WBEZ | organic farming http://www.wbez.org/tags/organic-farming Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en If big food buys your favorite 'natural' food brand, will you trust it? http://www.wbez.org/news/if-big-food-buys-your-favorite-natural-food-brand-will-you-trust-it-113303 <p><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gettyimages-175262665-6ac2b4aa49caa790062473b67afb2a0f887371b4-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 449px; width: 600px;" title="Perdue, the poultry giant, acquired the Niman Ranch name and reputation of raising animals without antibiotics in September. (John Greim/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)" /></div><div><p>Big food companies are buying up small ones.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/honest-tea">Honest Tea</a>&nbsp;is now part of Coca-Cola. The French company Danone controls&nbsp;<a href="http://www.stonyfield.com/">Stonyfield</a>&nbsp;yogurt. Hormel owns&nbsp;<a href="http://www.applegate.com/">Applegate</a>natural and organic meats.</p><p>The Cornucopia Institute has put together a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cornucopia.org/who-owns-organic/">poster</a>&nbsp;that shows the full extent of the merger wave, at least for the organic industry. In the latest deal, announced a few weeks ago, Perdue Farms, a big poultry producer based in Maryland,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-08/perdue-farms-to-buy-natural-food-holdings-from-lnk-partners">bought</a>&nbsp;Niman Ranch, which started as an idealistic group of farmers protesting against companies like Perdue.</p><p>For shoppers who like their food natural, local and organic, though, these deals can be unsettling. Will they still trust a food brand if someone else now owns it?</p><div id="res447255015"><div><div>As it happens, some of the founders of those companies wonder the same thing.</div></div></div><div id="res447255033"><div><div>Take these three: Bill Niman, Gene Kahn and Grant Lundberg. Niman started Niman Ranch, Kahn founded<a href="http://www.cascadianfarm.com/">Cascadian Farm</a>, a pioneer of organic food and Grant Lundberg is CEO of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lundberg.com/">Lundberg Family Farms</a>, which sells organic rice.</div></div></div><p>Each of these companies started with its own vision of a better way to grow food. &quot;For us, the innovation was raising animals without the use of pharmaceuticals and chemicals,&quot; Niman says.</p><p>At roughly the same time, in the early 1970s, Gene Kahn started a back-to-the-land experiment that turned into a business. &quot;I became enamored by the whole notion of agriculture, and farming, and improving the environmental performance of agriculture,&quot; he says. Grant Lundberg&#39;s grandparents, for their part, were influenced by the trauma of the Dust Bowl. &quot;Remembering some of those experiences, they started to farm a little different from their neighbors,&quot; Lundberg says.</p><div id="res447253609" previewtitle="A grilled Niman Ranch pork chop. Perdue Farms, a big poultry producer based in Maryland, bought Niman Ranch in September."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A grilled Niman Ranch pork chop. Perdue Farms, a big poultry producer based in Maryland, bought Niman Ranch in September." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/09/7146901015_b36a19c56e_o_sq-e2fa29ca1f738d59fee751316c8ef32ece59a80c-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 250px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" title="A grilled Niman Ranch pork chop. Perdue Farms, a big poultry producer based in Maryland, bought Niman Ranch in September. (Ego Faylona/Flickr)" /></div><div><p>In addition to a vision, though, these companies had ambition. They wanted to expand, and they did, riding a wave of demand for humanely raised meat, organic fruit and organic rice.</p></div></div><p>That&#39;s when big, conventional, food companies started calling with marriage proposals.</p><p>&quot;We have offers a lot,&quot; Lundberg says. &quot;They want to explore, they want to talk about the idea of purchasing, or making an investment in the company.&quot;</p><p>So these founders (or, in the case of the Lundberg family, the grandchildren of the founders) all faced a choice. Should they sell? Would it be selling out?</p><p>Gene Kahn, from Cascadian Farm, can&#39;t stand that phrase, &quot;because it&#39;s so akin to selling out your soul to the devil.&quot;</p><p>He says that&#39;s it&#39;s not that simple. Part of the pitch that the big companies typically make involves a promise to expand the company&#39;s vision, converting more land to organic farming, or raising more animals without hormones and drugs.</p><p>&quot;Who do you want to work with, if you&#39;re really committed to improving agriculture?&quot; Kahn asks. &quot;Who is it that you want to talk [to]? Do you want to just talk to yourself? Or do you want to talk to the people who control all the acres?&quot;</p><p>None of these food idealists have anything against the sheer size of big food companies, by the way. They agree: Big can be good. Efficiency makes food affordable.</p><p>&quot;You&#39;re a cynic if you say only small companies can ... have values, aren&#39;t you?&quot; Lundberg says. &quot;Somehow you have to believe that size doesn&#39;t matter.&quot;</p><p>Each founder, however, has pursued a different path.</p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_9907130661.jpg" style="float: right; height: 210px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="In this Tuesday, July 13, 1999 photo, half gallons of Organic Cow milk sit on the shelf of a grocery store in Williston, Vt. The H. P. Hood Company sold its' Vermont-based subsidiary to the Colorado-based company, Horizon, the largest distributor of organic food products in the country. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)" /><p>The Lundberg family has spurned all offers. Grant Lundberg says that his company doesn&#39;t really need investors. And if you sell, he says, there&#39;s no way to make sure that the name Lundberg Family Farms &quot;would continue to represent that commitment to the environment, producing high-quality food.&quot;</p><p>Gene Kahn, though, sold Cascadian Farm to one of the biggest food companies in America: General Mills. That was 15 years ago.</p><p>He says it&#39;s worked out really well. &quot;They&#39;ve not only preserved the ethics and the whole vision of the company, they&#39;ve improved it,&quot; he says.</p><p>Bill Niman, meanwhile, has complicated feelings about the recent sale of Niman Ranch to Perdue.</p><p>&quot;Right now, I feel pretty good about it,&quot; he says. Niman has some emotional distance, by now, to the company that he founded. He actually left Niman Ranch eight years ago.</p><p>&quot;The important thing is that Perdue is very capable of adhering to the same kind of standards for treating animals better, and treating farmers more respectably,&quot; he says.</p><p>In fact, Perdue may be forced to follow that way of operating, Niman says. The poultry giant just spent a lot of money for the Niman Ranch name and reputation. It wouldn&#39;t want to ruin that asset, he says.</p><p>But Niman still worries that the new owners will just try to maintain that reputation through marketing, with slogans that don&#39;t mean much. &quot;These bigger outfits have a lot of marketing power, and they&#39;re able to spin things and create confusion in the marketplace, which is a little bit frightening for me.&quot;</p><p>He admits that he doesn&#39;t feel the same about Applegate products, now that Hormel owns it. He doesn&#39;t buy Stonyfield yogurt anymore. He says he just doesn&#39;t trust the new owners quite as much.</p><p>To keep that trust, big food companies may have to do more than buy a brand. They may need to show skeptical consumers that they&#39;re sticking with the principles of that company&#39;s founders.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/12/445005485/if-big-food-buys-your-favorite-natural-food-brand-will-you-trust-it?ft=nprml&amp;f=445005485" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 12 Oct 2015 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/if-big-food-buys-your-favorite-natural-food-brand-will-you-trust-it-113303 Global Activism: High quality coffee sold in America helps Haitian farmers http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-09/global-activism-high-quality-coffee-sold-america-helps-haitian-farmers-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-09/1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Based in the city of Baraderes, Haiti, the organization <a href="http://www.justhaiti.org/" target="_blank">Just Haiti</a> works with Haitian farmers who produce high quality, organic, Arabica coffee. Just Haiti then markets and sells this coffee to consumers in the United States. The profits from the coffee then go back to the Haitian growers and the community of Baraderes.</p><p>Kim Lamberty, the woman who stated Just Haiti, tells <em>Worldview</em> the story behind the organization.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>To hear more stories of people making a difference, check out the </em>Global Activism<em> <a href="http://wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">page</a>, where you can also suggest a person or organization for the series. Or, email your suggestions to <a href="mailto:worldview@wbez.org">worldview@wbez.org</a> and put “Global Activism” in the subject line. Also, don't forget to subscribe to the <a href="episode-segments/2012-01-12/wbez.org/podcasts" target="_blank">podcast</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Feb 2012 16:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-09/global-activism-high-quality-coffee-sold-america-helps-haitian-farmers-9 The 2012 Farm Bill opens up for debate http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-09/farm3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Once every five years, Congress negotiates a new version of the Farm Bill, which plays a defining role in how we eat. This single piece of legislation sets the agenda for five years of government spending on food, impacting everything from food assistance programs to school lunches, crop subsidies, organic farming and conservation. Farmers in the U.S. and around the world follow the bill with rapt attention, as U.S. subsidies are a make or break economic issue for many.</p><p><em>Worldview</em> discusses what might and might not make it into the 2012 legislation with <a href="http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Marion_Nestle" target="_blank">Marion Nestle,</a> professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. She writes the blog <em><a href="http://www.foodpolitics.com/" target="_blank">Food Politics</a></em>. Her upcoming book is <em>Why Calories Count: from Science to Politics</em>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jan 2012 16:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388 Palestinian organic farmers gaining access to global market through fair trade http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-04/palestinian-organic-farmers-gaining-access-global-market-through-fair-tr <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-04/palestine1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Palestine has a small but strong community of sustainable farmers who harvest olive oil, honey, almonds, tahini, cous cous and more. But year after year, politics complicates the harvest. Palestine’s isolation from the world makes it hard for these farmers to fully take part in the growing organic food movement.</p><p>Vivien Sansour represents the <a href="http://www.palestinefairtrade.org/" target="_blank">Palestine Fair Trade Association</a>. She's also the promotions manager for an olive farmer’s collective in the country called <a href="https://www.canaanusa.com/" target="_blank">Canaan Fair Trade</a>. She tells <em>Worldview</em> what life is like for Palestinian farmers.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-04/palestinian-organic-farmers-gaining-access-global-market-through-fair-tr Global Activism: Local student starts organic farming in China http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-22/global-activism-local-student-starts-organic-farming-china-92337 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-22/china1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Every Thursday on <em><a href="http://wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">Global Activism</a></em>, we hear about an individual who's trying to make the world a better place.</p><p>In China, food safety is a serious issue.&nbsp; Minxu Zhang is a Chinese student from Lake Forest College, who was in her home country this summer to establish a direct line of purchase between Chinese organic farmers and consumers. She started an organization called <a href="http://www.ecobitechina.com/index.asp" target="_blank">EcoBite</a>, which attempts to make Chinese consumers aware of risky food production practices. EcoBite connects small farmers with consumers in order to cut out the middle man and reduce the costs associated with healthy food.</p></p> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 16:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-22/global-activism-local-student-starts-organic-farming-china-92337