Chefs and students cook up local produce for tastings

By Erika Kosina A grand total of twenty-five local chefs volunteered their time in Nevada County schools for “Tasting Week,” November 3 through 7. These experienced chefs tickled children’s natural curiosity to expand their experience of different foods and flavors, … Continue reading

Powerful winter defenses — beating the bugs, naturally

By James “Slim” Miles Benjamin Franklin really nailed the ideal strategy for avoiding disease when he said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are now well into that time of year when colds and … Continue reading

New fresh foods offered at Nevada Union High School

by Erika Kosina Students appear to be embracing the new menu items, despite the shift from the candy, soda, and french fries that were common in the cafeteria just a few years ago. Students at Nevada Union High School (NU) … Continue reading

Co-op takes action against GMOs

The call to label GMOs is continuing to gain traction across the U.S. You might well ask, what is the Co-op doing about GMOs? Merchandising Policy BriarPatch’s Merchandising Policy lists both “Preferred Criteria” for products we sell, as well as … Continue reading

Community events feature wine, food, and philosophy

Treks for the Mind – A Book Discussion
Monday, September 8, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Tomes / Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters
671 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
Free — everyone is welcome

With Bear Yuba Land Trust’s focus on agriculture, it seemed like a natural to read one of David Mas Masumoto’s lovely books this summer.

David Mas Masumoto works a family farm, growing organic peaches, nectarines, and grapes. When his father has a stroke on the fields of their eighty-acre farm, Masumoto confronts life’s big questions: What do his and his father’s lives mean? What have they lived and worked for?

In “The Wisdom of the Last Farmer,” he tells how to tend growing things, and how to know when to let nature take over, weaving together stories of life and death to reveal age-old wisdom.

With insights full of beautiful, lyrical descriptions on how to nurture both the tangible and intangible, Masumoto’s quiet eloquence reveals how our own destinies are involved in the future of our food, the land, and the farm.

For more information, email or call (530) 272-5994, extension 200.

Nevada City Uncorked
Saturday, September 6, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Nevada City Veterans Hall
$35 in advance, $30 for Wine Club Members of participating wineries, $45 on the day of the event. Tickets include a wine glass, unlimited wine tasting, and five food tickets.

Nevada City Uncorked is a wine and food event that celebrates the agricultural bounty of the Northern Sierra Foothills. A walk-about-town style format includes 20 different venues throughout historic downtown Nevada City. Each venue, whether it is a retail shop, restaurant, or winery tasting room, will include wine tasting and food sampling.

This year’s event features a farm-to-table theme featuring everything from grapes to zucchini, and lots of basil in between. Participating restaurants and caterers will partner with local farmers, transforming fresh materials into delicious dishes.

18 wineries from Nevada and Placer Counties, as well as two local breweries will be pouring their favorite wines and beers. The wineries will be showcasing their newest releases in celebration of the upcoming harvest.

Uncorked is a collaboration between the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vintners Association. For tickets or information, go to or call (530) 265-2692.

Sample the Sierra Farm to Fork Festival
Sunday, August 31, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
Bijou Community Park, South Lake Tahoe
$30 in advance; (775) 588-1728

Sample the region’s best food and wine at this festival, which pairs local farmers with chefs who produce tasting samples, which are then paired with the appropriate wine or brew. The weekend is full of festivities for the whole family including farm tours, winemaker dinners, music, live entertainment, and art; all culminating with a fireworks extravaganza over Lake Tahoe.

Moms against Monsanto

Congratulations to the NC Label GMOs group for winning third place in the July 4 parade in Nevada City. Photo by Tony Finnerty.


Studies show organic foods’ nutritional benefits, plus less exposure to pesticides, hormones, antibiotics

Julie DeHollander

Julie DeHollander, RD is a dietitian nutritionist practicing at Sierra Wellness Nutrition in Grass Valley.

By Julie DeHollander, RD

Organic farming practices are not only beneficial for the environment, but protect our own health as well as the health of future generations. While many studies have shown that organic foods contain more nutrients than their conventional counterparts, many of the health benefits of organic foods are found not in what you are consuming, but what you are not consuming, a list that includes synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial food chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils.

Based on the research, here are some health reasons for buying organic:

Organic farming methods can boost nutritional quality 

The nutritional value of crops varies significantly depending upon the soil quality and conditions. In some studies, organic foods tested higher in the nutrient levels they contained, especially antioxidants. For example, studies have shown higher levels of lycopene, quercetin, and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) in organic tomatoes than are found in conventional tomatoes. And organic blueberries showed significantly higher levels of phenolics and anthocyanins. Other studies have shown higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and lower levels of nitrates in organic crops.

A study published in “The British Journal of Nutrition” concluded that organic crops averaged higher concentrations of antioxidants and lower concentrations of cadmium (a heavy metal that can be toxic at high doses), based on the 342 studies in their analysis.

Studies have also shown that cows raised on organic pastures produce milk with increased levels of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids.  Organic milk also contains less inflammatory omega-6 fats than non-organic milk.

usda logoEating organic foods reduces your exposure to synthetic pesticides  

Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, conventional or organic, can increase one’s lifespan and reduce the risk of multiple chronic diseases. And multiple studies have linked pesticides to health problems such as asthma, diabetes, insulin resistance, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, obesity, food allergies, neurological problems, and low birth weight.

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. Studies have shown that prenatal exposure to several common agricultural pesticides can induce developmental neurotoxicity, and has been associated with developmental delay and autism. Other studies indicate that chronic low-level exposure to OP pesticide may negatively affect children’s neurological functioning, neurodevelopment, and growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued an exhaustive report on pesticide exposure in 2012. Their position includes the statement that “Children’s exposure to pesticides should be limited as much as possible.”

As of 2013, the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that high levels of organophosphate exposure are associated with a number of neurobehavioral problems in farming communities. A very recent study published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” found that prenatal exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of autism and developmental delay. Researchers at UC Davis looked at the correlation between pesticides such as organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delay (DD). They found that proximity to organophosphates at some point during pregnancy was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of ASD, and an even higher level of risk when exposure took place during the 3rd trimester. Children of mothers who were living near pyrethroid insecticide applications just prior to conception or during the third trimester were at greater risk for both ASD and DD. Risk for DD was also increased in mothers living in proximity to the application of carbamate.

A study published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” found that “Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides.” Researchers at Washington State studied elementary school-aged children who consumed a conventional diet. They replaced most of the children’s diet with organic foods for five days. Using urinary biomonitoring, they found that the urinary concentrations of the organophosphorus pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos decreased to almost non-detectable levels almost immediately after the organic diets were introduced, and remained that way until the previous non-organic diet was reintroduced. The authors concluded, “We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposure to the organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production.”

The report of The American Academy of Pediatrics mentioned earlier refers to the Washington study as proof that dietary measures can reduce children’s exposure to harmful pesticides. The authors concluded that “the consumption of organic produce appears to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to OP pesticides.”

Another study, published in the “Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology” found a link between food allergies and pesticide exposure. Researchers found an association between pesticides such as dichlorophenols (DCPs) and the increasing prevalence of food allergies.

Eating organic foods reduces your intake of hormones and antibiotics

A recent study published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” shows that antibiotic use on pig farms could lead to human infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Another reason to avoid foods produced with antibiotics is that beneficial gut bacteria are critical for a healthy immune system. In fact, a new research study published in “Cell Host & Microbe,” suggests that a healthy ecosystem with a strong population of beneficial gut bacteria can help promote resistance to certain diseases.

Things you can do

Eating organic reduces your exposure to certain toxins. If you want to lower your pesticide intake and eating organic is not an option, you can go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list, “The Dirty Dozen,” to learn which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides, and then avoid these foods. Choose from items on their “Clean Fifteen” list instead. Of the 32,000 samples they took, the EWG found the highest amount of pesticide residue in apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, and spinach, while avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas, and onions contained the lowest amounts.

Since we all have accumulated toxins throughout our lives, it is only logical to avoid exposure to toxins in our food — and in our skin care and cleaning products — whenever possible. In addition, an annual comprehensive detox program is a good idea for most people. Many such programs, though, are not effective at dislodging stored toxins and successfully eliminating them, and some can be potentially harmful. It is best to work with a qualified clinician who is familiar with safe and effective approaches to detoxification.

Organic food production uses methods that promote plant, human, and animal health and also promote a sustainable food system. Organic practices preserve the quality of our drinking water, protect the health of farm workers and neighboring communities, and protect our planet and food system for future generations.

Julie DeHollander, RD is a dietitian nutritionist practicing at Sierra Wellness Nutrition in Grass Valley.

Organic: sustainable, transparent, and no GMOs

Regardless of which USDA certified organic label you see on the package, none of the ingredients inside are allowed to contain GMOs.

When it comes to food labels, the USDA Certified Organic seal is the gold standard, and it designates much more than just “pesticide-free food.” The label represents a sustainable, transparent, and ecologically sound system of food production that not only produces abundant, nutritious, delicious food, but also addresses the highly important issue — and one of today’s hottest food topics: genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have never been allowed in certified organic production and remain excluded from organic certification to this day.

Most people interpret the USDA Organic seal as certification of what the food isn’t. After all, organic food isn’t contaminated by toxic pesticides, antibiotics, added hormones, or synthetic fertilizers, and it isn’t irradiated or genetically modified in a lab. Since conventionally farmed and produced foods potentially fall short of one or all of these standards, the best way to be sure is to look for the USDA Organic seal. The seal, however, also represents a much broader set of positive goals for our food system, which protect the land and our right to know what is in our food.

Organic agriculture is sustainable

At its best, organic production uses sustainable practices that, once established, are relatively self-perpetuating, long-term solutions. These practices include:

Building healthy soil, naturally. This is done through composting, green manure cover crops, crop rotation, and other time-honored methods. Organic farmers have no need for synthetic fertilizers that can pollute our water supply.

Using biological methods to control pests. Pest management can be achieved by maintaining native plants as habitats for pollinators and beneficial predatory insects that prey upon common pests.

Maintaining humane conditions for livestock. Plenty of fresh air and space to roam means animals are healthier and farmers don’t need to rely on daily doses of antibiotics to keep them well.

Organic systems are transparent

Today, most food travels many miles and changes hands multiple times before it reaches the store, making it hard to know what it has actually been subjected to. Not so for organic foods. Products that bear the USDA Organic seal have a fully transparent production and delivery record known as an “audit trail,” which is documented, inspected, and evaluated by third-party organic certifying agents every year.

What’s more, many countries participate in equivalency programs that coordinate organic certification requirements internationally. This means that for a food product imported to the United States to be labeled as organic, there must be international documentation that certifies that its production adhered to at least the same standards as products bearing the USDA Organic seal. In fact, these products often meet an even higher standard. There are also international certifying agents who use the same criteria world-wide that meet or improve upon these certification standards.

Organic is non-GMO

GMOs are plants or animals created through the process of genetic engineering. The organic standards exclude products that include genetically engineered components. Genetic engineering conflicts with the basic philosophy of organic farming, which works in harmony with natural biological systems in order to produce healthy food.

Because GMO crops are prevalent in the U.S. food supply (173 million U.S. acres in 2012), organic farmers must take extra steps to ensure that their crops are not inadvertently contaminated by GMOs. These efforts are verified by their inspectors each year. The methods used include buying non-GMO seeds from reputable distributors and testing them before planting, timing their planting to prevent cross-pollination with neighboring GMO crops, preserving a buffer zone of uncultivated land around the farm’s perimeter, and documented cleaning of farm equipment. The USDA conducts periodic residue testing to further verify that organic foods do not contain prohibited substances, including GMOs.

Certified organic, the gold standard

Regardless of which USDA certified organic label you see on the package (“100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients”), none of the ingredients inside are allowed to be GMOs. On the other hand, food bearing only a non-GMO label or claim is not making any other assurances about how it was produced. The organic seal is the gold standard of food labels.

From the National Cooperative Grocers Association, a founding sponsor of the National Organic Coalition, which advocates for the preservation of strong organic standards, and a partner of the Just Label It campaign for mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

Choose positive practices for feeding children…even your pickiest eaters

by Julie DeHollander, RD Parents of toddlers and preschool-aged children often describe their child as a “picky eater.” This can often turn the dinner table into a battleground. During the toddler and preschool years, a child’s rate of growth is … Continue reading