Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Can lactose intolerant people drink raw milk?

I read an article in Acres USA about the battle in California for the raw milk farmers. There's a rule pending requiring all milk producers to have less than 10 ppm coliform in their milk, which is near impossible for raw milk farmers not to mention they wouldn't want to get it that low. Some coliform is beneficial. Anyway, in the article they claim that there's a study out there showing kids who suffer from lactose intolerance can drink raw milk with no effects. Does anyone know about this study or where to find it? It would be very interesting to find some science behind this claim.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Change we can stomach - repost

Article by Dan Barber published on May 11, 2008 - I really like this one ---

COOKING, like farming, for all its down-home community spirit, is essentially a solitary craft. But lately it’s feeling more like a lonely burden. Finding guilt-free food for our menus — food that’s clean, green and humane — is about as easy as securing a housing loan. And we’re suddenly paying more — 75 percent more in the last six years — to stock our pantries. Around the world, from Cairo to Port-au-Prince, increases in food prices have governments facing riots born of shortages and hunger. It’s enough to make you want to toss in the toque.

But here’s the good news: if you’re a chef, or an eater who cares about where your food comes from (and there are a lot of you out there), we can have a hand in making food for the future downright delicious.

Farming has the potential to go through the greatest upheaval since the Green Revolution, bringing harvests that are more healthful, sustainable and, yes, even more flavorful. The change is being pushed along by market forces that influence how our farmers farm.

Until now, food production has been controlled by Big Agriculture, with its macho fixation on “average tonnage” and “record harvests.” But there’s a cost to its breadbasket-to-the-world bragging rights. Like those big Industrial Age factories that once billowed black smoke, American agriculture is mired in a mind-set that relies on capital, chemistry and machines. Food production is dependent on oil, in the form of fertilizers and pesticides, in the distances produce travels from farm to plate and in the energy it takes to process it.

For decades, environmentalists and small farmers have claimed that this is several kinds of madness. But industrial agriculture has simply responded that if we’re feeding more people more cheaply using less land, how terrible can our food system be?

Now that argument no longer holds true. With the price of oil at more than $120 a barrel (up from less than $30 for most of the last 50 years), small and midsize nonpolluting farms, the ones growing the healthiest and best-tasting food, are gaining a competitive advantage. They aren’t as reliant on oil, because they use fewer large machines and less pesticide and fertilizer.

In fact, small farms are the most productive on earth. A four-acre farm in the United States nets, on average, $1,400 per acre; a 1,364-acre farm nets $39 an acre. Big farms have long compensated for the disequilibrium with sheer quantity. But their economies of scale come from mass distribution, and with diesel fuel costing more than $4 per gallon in many locations, it’s no longer efficient to transport food 1,500 miles from where it’s grown.

The high cost of oil alone will not be enough to reform American agriculture, however. As long as agricultural companies exploit the poor and extract labor from them at slave wages, and as long as they aren’t required to pay the price for the pollution they so brazenly produce, their system will stay afloat. If financially pinched Americans opt for the cheapest (and the least healthful) foods rather than cook their own, the food industry will continue to reach for the lowest common denominator.

But it is possible to nudge the revolution along — for instance, by changing how we measure the value of food. If we stop calculating the cost per quantity and begin considering the cost per nutrient value, the demand for higher-quality food would rise.

Organic fruits and vegetables contain 40 percent more nutrients than their chemical-fed counterparts. And animals raised on pasture provide us with meat and dairy products containing more beta carotene and at least three times as much C.L.A. (conjugated linoleic acid, shown in animal studies to reduce the risk of cancer) than those raised on grain.

Where good nutrition goes, flavor tends to follow. Chefs are the first to admit that an impossibly sweet, flavor-filled carrot has nothing to do with our work. It has to do with growing the right seed in healthy, nutrient-rich soil.

Increasingly we can see the wisdom of diversified farming operations, where there are built-in relationships among plants and animals. A dairy farm can provide manure for a neighboring potato farm, for example, which can in turn offer potato scraps as extra feed for the herd. When crops and livestock are judiciously mixed, agriculture wisely mimics nature.

To encourage small, diversified farms is not to make a nostalgic bid to revert to the agrarian ways of our ancestors. It is to look toward the future, leapfrogging past the age of heavy machinery and pollution, to farms that take advantage of the sun’s free energy and use the waste of one species as food for another.

Chefs can help move our food system into the future by continuing to demand the most flavorful food. Our support of the local food movement is an important example of this approach, but it’s not enough. As demand for fresh, local food rises, we cannot continue to rely entirely on farmers’ markets. Asking every farmer to plant, harvest, drive his pickup truck to a market and sell his goods there is like asking me to cook, take reservations, serve and wash the dishes.

We now need to support a system of well-coordinated regional farm networks, each suited to the food it can best grow. Farmers organized into marketing networks that can promote their common brands (like the Organic Valley Family of Farms in the Midwest) can ease the economic and ecological burden of food production and transportation. They can also distribute their products to new markets, including poor communities that have relied mainly on food from convenience stores.

Similar networks could also operate in the countries that are now experiencing food shortages. For years, the United States has flooded the world with food exports, displacing small farmers and disrupting domestic markets. As escalating food prices threaten an additional 100 million people with hunger, a new concept of humanitarian aid is required. Local farming efforts focused on conserving natural resources and biodiversity are essential to improving food security in developing countries, as a report just published by the International Assessment of Agriculture Science and Technology for Development has concluded. We must build on these tenets, providing financial and technical assistance to small farmers across the world.

But regional systems will work only if there is enough small-scale farming going on to make them viable. With a less energy-intensive food system in place, we will need more muscle power devoted to food production, and more people on the farm. (The need is especially urgent when you consider that the average age of today’s American farmer is over 55.) In order to move gracefully into a post-industrial agriculture economy, we also need to rethink how we educate the people who will grow our food. Land-grant universities and agricultural schools, dependent on financing from agribusiness, focus on maximum extraction from the land — take more, sell more, waste more.

Leave our agricultural future to chefs and anyone who takes food and cooking seriously. We never bought into the “bigger is better” mantra, not because it left us too dependent on oil, but because it never produced anything really good to eat. Truly great cooking — not faddish 1.5-pound rib-eye steaks with butter sauce, but food that has evolved from the world’s thriving peasant cuisines — is based on the correspondence of good farming to a healthy environment and good nutrition. It’s never been any other way, and we should be grateful. The future belongs to the gourmet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Zen and the art of Entrepreneurship

Article Written for Bootstrap Austin

Everyone has a different idea about what Entrepreneurship is and everyone has different motivations for their desire to be an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur I get a lot of people who approach me to talk about their ideas and the business they want to start. Each one of them, from what I can tell, seems to have different reasons driving them. Some people just seem to be looking for more fulfillment. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone can find the answers they're looking for in starting a business.

What do people seek in entrepreneurship? Why do they want to do their own thing? Many will tell you it's because people want to be their own boss, be in control. But what does that mean? What if you have a great boss? How many people that are being managed well in a position suited to their strengths want to start their own thing? Will they find ways to believe they could do it better? Are some people just never satisfied. Or because they've never experienced a satisfying job with a good team do they think that entrepreneurship must be the way to make them happy? On many levels, wanting to be your own boss and be in control is a really bad reason to start a company.

Starting your own company, especially bootstrapping one, is on a fundamental level creating your own future. Manifesting your own destiny. And yet it's not always the best way to create the future you actually want. It's just a different future and can be just as dissatisfying as a corporate job. If you're not happy where you are there are a thousand ways to change where you are without starting your own company. So how do you know starting your own thing is the way to go?

You first need to take a deep look at what would make you happy. For me, it's about doing something that you love in a company that is aligned with your core values. Money should not matter. The desire for material things in me seems to be more a result of our inundation with marketing messages convincing us we want more stuff than a desire for happiness. The desire for money is a hard one to overcome and is a constant battle. I believe it necessary to remove this from the picture, though, if you are to truly evaluate this objectively and find the most fulfilling path.

I believe the best reason to start your own company is because of all the opportunities in front of you it is the best available option to combine your core values, strengths, and resources into an activity that helps you manifest the first two. This is very ambiguous, intentionally, because it's such fundamental topic. I believe one should put a lot of thought into what makes them happy before considering starting a business. I would highly recommend figuring out your core values and strengths and taking roll of your resources. With these critical tools, all you need to do is look for intersections of your values and strengths with your resources and you've got your best option for a happy, fulfilling career. This may or may not involve starting a company and it may require some creativity. Let's look at an

Many of my core values are now very evident in what I'm doing. My company, Greenling, is trying to help people and the environment. There is a list of our core values plastered on just about every wall in our facility and many of those are my personal values as well. My strengths are in spurring people and things to action, in developing ideas, in pondering the future and what it may hold for me and my company, in working hard to achieve goals, and in helping people focus on what's important (I discovered these through a tool listed below). I think these are fairly well-suited to entrepreneurship.

Many of my core values are rooted in helping the planet. I care very much about Sustainability and improving our environment. My other core values include hard work and dedication, integrity, loyalty, building and respecting lasting relationships. I developed my core values several years ago and when I got married, my wife and I developed our core values as a team and Greenling developed its core values a couple of years ago. It seems cliché or something that is so simple you don't need to pay it attention, but I believe it's incredibly important to vocalize and write these things down. They can make every other decision in your life a little easier by check your options against your values.

My resources were slim when we started, but I had some good friends with additional resources, connections and experience in the local Sustainability scene. You don't need a lot of resources to start a company. You just need to know how to leverage them. If you need resources you don't have, partner with people who do have them. And I think it's just plain easier to start a company in an area where you DO have some resources than to strike out on your own into the blue. And with how hard it is to start a successful business anyway, every advantage helps.

There are many tools for helping you develop your core values. One great one for developing them within a team is Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish.

For finding your strengths there are a couple of really good tools. Strengths Finder & the MRE framework.

Finding your resources just requires, well, resourcefulness. Who do you know? Who do they know? Make a list of family and friends and what they do for work (or personally). Talk to them. Do they like what they do? Are they well-connected in their industry? What do they have influence over? Are they the purchaser for things in their industry? Who do they use to help them do what they do?

With all of these things, you have some great tools for evaluating a new venture. Whether you're starting from scratch or you have this great idea and just need to evaluate if you really want to do it or not, these are the building blocks.

It's no coincidence that when you think about this process, it leads much more easily to a bootstrap model of business than the other two (cookie-cutter business and VC-funded business). If you're starting with something that makes you happy it is most likely not going to be just copying someone else exactly. We all have our own ideas of how to run a business. If you're just reading a manual and following instructions, how likely are you to be following your happiest path? The VC path can seem glamorous and sexy, but remember my point about being motivated by money. As has been demonstrated by Dell, Microsoft, Southwest, there is not a business on the planet that absolutely cannot be bootstrapped. So why would you take VC money? Because it seems to make everything easier. But all money does is put a magnifying glass on everything. If you don't start out of the gates with every detail of your business figured out, you could end up with some huge problems.

Innovation comes from constraints, they say. And not the constraint of someone telling you what to do. So many things were really important, but I couldn't do them all. So I had to pick the most important ones to do first. How do you discern which are most important? Constraints help, however painful they are.

I believe the only way for you to freely manifest your values and strengths in a start-up is through a bootstrap model. Figure out what you love and demo, sell, build. Bootstrapping forced me to look deeper at my business and make sure I was doing the right thing at the right time.

Mason Arnold - Greenling Organic Delivery

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gas used in delivery

So, we occasionally get people who say they don't think a delivery service is very environmentally friendly. Our trucks driving around all day they think is very polluting.

These people have just not thought all the way through the comparison. Polluting compared to what? What we compare it to is each of our customers driving to the grocery store, in particular a natural food grocery store. This comparison leaves out some other neat facts about Greenling, but let's start there. On average in Austin people live 3 miles from a grocery store. This includes all grocery stores. I would say that on average people live 4-5 miles from a Whole Foods/Central Market/Sun Harvest/Wheatsville Coop, if not more. That's 8-10 miles round trip to go to the store.

Greenling trucks leave the warehouse with 60-80 baskets of food in them and drive about 100 miles to deliver all of them. That's 1.25-1.66 miles per delivery. Taking an average of 70 customers, driving to and from the grocery store themselves, that's 560-700 miles total, compared to our 100. So, just looking at the "last mile", or grocery-store-to-the-table, we get your food there with up to 86% less fuel. Amazing! 86% less energy just in the last leg of the food's trip. It's a straight comparison because our vans, completely packed with boxes and with a refrigeration unit blasting STILL get gas mileage as good as the average CAR! over 20 MPG. And I'm guessing there's more than average SUV and truck drivers in Austin, which get worse gas mileage. We get this kind of mileage because we use the most fuel efficient delivery vehicles available in the US, if you were's not common for a delivery company to say that. They were 30% more expensive than the competition, but we're fairing the rising gas prices much better than our competition because of that choice AND to us it was an investment in the planet. It goes beyond the bottom-line...though we keep an eye on that too.

Now, considering we buy more than half of our food locally, that takes about another 1000 miles off the average product's food-mile total. Did you know that often when you buy a locally produced product from the grocery store it is actually shipped from a local producer to a national distributor as far away as Colorado, California, or all the way to the East Coast and then shipped back to your grocery store?! I find it rather disgusting. And it's true. Or, it's produced on the East Coast and shipped to the West Coast for distribution before it's shipped back here to the grocery stores. It's a horrible symptom of scaling distribution up and using mega distribution centers instead of regional ones. Squeeze out some extra profit...or at least with cheap gas it squeezes out extra profit. With fuel prices climbing, regional distribution centers are becoming more competitive with the mega ones.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Organic Trade Association annual conference

this is my 4th year to go and every year I am impressed with the growth. I guess 50% growth each year that I have gone. some really great products are hitting the market and the companies really have some good marketing behind them. And that's good considering the competition the industry has from conventional food and how small the organic market still is compared to conventional food.

One worrisome tone of the conference was the impending supply shortage. There are just not enough organic farmers in the US and there are not enough people converting to organics. On one hand it's hard to believe, considering the incredible opportunities there are. But on the other hand it just seems like a cultural shift as America evolves into a more highly-skilled labor force. It certainly takes skill to grow organically, but not the same type of skill it takes to create nano-machines.

so, this supply shortage will mean rising prices in a slumping economy....not the best combination. some people are going to be turned away by the prices. Lots of people, I think. My only hope is that their opinion of Organics is not tarnished by the prices and when the supply crunch is abated they will return as consumers.

I got to catch up with some of the veterans of the industry. Karen wilcox, who has ushered the OTA into a new era with clout in DC, will be leaving. She did some really hard work and won some much needed concessions in the Farm Bill. Can you believe that right now Organic farmers have to pay a premium for farm insurance? Even though their practices are healthier for the land and they are shown to be more resistant to drought, disease, and pests? Incredible. Also, when Organic farmers do make an insurance claim, they are only reimbursed at the conventional price for the product, not the Organic price. Thanks to Karen, both of these will change. Also, she was able to secure more funding for Organic research.

Lynn Clarkson seems to be getting more involved in politics and less in business. That's good because he seems to really understand what it takes to pitch the Organic message to all sorts of people.

and best of of my favorite little snacks - sour gummi worms - is now available organically. And they're made with fruit puree instead of what seems like plastic. They're awesome.

The conference really invigorated me to keep fighting the good fight. I also attended a Sustainability meeting where industry leaders were addressing how they could not only produce Organic goodness, but do it sustainably. It was great to see this issue being tackled.

and, on the way home, I was on the same plane as Margaret Wittenberg, an incredible industry veteran who has done wonderful things for Whole Foods and who is apparently starting to branch out on her own with a couple of books she's publishing. I hope she let's me buy her coffee or lunch sometime so I can hear more of her story.