Farmer Direct Organic is Raising the Bar for All Organic Products


With more than 80% of U.S. consumers purchasing organic food on a regular basis, the industry continues to surge in popularity, and there are more organic brands – and choices – than ever.

Yet, when one takes a deeper look at what is happening behind the scenes, the picture is rather unsettling. Most notably, the farmers are suffering beyond imagination.

According to the USDA, projected 2019 median farm income was expected to be -$1,636, and a majority of farmers are forced to earn off-farm income to feed their families and keep their farms afloat.

Canada-based Farmer Direct Organic, a certified organic producer of grains, seeds and legumes, is acutely aware of this problem and is making it a cornerstone of the company’s operating philosophy.

“Having seen first-hand the challenges farmers face, Farmer Direct Organic is dedicated to supporting family scale, organic, regenerative farming through transparency and by paying farmers based on the true cost of production. We believe this investment in sustainable agriculture is not only a moral imperative but is scientifically proven to be the best hope society has to mitigate climate change,” said Jason Freeman, Founder and General Manager of Farmer Direct Organic.

Along with the transparency that it provides to its family farmers, the company offers an unprecedented level of visibility to its customers.

On the back of every Farmer Direct Organic package features a string of fourteen numbers and three dashes. These numbers track each product from the farm to the shelf, when each lot was harvested, how it was processed and packaged, and even which field it was grown on.

With the exception of its oats, which are sourced from a group of organic farmers, the company is deeply committed to single-origin lots.

This means hemp seeds, for example, are not collected from 10 different farms and combined into one container to full its bags of product. No comingling ever takes place, which allows for each package to be traceable back to a single farm. This also helps to eliminate fraud, a major issue in the organic industry when it comes to grains.

Additionally, Farmer Direct Organic is an early participant in a third-party certification program called Tested Clean.

Tested Clean utilizes a method of precisely measuring pesticide levels in food and makes sure that glyphosate and other chemicals are not present in the company’s products. Although glyphosate is prohibited in organic, it has found its way into the organic food supply chain, something that poses a tremendous problem for consumers.

As a result, a growing number of organic brands, such as Farmer Direct Organic, are taking it upon themselves to rigorously test their certified organic products for pesticides, a job that the USDA does not do itself. Despite the added cost of time and money, this only ensures a higher quality, safer product for shoppers.

The fact that the company has gone to these lengths to ensure that its products are of maximum safety and quality has not gone unnoticed by industry buyers.

“We are in a constant search for best, most cutting-edge organic products and companies that are doing the right thing by consumers. That is why we started selling Farmer Direct Organic, and the feedback from our customers has been fantastic. So much so that we will be expanding with the company in a bigger and more exciting way this coming crop season,” said Dwight Richmond, Director of Center Store, Merchandising at The Fresh Market, an organic and natural supermarket chain with locations in 22 states.

Farmer Direct Organic is truly raising the bar when it comes to delivering fair and transparent organic products to the marketplace.

Needless to say, this is industry leadership at its finest.

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Regenerative Organic Certification — Why You Need to Know About it


If you are a consumer or participant in the organic industry, something new is set to hit the marketplace that you absolutely want to know about, and it is called the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC).

Started by three organizations — Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s and Rodale Institute — the certification aims to raise the bar for what organic represents.

But contrary to what one might believe, it is not a substitution for the USDA organic seal. Instead, it adds onto the USDA organic seal and is referred to as an “add-on” label. The USDA organic seal is a requirement, or a baseline, in order for a company to receive the ROC certification.

With the official launch of ROC right around the corner, I decided to speak with Elizabeth Whitlow, the Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, the non-profit that started and oversees ROC.

Max Goldberg: Why was ROC formed and what are you hoping to accomplish with this new certification?

Elizabeth Whitlow: The Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA) was created because our world is facing big issues right now, both environmentally and socially, and regenerative organic agriculture has the potential to address both of them.

It is our goal to create the highest organic standard in the world, and we are not out to replace the USDA organic seal. We want to keep organic strong and add the critical social requirements, along with more robust soil/land management and animal welfare practices.

The unfortunate reality is that industrial, pesticide-intensive agriculture and the factory farming of animals (CAFOs) are top contributors to climate change, and our conventional farming system has degraded our soil to dangerous levels around the world. Additionally, farmers and farmworkers are often exploited by those trying to cut a profit above all else, and rural economies in the U.S. and across the globe are suffering.

(Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance)

It is imperative that we change our food and fiber systems, with regenerative organic becoming the new model. If this happens, we will see serious improvements to soil health and the well-being of animals, farmers, workers and the climate itself.

MG: Please explain the certification and its different levels.

EW: ROC certifies agricultural products (food, fiber and botanicals) and all ROC-certified brands must have obtained USDA organic certification. ROC then adds additional criteria on top of the USDA organic seal to make sure farmers are actively building soil health, using animals in concert with nature to enhance the land, caring for animal welfare, and treating their workers fairly.

There are three levels to ROC: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Farms and brands qualify for different levels based on certain criteria that they are able to meet. Gold is very difficult to achieve – on purpose — but we should look to Gold-certified farms as models for how to achieve a more regenerative system in the future.

MG: ROC has been operating a pilot project over the last year. Where are you with that and when you are set to launch with ROC-certified products into the marketplace?

EW: In 2019, we conducted a pilot with 19 farms and brands in seven countries. The farms produced everything from dairy products, mangoes, cereal grains and more. We wanted to represent as many sectors of agriculture as possible.

Several farms and brands that participated in the pilot are ready to receive certification, which is really exciting! There should be at least a half dozen ROC products on the market within the next few months.

And for those people who will be at Natural Products Expo West, they can come see the showcase of ROC products at the Organic Pavilion on Wednesday, March 4th from 11AM-4PM.

Fortunately, there has been overwhelming interest from farms and brands, particularly in the fiber sector and from retailers. Businesses recognize that customers want to purchase products that support their values more than ever.

With so much demand for ROC, we are now actively working to build the infrastructure to support this demand. Fortunately, we’ve already got four stellar certifiers and a team of trained auditors onboarded. We are aiming to have 100 ROC-certified operations by the end of 2020. Stay tuned!

MY TAKE

As someone who has been writing about the organic food industry for the past decade, ROC has the potential to become the most disruptive initiative that I have ever covered. Why?

Because I believe that ROC will become the new gold standard in organic, replacing the USDA organic seal.

Not only is ROC elevating the bar for what organic represents, but the certification will not permit hydroponics or ‘factory farms,’ two of the most controversial aspects in organic.

The USDA currently allows hydroponics in organic, even though it is a complete violation of Section 6513 of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Furthermore, the USDA has received tremendous criticism for turning a blind eye to and not cracking down on ‘organic factory farms’.

As Elizabeth Whitlow alluded to above, it will take time for the ROC supply chain to be built out, and there will not be a huge number of ROC-certified products in the marketplace right away.

However, I am already seeing that many organic brands do not want to be left behind — by not having attained ROC certification — especially if consumers begin to fully understand that ROC will be a superior organic product and that it will be more beneficial to the soil, the planet, farmworkers and animals.

Needless to say, ROC is something that I will be closely monitoring and reporting on in the months and years ahead.

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Foodstirs Launches Organic Keto Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix


The reality is that the older we get, the more responsible we become about decreasing our sugar intake.

And while reducing the amount of sugar we consume may be the smart thing to do for our health, it is not always the easiest habit to embrace.

Luckily, there are companies such as Foodstirs — a brand that completely understands the needs of the modern consumer. We want super-clean, organic ingredients that are sustainably-sourced but a product that does not force us to sacrifice taste.

The latest offering from Foodstirs — a keto chocolate chip cookie mix — encompasses all of that and an incredibly low amount of sugar as well.

“Our purpose is to provide spectacular Junk-Free sweet baked goods that are clean, better for you, and delicious. We believe this item is a new way for us to deliver on our purpose and promise to the world,” said Greg Fleishman, the company’s co-CEO and co-founder.

The organic keto chocolate chip cookie mix has 1 gram of added sugar per serving, with a total of 2 net carbs per serving. Not only is the product Non-GMO Project verified, but it is naturally gluten-free due to its use of almond and coconut flours.

Plus, it is super-easy to make — only a few simple steps in the kitchen and you’ll have an organic keto cookie experience in just 25 minutes.

While I have come across other keto chocolate chip cookies in the marketplace, it is hard to find one that is also USDA certified organic. Unfortunately, ketogenic-focused brands ignore the importance of organic far too often.

With this new cookie mix, Foodstirs continues to demonstrate cutting-edge innovation in the baking category while never compromising on taste or the health needs of its customers.

What else can you ask for?

The keto chocolate chip cookie mix has just launched and is available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide through July, in addition to Amazon and Foodstirs.com.

(The three founders of Foodstirs, from l. to r., Galit Laibow, Greg Fleishman, Sarah Michelle Gellar, )

Foodstirs is a sponsor of Living Maxwell.

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