Beating Whole Foods at Its Own Game

An urban PCC Natural Market (left) and a suburban Whole Foods (right), in Seattle
(Click on either image for a larger view)

A major slow down at Whole Foods is no surprise. Last quarter’s sales growth for Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) slowed to 3.6 percent at stores nationwide, much lower than the 5.3 percent gain some analysts had predicted.

Neck in neck for some time with Puget Sound’s PCC Natural Markets (the largest and one of the oldest food cooperatives in the nation), the corporate structure of “whole” just couldn’t match the cooperative foundation of “real,” at least as far as good food principles.

Read how PCC is Beating Whole Foods at Its Own Game.


I Don’t Raise Beef, I Manage a Pasture and Raise Grass

Brian Goldhahn, ranch manager and owner of C-5 Organics, will tell you right out, “I don’t raise beef cattle, I manage a pasture and raise grass. Good grass makes good beef.” The assortment of grasses, legumes, and other plants Goldhahn raises looks like a cow’s idea of a gourmet salad bar.

By finishing his cattle that are ready for market on fields of especially sweet grass, C-5 grass-fed beef has just the right amount of fat and marbling to give it excellent flavor.

Brian not only nurtures his cattle, he nurtures the soil that feeds his pasture. And good grass makes good beef – and good soil!


If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Try To Fix It!

As they say (more or less): “inquiring consumers want to know…” GoodFood World recently received a comment from a reader that made it clear consumers are concerned – and confused – about genetically engineered foods being developed and brought to market.

To help answer our reader’s questions, we spoke to Keith Mathews, CEO of FirstFruits of Washington, marketing arm of Broetje Orchards near Yakima WA.

He gives us details on how organic apples are grown, non-browning varieties of apples developed using traditional breeding methods that are already on the market, and the dedication of apple growers and breeders to bring the healthiest and best-tasting apples to market without genetic engineering. Read the whole story here and listen to our interview with Keith.


Food, First Hand in Cameroon

Africa remains the last bastion of biodiversity and an expansive food cultural that stretches the imagination. Food is a key part of its history, where culinary practices are integral to understanding its people and necessary for its long term social, economic, and environmental success. And where grain and flour are as important as they are here in the US.

Making pasta

In 2007, Antonio Re, a GoodFood World contributor, traveled to Cameroon as a health volunteer at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Shisong, where he experienced local food and local production in a system that is at risk. He also discovered that preparing and sharing food creates lasting bonds.

Antonio – Italian by birth – taught his hosts the art of making fresh pasta, a simple dish that requires only flour and eggs, and a passion for cooking. The flour was grown locally and purchased from a local market, and the eggs came from a nearby chicken coop.

Together they prepared the pasta in a “bush kitchen,” an open space that looked out on the garden and behind were palms and eucalyptus trees. The flour and eggs made a dough that could be cut and shaped and cooked easily even in an outdoor kitchen.

Learn more about Antonio’s travels to Africa and how he ate food that never traveled more than a mile to the table in Food, First Hand in Cameroon.


Building Local Economies With a Global Reach

Devon Peña, Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington, has been writing about the Mexican Dispora and its affect on people, culture, and economy.

Mendoza's Mexican MarketIn the contemporary context, there is an awful lot of hand-wringing over the evils of globalization. I can certainly understand and share opposition to corporate-led globalization of our manufacturing and food systems. However, there is also a phenomenon that I like to characterize as globalization from below or “glocalization.” This involves movements of people and their social and cultural capital rather than the flows of finance capital and large-scale assembly line factories.

Glocalization is part of the new Mesoamerican Diasporas. The number of Latina/o owned and operated farms was increasing at a dramatic pace, many of these farmers are Mexicans, and a good portion is people from indigenous backgrounds. Transborder migrants are also playing a key role by revitalizing and extending the reach of urban agriculture to help inner city communities attain food autonomy.

Read Part One of the Mexican Diaspora Chronicles.


The Disconnect

Organically grown, local, whole, affordable, planetary stewardship, food justice, sustainably farmed, humanely raised and slaughtered, slow cooked and seasonally eaten, nutritionism, vegan, healthy lifestyle – these are just some of the words that come to mind around the conversation of How, What, When, and Where we eat these days. There is so much to talk about, and these words do not exist in isolation from one another.

In the aisles at Costco. (Photo credit: edeytan/flickr, used with permission under Creative Commons license.)

Many of them however seem light years away from these: obesity, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, fast food, 24/7 shopping, pre-packaged, fried, salted, supersized, processed, preserved, nutritionless, agrifarmed, food stamps, and subsidized school lunches.

After decades of bombarding us with advertisements for prepared, packaged, and processed food because it is quick, cheap, and tasty, the media is now telling us that we need to eat healthier, do our own cooking, eat a vegetarian diet, especially one that includes fish (Pescetarian?)… What’s a mom/dad/kid/cook to do?

Ina Denburg, our Healthy Eating contributor, has some help for us all: “The more each one of us unplugs from the mainstream highway of what our garbage culture wants to feed us, the faster it collapses as we build stronger alternative routes. We can do it, we must do it, for ourselves and for each other.”

In a day and age of being “connected,” we are ironically a disconnected society: our heads from our bodies, our bodies from our food, our food from its source – the source being our planet. Read these three critical pieces in which Ina offers a plan and a process for us to reconnect with good food and good health: The Disconnect, Tough Love for Good Food, and Oasis in Aisle 6.


Traveling the Lentil Underground

Lentil-UndergroundOne more stop on the Lentil Underground, Seattle’s Town Hall hosted Liz Carlisle, author of the book Lentil Underground, and farmer/businessman David Oien, CEO and co-owner of Timeless Seeds/Timeless Natural Food, as they work their way across the US introducing – and reintroducing – consumers and chefs to these amazing little seeds.

A struggling bunch of small farmers, the Timeless “boys” experimented with varieties of legumes that improve soil by making atmospheric nitrogen available to crop plants and settled on lentils as a plant that would not only improve the soil but would improve the livelihoods of the farmers growing it.

They investigated the wonders of lentils, and demonstrated to skeptics that they enrich the soil, create their own fertilizer, and thrive with little moisture. Today Timeless Seeds is a million dollar enterprise selling seed grown by dozens of farmers.

It’s all in Traveling the Lentil Underground.