to serve a proportion of organic ingredients and stay within budget. If these cash strapped local councils can put organic food on the table for school children, surely others can follow suit.

It may be time to realize that America is falling behind in many aspects, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Americans can also lead the way. All these pesticides and antibiotics leach into the environment via soil and water and back to us and cause harm right from the get go. It is time to rethink current practices and make a change before it is too late.

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Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting

Greetings from  the Yelm Food Co op Board of Directors!

It’s time again for the members of the Yelm Food Co op to get together to review how our store is doing and where it’s headed .

On Saturday,  September 28, we will have our Annual General Meeting, in house, at the Yelm Food Co op. From 2pm to 4pm  members will be able to meet and get to know the members of the board, ask questions, and give suggestions. Current Co op members will have the opportunity to vote for board members who are up for re-election.  Afterwards, there will be plenty of samples to try, and as usual, wine tasting!

See you there!


The Yelm Food Co op Board of Directors

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Home & Garden Show Volunteer Opportunities

Home and Garden ShowThe 2016 Home & Garden Show is coming right up on and several time slots are available to volunteer at the Yelm Cooperative booth. This is a great opportunity to let people know about the natural foods market right here in Yelm and build excitement about our vision for a sustainable food system in our area. 

Here are the available slots: 

      Sunday, May 1st  – 11 am – 2 pm ( 1 or 2 people)

      Sunday, May 1st  – 2 pm – 4 pm (2 people)

      Sunday, May 1st  4pm – 5 pm  (1 or 2 people to help our board president Bill Wyman with teardown)

If you would like to help, contact Marilyn Reardon at (360)400-8030. Thank you!  

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At Olympia’s Alaffia, Fair Trade=Empowerment

At Olympia’s Alaffia, Fair Trade = Empowerment

alaffiaIt all started with a jar on a shelf. Olowo-n’djo Tchala was shopping at an American health food store when he noticed a bottle of shea butter retailing for $50.00.  Having grown up in the African nation of Togo collecting shea nuts with his mother, he knew how little of that money was making its way to the people who actually gathered the seeds, most of whom earned just pennies. Inspiration struck.

Today, Olowo-n’djo and his wife Rose Hyde own Alaffia, an Olympia-based company which offers over 200 fair trade skin products – most of which contain shea butter or coconut oil. The difference? All of Alaffia’s Togolese employees are members of a shea butter cooperative and paid fair wages. Profits are reinvested in the community through a variety of initiatives they call Empowerment Projects. In fact, Alaffia is currently the second biggest employer in the country aside from the government.

That degree of success might have seemed unlikely when Olowo-n’djo and Rose, whom he met while she was in the Peace Corps, started bottling shea butter in a trailer on Steamboat Island.  The first group of women they contacted in Togo were “very skeptical about the whole thing,” says Kelsey Mayer, Alaffia’s Communications Liaison, “but  eventually they began to trust him and they were able to start.”

From the beginning, the raw ingredients have been handcrafted in small batches and then sent to Washington. Rose, an ethnobotanist, experiments with different combinations to come up with the final products. The company’s first retailer was the Olympia Co-op. “Co-ops are definitely the heart of it all,” says Mayer. “That’s where we started. That’s what we value highly.”

Alaffia’s Empowerment Projects focus on maternal health and education. “One in 16 women will die every year during childbirth or due to complications during pregnancy,” says Mayer “Maternal health is a project that’s near and dear to our heart.” So far, Alaffia has funded the birth of 3,500 babies, many of whom Rose and Olowo-n’djo get to meet when they travel to Togo.

They also sponsor a project called Bicycles for Education. “Students are walking up to ten miles a day to school,” says Mayer. “Eventually it’s too time-consuming. Ninety-one percent of girls in rural areas drop out of school before reaching secondary school.” Alaffia collects bicycles in the U.S., then gives them to the students.  “It shortens their commute, gives them reliable transportation and 95 % of Bicycles for Education participants graduate from high school,” says Mayer.

Alaffia products are currently available at the Yelm Food Cooperative. Every item you purchase will contribute to a greater quality of life for a fellow cooperative member in Togo. If you’d like to learn more about the company’s empowerment projects, visit

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Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

beekeeping class

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, consuming local raw honey and bee pollen is a great place to start getting your body in tune with the local flora. Bee Forever Apiary offers raw, unprocessed products developed in the Bald Hills area.

Thomas Mani, owner and operator of Bee Forever Apiary, explains why that’s important.  “A lot of stores offer honey that’s been ultra-filtered,” he says. “That process removes small particles like pollen.” But pollen, he says, has a fingerprint, just like people do, which reveals its origin. “Ultra-filtered honey loses its fingerprint, which opens the door for cheating or adulterating the honey,” he says. “A lot of honey that’s offered in grocery stores has corn syrup in it, molasses and water content of up to 25%,”

In contrast, Bee4ever’s honey has no corn syrup, and the water content is kept below 17% so that it can be stored for long periods.  No heating is applied during the extraction and bottling process, which means that all of the valuable ingredients like enzymes remain intact.

Additionally, some local residents have found that Mani’s honey helps them with issues that have plagued them for decades. “I have always experienced severe allergies not only during the hay fever season, but all year round,” says Judy Mezen. After trying Mani’s pollen and honey, she decided to give up he antihistamines ‘cold turkey’ and only use the pollen and honey, supplemented during the strongest part of the season with freeze-dried stinging nettle. “Beginning with day one, I was successful,” she says, “All I have to do is take a small pinch of the pollen and about a teaspoon (or less) of honey and within about 5-10 minutes I can breathe clearly, and it even takes away my sinus headaches. I have been able to do weeding in my garden and even mow the lawn.”

Bee4ever Apiary’s Raw Honey and Bee Pollen are available in the second aisle of the Yelm Food Co-op.

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What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

What Breaking $2 Million Means for Co-op Members

millionManager Debbie Burgan on Loyalty, Passion and Why Numbers Matter

Debbie Burgan believes that Co-op members want to support the store – they may just not know how. Information, says the Yelm Co-op Manager, was a key to breaking $1 million in sales after less than ten years of operation. “It was important to make our members aware of what we were trying to do,” she says. “Once Tina Maggio made a sign showing our goal, they stepped up and did more.”

Burgan has been a key player with the Co-op since its beginning back in 2005. “There was so much passion to open this store,” she says. “We literally opened it up on  a wing and a prayer. We knew it was going to work. In the first few years, we had so little, just a lot of customers who wanted the store as much as we did. We still have that customer base.”

Expanding that base is a key for the Co-op to hit the next target. Breaking the $2 million threshold would be the first step in allowing the store to apply for membership with the National Grocers Cooperative Association, which would provide multiple benefits, including buying power. “If we can get the buying power that other co-ops have, our buying structure changes,” says Burgan. “That benefit would get passed on to our members.”

“I don’t think it will take us long to hit the second million,” she says. “We just need more of our members to show support by spending 80% of their grocery dollars with us.”  Right now, a core of approximately 200+ members are doing exactly that. Were that number to double, the additional revenue would make a lot of improvements possible, such as a deli section.

Doing the numbers comes easily to Burgan, who came to the Co-op after wrapping up a corporate career in the software industry. “I wanted to find a place where I could take the best of corporate structure and the best of what people wanted for the Co-op and bring them together,” she says.  Here’s one more number she has in mind: “I want to see six cash registers at the Co-op and they’re all busy.”

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Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

Ice Chip Grannies’ Other Company Adds Humor to Health

ice chip granniesBefore Ice Chips Candy, before Shark Tank, before Beverly Vines-Haines and Charlotte Clary were the ‘Ice Chip Grannies’, there was Healing Leaf. This original line of all-natural salves was one of the first companies created by Vines-Haines and Clary (aka ‘the grannies’), and is still close to their hearts. “Healing Leaf is a perfect reflection of our goal to create natural and safe skin care products,” says Vines-Haines.

Their first invention was created as a way to help a friend who was suffering from a severe fungal infection. “He was an Air Force pilot who had served three tours in Vietnam and often had to wear heavy boots for days at a time. So we formulated an anti-fungal salve, went out and bought the ingredients, and cooked their invention up on Charlotte’s stove,” says Vines-Haines.  They mailed it off to their friend and eventually they heard from him that it worked.

From there, they went on to create a slew of products bearing creative names like Zappa Zit (acne solution), Splat! (Food Stain Remover) and Ahhh . . .  (muscle relief). The Yelm Co-op currently carries Sandal Toes (Nail Fungus Solution), Skin Wizard (Skin Care Solution), Massage in a Bottle (Extreme Joint Pain Relief ), and Psoria-Cease (Psoriasis Solution), which tends to fly off the shelves.  They are all non-GMO and are not petroleum based, unlike many skin care lines. “Often people forget products placed on their skin or scalp are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and circulating through their bodies,” says Vines-Haines.

While Ice Chips takes up much of their time, “we intend to continue our focus on natural products whenever possible,” says Vines-Haines. “We have employees who are well trained in making our skin care products and they often give us ideas and suggestions. Charlotte and I have many ideas we hope to implement in the future and our health and beauty aid line has a bright future.”

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