Thursday, January 29, 2009

Support local agriculture!

We live in a region full of amazing local vegetable options. While I do know it's winter, and the farmer's markets are closed, it's time to start considering joining a CSA or planning your vegetable garden.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Farmers sell shares of their harvest to the community prior to the actual harvest. By purchasing a share, people become members, or shareholders of the CSA. This allows farmers to support their families during the growing season, rather than having to wait until selling their harvest. Once it's harvest season, shareholders receive weekly baskets brimming with vegetables, flowers, fruits, or other items that the CSA grows. There are a number of CSAs available to us in Humboldt. During the 2008 year, we were members of Pierce Family Farm up in Orleans, CA. The amount of vegetables we received was amazing and even allowed us to freeze some for the winter. Weekly bundles of basil ensured pesto and tomatoes were made into salsa and spagetti sauce. Summer squash, peppers, onions, garlic, strawberries, carrots and peaches quickly eaten up. I looked forward to loading the kids in the bike seat & carrier to pick up our share, always wondering what amazing organic vegetables I'd find waiting for me.

I'm not entirely sure if the CSAs are accepting members at this time, but I do know that they fill up very quickly! The local CSAs are:
Pierce Family Farm
Orleans, with a pickup spot in Eureka and Arcata
(530) 627-3320
Serving: Northern Humboldt County
Membership: 16 weekly pickups for $320-$350 sliding scale (accepting $10 Community Currency)
to learn more about Community Currency check out Democracy Unlimited Humboldt Exchange system.

Arcata Educational Farm
Old Arcata Road
Arcata, CA 95521
825-1777 (at the Farm) or 822-4623 (Sarah)
Serving: Northern Humboldt County
Membership: 22 weekly pick-ups, sliding scale $400-$450 ($18-$20 a week)
$50 deposit to secure your spot

Redwood Roots Farm
P.O. Box 793
Arcata, CA 95518
(707) 826-0261
Serving: Hydesville to Trinidad and everywhere in between
Membership: 5 months plus winter u-pick crops available, $400-500/share, sliding scale

Green Fire Farms
Hoopa Valley
Pickup in Eureka or Arcata
Membership:25 weeks, June 2 - November 23, $475-$525 sliding scale ($19-21/week)
click here for more information.

If you're concerned that you won't be able to eat a whole share, e-mail Democracy Unlimited and they can hook you up with others that are wanting to share.

Also be sure to check out the amazing local, organic produce selection at the North Coast Co-op. You can find their weekly local produce specials online.

Then starting in April, the North Coast Growers Association will begin another season of Farmers Markets. They sponsor FM are FM in McKinleyville, Arcata, and Eureka. A list of markets and their times can be found on the NCGA website. There's also a FM in Trinidad (May - September)and Fortuna (May - Oct)

Supporting local farmers through CSAs, the Co-op or Farmers Markets is one way to decrease your carbon footprint, dependancy on corporate agriculture and fossil fuels.

In my next post I'll start discussing growing your own vegetables and the local resources. If you're interested in organic gardening, be sure to sign up for Eddie Tanner's organic gardening class. More information found through HSU's Extended Education

Free photos for websites -

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Making Responsible Food Choices, Part One

(originally posted at McFarland Designs' blog)

As a vegan, it's easy to walk around in a haze of self-congratulatory bliss, feeling proud knowing that your food choices are helping to protect animals, improve your own health, support the planet, and make more food and water resources available to the people of developing nations. Yay you! You're vegan! Everything would be perfect in the world if everyone went vegan, right?

Right? *

Well, not so fast - as it turns out, there are a whole host of problems associated with many staple vegan foods, and several in particular deserve our closer attention. Today I will begin with a discussion of one of our contry's favorite fruits. Watch for three more installments in the coming days or weeks... I have lots to say.

Let's start with bananas.

Did you know that when bananas first became available to US consumers, just after the Civil War, they were considered a luxury item, and were sold wrapped in foil, peeled and pre-sliced to protect those gentile 19th century citizens from embarrassment over the fruit's indiscreet form? (Thought I'd warm you up with a little entertaining banana trivia.)

Anyway, on to the serious stuff... in order to transform bananas from an expensive indulgence into an affordable snack for the masses, large companies (i.e. Dole, as well as the company that has come to be known in modern times as Chiquita), identified Central America as the ideal place to supply us with inexpensive, delicious bananas. Then they proceeded to clear-cut the rich forests of Nicaragua, Columbia, and Guatemala, and transform them into banana plantations.

In addition to the obvious environmental problems associated with clear-cutting native rain forests and shipping bananas thousands of miles from Central America to wherever you happen to reside, other problems have come to light -
  • In the 1950's, Central America's first democratically elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz, was ousted in a US-sponsored coup. His offense? Asking United Fruit (now Chiquita) to pay fair prices for land and obey the Guatemalan constitution.
  • For decades, this kind of intervention in Central American politics has been commonplace as a means for keeping bananas cheap and plentiful. It has also been instrumental in keeping plantation workers overworked and underpaid.
  • As recently as 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million by the US government for giving $1.7 million to a right-wing death squad organization in Columbia.
So what, you ask, is a compassionate gal (or guy) to do? Must we give up our beloved banana-laden breakfast smoothies? Fear not, my friend - fair trade is the answer! By purchasing fair trade bananas, you can rest assured that plantation workers are paid a living wage, receive benefits, job security, and better treatment. Fair trade certified farmers are also more likely to use sustainable, traditional growing methods (whether or not they have yet obtained an organic certification, which can be a difficult and costly process).

Although I find myself wondering - how much can the fair trade certification help in ending the massive deforestation in Central America? I mean, if the demand for bananas remains strong, they are going to continue clear-cutting to make room for more farms, right? Even if the workers are treated better on those farms... so maybe we should give some thought to at least moderately reducing our consumption of bananas overall, in addition to buying fair trade.

* Just to be clear, of course I agree that the world would be a much better place if everyone went vegan right now. But I think it's important to continue to explore food choices, and not just rest on our morally superior laurels while we eat our tofu and nutritional yeast. Agreed?

Most of the information in this post came from the Jan-Feb '09 issue of VegNews magazine (see Food, Inc., beginning on page 40).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why Vegan?

I thought it might be a good idea to break in this brand-spanking-new blog with a discussion about what 'vegan' means, and why one might choose to follow a plant-based diet.

Vegans do not consume anything that comes from an animal. In addition to the obvious (meat), vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, and various other animal byproducts. Many vegans also choose not to purchase products that have been tested on animals (such as personal care items) or wear anything made from animal products, such as leather, wool, and fur.

To many omnivores, this can sound extremely limiting, but in fact, many vegans experience a great expansion in their diet after making this life-affirming decision. Personally, I have broadened my horizons to include a much wider array of nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables than I ever ate before becoming vegan. I've become a much more competent and adventurous cook, and have come to really enjoy knowing what's in the food I'm feeding my family. Also, the variety of commercially available meat and dairy substitutes continues to grow - if you choose to include these items in your diet, you can find vegan hot dogs, lunch meats, various cheeses, milks, yogurts, etc.

While no two vegans are exactly alike, the most common reason for choosing to practice veganism seems to be ethics (i.e. animal welfare or animal rights). Other reasons include personal health, environmental benefits, and concern for worldwide food supplies. I'll briefly discuss each of these reasons and list some resources where you can learn more.

First, let's talk ethics. Whether you are a devoted animal rights activist or an average Joe or Jane, I think the vast majority of us would agree that it's not right to torture animals. Unfortunately, the production of meat, dairy, and eggs (even so-called 'humane' products) is inherently cruel to animals. Modern farms bear little resemblance to the idyllic family-run operations you might imagine when you think about animals raised to meet the desires of human taste buds. Animals raised for food are routinely housed in filthy, crowded cages, subjected to numerous and repeated cruel practices, and slaughtered (usually not painlessly) far short of their natural lifespan.

Two lucky pigs who now live at Farm Sanctuary, safe forever from the horrors of factory farming.

In addition to preventing cruelty to animals, many vegans experience health benefits from their plant based diets. Most Americans do not get enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their diet, and the vegan diet often includes a greater quantity and variety of these healthful foods. Of course, it's also possible to be a 'junk food vegan' and live on white pasta and caramel booty, in which case you are not likely to be quite so healthy!

Climate change and environmental issues have been at the forefront of the news and many citizens' minds lately, and for good reason. If we don't act quickly, both at a governmental level and as individuals, the earth we leave to our children is likely to be a lot more damaged than the one our parents left to us. Did you know that the agriculture sector contributes more to global warming than the transportation sector? It's true; making the change from an omnivorous diet to a vegan one will do more to decrease your carbon footprint than giving up your car. This is largely due to the vast amounts of carbon emissions generated from the farming industry (i.e. animal farts). Livestock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. This is a complicated issue that warrants further discussion, but I'll leave it at that for today.

Finally, veganism is helpful in battling world hunger. It is extremely inefficient to cultivate massive quantities of grains to be fed to animals who will eventually to be killed for meat. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. In theory, if these grain resources were used instead to feed the 840 million hungry people in the world, we could end world hunger.

Blossom, former broiler industry turkey rescued by Farm Sanctuary after an airline cargo disaster, now a permanent member of our family.

In case you'd like to learn more about veganism, I'll leave you with some links so you can do some more reading on your own...

About Veganism - General Information
Free Vegan Starter Kits
Vegetarian Recipe Sites
Online Vegan Stores
Online Vegan Communities

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thanks for visiting...

My name is Bella; I live in Arcata with wonderful cows behind my backyard. I share my home with my husband Orion, our boys - almost four year old Sage, and 19 month old Solan, two cats - Scotty and Tanjaroo, two feral cats - Luna and Mayan, and co-own seven amazing chickens with our neighbor. I've been a vegetarian for almost 13 years, and of those, 3 years were completely vegan. I jumped at the opportunity to bring our family a bit closer to self sustainability by co-owning chickens, thus we aren't completely vegan right now. And I'll admit that we do eat Humboldt Creamery cheese every once and a while, and yes, you may see us at a local pizza joint. I became a vegetarian at the young, rebellious age of 15. I only say rebellious as I was growing up in Nebraska - beef country. The first time I even heard of vegetarianism was from my Californian cousin and after talking to her during a reunion I was hooked. I enjoy watching my children grow, making organic, vegan meals, gardening, learning about sustainability, and trying my hand at various creative endeavors.

We hope you'll bookmark Humboldt Vegans or add us to your favorite blogs and check us out occasionally. We'd love to hear from you!

Nice to meet you...

I thought I ought to take a moment to introduce myself. I'm Tamara; I live in Loleta with my husband and three-year-old son. I make jewelry and take care of our dogs, rats, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. I've been vegan for about seven years (and vegetarian for many years prior to that). Along with Bella (who will introduce herself here soon), I'll be one of the authors of this blog. We'd be happy to have other authors; if you're interested in joining us, let me know!


Welcome to our brand-new blog! We are a group of vegans and aspiring vegans living in Humboldt County, CA. We hope this blog will help promote awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet, as well as serve to bring together a community of like-minded people to enjoy pot lucks, advocacy projects, and whatever else might come up in the future.

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or even just an omnivore who enjoys eating good vegan food, welcome to our new blog, and we hope to meet you in person soon. If you'd like to join our Yahoo group to connect with other members, get to it! If you have any questions, problems, or suggestions for the blog, feel free to contact Tamara.

Check back soon; you can expect to find delicious recipes, information about upcoming events, and lots more.