Cowspiracy? Why environmentalists won’t advocate for veganism

COWSPIRACY official trailer + Indiegogo from First Spark Media on Vimeo.

The film trailer above is for COWSPIRACY, a sfsfsfffs. The makers of this film are seeking $54,000 to allow themselves to properly market and distribute the film to a large audience. If you are interested making a contribution, here's a link: indiegogo.  If you want to learn more about this film, read the information below.

COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret

COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret, is a groundbreaking feature length environmental documentary, following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. 

This shocking yet humorous documentary will be as eye-opening as "Blackfish" and as inspiring as "An Inconvenient Truth" .

We have been working tirelessly on this film for more than a year, and we are almost done!* We have met major challenges virtually every step of the way because of how controversial this subject is and the secrecy surrounding it, yet we have overcome each hurdle.

We have created this film all on our own, with no support from grants, sponsors, funders, or financial backers. We've put in countless hours researching, investigating, planning, filming, and editing to get to where we are, and spent tens of thousands of dollars of our own money to produce it, but without your help we can only go so far.

Now we need your help in getting the film and its message to the world.

Join us in this campaign and you will be supporting the absolute most important part of this film: getting it seen by the world.

We need you to help us tell the truth about the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet. No other industry compares to the destruction caused by industrialized animal agriculture, yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.

We as a community of conscientious people cannot allow the Earth's ecosystems to be ravaged by this industry’s insatiable appetite for resources. We must take a stand against this massive environmental destruction, even if the large environmental organizations are too afraid to do so themselves.

Together we aren't just creating a movie, we are creating a movement!

What We Need & What You Get

In order to have this film seen by as many people as possible, we need to raise $54,000 to cover the costs of promoting and distributing it. We can create an amazing film (which we have) but unless we can get people to see it, it does us and the planet little good.

Your contribution to this campaign pays for:

-Multi-city theatrical release

-Mastering a Digital Cinema Package (needed for theater screenings) 

-An aggressive PR strategy

-Online target marketing 


-Events to raise awareness

-DVD production


-Legal counsel**

The more we can raise, the further we can promote this important film and ultimately influence change on a mass scale.

Do multivitamins make you healthier?

Some experts say it's time to give up on daily multivitamins to preserve health, but others disagree. What should you do?

If you take a multivitamin, it's probably because you want to do everything you can to protect your health. But there is still limited evidence that a daily cocktail of essential vitamins and minerals actually delivers what you expect. The latest round of studies, published in December in Annals of Internal Medicine, found no benefit from multivitamins in protecting the brain or heart. But some Harvard experts think there is still hope.

"There are potential benefits and there are no known risks at this time," says Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It is worth considering a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle."

In contrast, an editorial published alongside the multivitamin studies urged consumers to "stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements."

Caught between expert opinions, what do you do? Start with asking yourself why you would consider taking a multivitamin. If you suspect your diet is nutritionally lax, focus your efforts there.


What we know so far

Despite all the research on vitamins and health, we have only a handful of rigorous scientific studies on the benefits of what Dr. Sesso calls a "true" multivitamin: a pill that provides essential vitamins and minerals at the relatively low levels that the body normally requires.

The Physicians' Health Study II is the best study completed so far. It was the first and only large-scale randomized clinical trial to test a commonly taken multivitamin like the ones most people take, containing the daily requirements of 31 vitamins and minerals essential for good health.

A large group of male physicians took either a multivitamin or a placebo pill for more than a decade. The results have been mixed, with modest reductions in cancer and cataracts, but no protective effect against cardiovascular disease or declining mental function. Is it safe?

Multivitamin advocates point to the lack of any strong proof that taking a multivitamin for many years is dangerous. But Dr. Eliseo Guallar, one of those who panned multivitamins in the Annals editorial, emphasizes that lack of evidence that multivitamins are harmful doesn't mean they're safe. We simply don't know.

"While I agree that the likelihood of harm is small, the likelihood of a clear health benefit is also very small—and also we have no clear proof yet of such benefit," says Dr. Guallar, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Sesso speaks for the optimists, who urge a wait-and-see approach. "Multivitamin supplementation is low risk and low cost, and it helps to fill potential gaps in the diet that people might have," Dr. Sesso says. "These are compelling reasons to consider taking a multivitamin for cancer and eye disease that should be discussed with your physician."

For now, you can take certain steps:

  • Ask your doctor if you really need to take a multivitamin. Could you have a vitamin deficiency?
  • Assess your diet. Do you eat as healthy as you could? Is anything lacking?
  • Do you want expert nutritional advice? See a dietician. Also, Medicare beneficiaries get an annual "wellness" visit with their primary care providers.

Do not take high doses of specific vitamins, especially A and E. These may actually be harmful. Some research suggests that generous daily doses of vitamin D could be helpful.

What does the evidence say?

Physicians' Health Study II

Researchers looked at the effect of long-term multivitamin use in healthy men on various aspects of health. Here is what they found:

  • Cancer: Men were 8% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. The protective effect was greatest in men with a history of cancer.
  • Vision: Lower risk of developing cataracts.
  • Cardiovascular disease: No protection against heart attacks, strokes, or death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Brain: No protection against declining memory or mental skills.

Caveat: Because of PHSII's design, the findings on memory loss and vision are somewhat more likely to be chance findings than the cancer and cardiovascular disease results.

Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy

The study tested a therapy for artery blockages (chelation) in people with a previous heart attack; it also included a vitamin supplement. The trial found no evidence of benefit from taking the supplement.

Caveat: Participants did not take a typical multivitamin, with a variety of essential nutrients in varying doses. It's possible that taking a standard multivitamin might have worked better, but there is no evidence to suggest that might be the case.



Meatonomics: The Bizarre Economics of Meat and Dairy

Source:  YouTube

Few consumers are aware of the economic forces behind the production of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Yet omnivore and herbivore alike, the forces of Meatonomics affect us in many ways.

Most importantly, we’ve lost the ability to decide for ourselves what – and how much – to eat.  Those decisions are made for us by animal food producers who control our buying choices with artificially-low prices, misleading messaging, and heavy control over legislation and regulation. Learn how and why they do it and how you can respond.

Written in a clear and accessible style, Meatonomics provides vital insight into how the economics of animal food production meatonomicsinfluence our spending, eating, health, prosperity, and longevity.

Meatonomics is the first book to add up the huge “externalized” costs that the animal food system imposes on taxpayers, animals and the environment, and it finds these costs total about $414 billion yearly. With yearly retail sales of around $250 billion, that means that for every $1 of product they sell, meat and dairy producers impose almost $2 in hidden costs on the rest of us.  But if producers were forced to internalize these costs, a $4 Big Mac would cost about $11.

Editorial Reviews


       "Provocative and persuasive...a well-researched, passionately written book. Readers will be hard-pressed not to wonder if something sinister is playing out in America's farms and grocery stores." -Publishers Weekly
"Simon grabs your attention before page 1 when he states in his intro that US taxpayers subsidize animal products to the tune of $38 billion a year...Simon's voice is riveting, that of an outsider looking in--more than once, I was reminded of Diet for a New America & The Food Revolution in Simon's ability to convincingly convey inside information...with an outsider's vision." ?VegNews, October 2013
"This important book joins the ranks of T. Colin Campbell's Whole and The China Study in its power to expose the truth and begin to repair the health care crisis." --Patti Breitman, co-author How to Eat Like a Vegetarian, Even If You Never Want To Be One and How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty
"Consumers can only make wise purchases of meat if the price they pay reflects the full cost of producing it--when there are no 'hidden' costs like subsidies or environmental damage. Simon is the first author to attempt a complete accounting of all these hidden costs, something that should be applauded by the vegan and meat-lover alike." --F. Bailey Norwood, Ph.D., author of Compassion by the Pound, associate professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University
"We like to think we live in a democracy, where public officials tend the general welfare. But increasingly, corporate lobbyists write our laws, and corporate interests dictate what we are allowed to know. David Simon's book is spectacularly important, because it lifts the veil and shows how the meat and dairy industries rig the game, and thus are able to stuff us with foods that imperil our health, devastate the environment, and cause unrelenting cruelty to billions of animals. He reveals the massive subsidies that make industrial meat and dairy products seem cheap, when in fact they are destroying our lives and our future. He lets us see what these industries don't want us to see--the true cost we are paying for their products. And he shows us the steps we need to take, as individuals and as a society, to restore both our economic sanity and our health." --John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, No Happy Cows, and Diet For a New America
"Meatonomics will grab you and not let you go. It's a critically important and absolutely fascinating and astonishing in-depth look into the devastating effects of an industry's economic take-over of our culture and our well-being. Dave Simon not only cogently and systematically exposes the many facets of cost externalization by the meat, dairy, egg, and fishing industries, but he also makes a compelling case for practical solutions that we can all work for, discuss, and implement, including a meat tax, changes in government subsidyprograms, and personal food choices. Meatonomics has my highest recommendation--a book that liberates as it illuminates." --Dr. Will Tuttle, Ph.D., author of The World Peace Diet
"Meatonomics clearly shows how the price of meat, dairy, eggs, and fish represents a massive market failure - one that is costing you not just money, but years of healthy life. Dave Simon's thorough research and shocking statistics prove that powerful industries are manipulating government. Agencies that should be protecting you instead tell you to eat more of the foods that cause you to be overweight and sick - then make it financially irresistible for you to do so. Romantic images of small family farms have nothing to do with the reality of animal agriculture today, yet industry exploits this fantasy to take money out of your pocket and put it into theirs. The knowledge in Meatonomics willfree you and put you in control of your own food choices and health." --Janice Stanger, Ph.D., author of The Perfect Formula Diet
"Each sentence, paragraph, and chapter heaps evidence upon evidence to support his arguments.  Simon's writing style is intelligent and well-sourced without being academic and dry. The research and clear thought shows his expertise and easily wins readers' trust. " ?ForeWord Reviews
"The need to transform the unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust food system that prevails today runs deep. It will require food activists and researchers to undertake what will constitute a long march through the entire food chain. A critical starting point involves the corporate-dominated meat production system. Dave Simon takes us on that journey and helps us identify we will need to confront and the changes that will need to be made." --Robert Gottleib, co-author of Food Justice
"A lively, well-researched look at society's many misconceptions about the production and consumption of meat. If you eat meat, you owe it to your body and your planet to read this book." --Rory Freedman, author of Beg and co-author of the Skinny Bitch series
"Bringing cheap meat to the American table not only degrades the American palate, but it requires a series of corrupt bargains. David Robinson Simon exposes this corruption with impressive research, incisive prose, and the passion of a muckraker. The ultimate novelty of Simon's book is to portray our excessive consumption of animal products as a profound governmental failure, one abetted by corporate greed and systematic consumer deception. Depressing as the story of meat can be, Simon leaves the leader feeling empowered and inspired to eat in a way that reflects our deepest values as concerned consumers. One finished this book ready to make a change." --James McWilliams, Ph.D., author of Just Food
"So many books in the animal advocacy field re-hash the tragic yet familiar problems of animal agriculture--its impact on animals, the environment, human health, etc. Yet never (to my knowledge) have those impacts been quantified in economic terms and backed with hard science. Meatonomics will provide animal advocates, legislators, and the public with yet another compelling reason to promote policy change on the national level." --Nick Cooney, author of A Change of Heart and the founder and director of the Humane League
"Feeding a human meat and dairy and then wondering why it is sick is like putting syrup in a Ferrari and complaining that it won't start." --Dan Piraro, illustrator of the syndicated comic strip Bizarro

About the Author

       David Robinson Simon is a lawyer and advocate for sustainable consumption. He works as general counsel for a healthcare company and serves on the board of the APRL Fund, a non-profit dedicated to protecting animals. David received his B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and his J.D. from the University of Southern California. He is also the author of New Millennium Law Dictionary, a full-length legal dictionary.  He lives in Southern California with his partner, artist Tania Marie, and their rabbit, tortoise, and two cats.


Stellar Vegan Salads: new book by Sharon Discorfano

Sharon Discorfano's new book "Stellar Vegan Salads" is now available in hard copy. We are awaiting out review copy, but I wanted to pass along the press release to you. Once we receive a copy of the book, we will review it and update this information.

NEW YORK, NY, April 3, 2014 -- Salads…boring? Not when it comes to the creations in a new book by Sharon Discorfano, author of Letters to Pushkin and voice of the popular Cruelty-Free Faves site. Stellar Vegan Salads (Riverside 105 Media, 2014) aims to excite readers with combinations that are both easy to recreate and simply delicious, with pictures that will entice even the most skeptical eater.

Beyond the recipes, the book is chock-full of tips to unleash the inner salad artist in everyone. Discorfano provides her own "5 T’s" to creating a great salad: Taste, Timing, Texture, Trappings, and Travel. She uses seasonal, local produce to create salads guaranteed to appeal to the fussiest palate, yet simple and fun for even a novice in the kitchen. The book provides other practical information such as choosing the right oils and vinegars, how to toast nuts, or roast nectarines; Discorfano also elaborates on ingredients that might be new to readers, especially those who are newly focusing on a more plant-based diet (What’s Tempeh? What’s Nutritional Yeast?).

In addition to stellar salads, Discorfano highlights some of her own favorite brands and products for inside or alongside the bowl – from vegan crackers to cheese to wine. Her "Reimagined Classics" section provides veganized versions of traditional dishes such as The Waldorf Salad and The Nicoise, and updates the hearty Taco Salad and Antipasto with homemade vegan Buffalo Mozzarella.

With a gentle, friendly, but unequivocal voice, Stellar Vegan Salads includes a section entitled "Why Vegan?" that provides basic facts about the conditions endured by farmed animals, coupled with some beautiful photographs taken with animals now living at sanctuaries. Discorfano encourages everyone to move towards a vegan lifestyle, "For the animals, for the planet, and for human health."

Unlike other vegan cookbooks, however, Stellar Vegan Salads also offers stellar storytelling. With each recipe, Discorfano provides brief anecdotes that infuse the book with entertaining and inspiring of the inspiration behind each salad.

"I hope readers of Stellar Vegan Salads will feel as though they’ve just spent time in the kitchen with an old friend, who’s invited you to sit down with her to enjoy one of these stunning salads," said Discorfano. "One bowl, two forks!"

stellar vegan salads



Vegan Meat Tastes Like Chicken


Last May, Whole Foods recalled two types of curried chicken salad that had been sold in some of its stores in the Northeast.

The retailer’s kitchens had accidentally confused a batch of “chick’n” salad made with a plant protein substitute with one made from real chicken, and reversed the labels.

Consumers buying the version labeled as having been made from actual chicken were instead eating vegetarian chicken salad — and thus inadvertently were exposed to soy and eggs, allergens that must be identified on labels under federal regulations.

“None of the customers apparently noticed the difference,” said Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive of Beyond Meat, which made the substitute in the product that was recalled.

The error demonstrates just how far “fake” meat — producers hate the term but have not come up with a catchy alternative to “plant-based protein” — has come from the days when desiccated and flavorless veggie burgers were virtually the only option for noncarnivores.

Demand for meat alternatives is growing, fueled by trends as varied as increased vegetarianism and concerns over the impact of industrial-scale animal husbandry on the environment. The trend has also attracted a host of unlikely investors, including Biz Stone and Evan Williams of Twitter, Bill Gates and, most recently, Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong magnate.

“I’ve tasted a few,” Mr. Gates wrote in a multimedia piece on the Beyond Meat investment that was posted to his blog, “and they’re very convincing.”

Mr. Brown said that one of the big agricultural commodities businesses that trades in meat also has a tiny stake in Beyond Meat, though he declined to name it.

Some investors look at the development of viable meat alternatives as a sustainability issue.

“Frankly, we’ve never said we’re interested in food,” said Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers, a venture capital firm that has backed Google and Facebook — and Beyond Meat. “What we’re interested in is big problems needing solutions, because they represent big potential markets and strong opportunities for building great returns.”

Among the problems he listed that his firm’s investment in Beyond Meat are intended to address are land and water use, stress on global supply chains and the world’s growing population. “These are venture-scale problems with venture-scale returns,” Mr. Komisar said.

Or as Josh Tetrick, a founder of a company that makes “eggs” from plant proteins, said: “We didn’t start Hampton Creek to get into mayo or because we were thinking about making muffins and cookies. More than anything we’re trying to reverse what we see as a problem, which is cheap and convenient food that is always going to win in China, win in India and win with my father, but isn’t good for the body or animals or the environment.”

Andrew Loucks, president of the United States frozen foods business at the Kellogg Company, said in an email that the company, which owns the MorningStar Farms brand of vegetarian products, was seeing growing consumer demand for less fat, cholesterol and calories, which often translates into a desire to eat less meat.

MorningStar offers a variety of products, including veggie dogs, a line of ground meat substitute called Crumbles and burgers made from things like black beans and chickpeas.

“Much of the new growth in the segment is coming from younger consumers who seek foods that fit an overall lifestyle, be it for health reasons or personal ethics,” Mr. Loucks wrote. “They are not just seeking foods that mimic meat. Instead they specifically want vegetarian foods with distinctive flavors and visible, recognizable ingredients.”

For whatever reason, the desire to replace meat proteins with proteins derived from plants is spreading, although the market is still minuscule. Mintel, a market research firm, reports that sales of meat alternatives grew 8 percent from 2010 to 2012, when sales hit $553 million.

“Not that long ago, electrical cars were considered nonperformers, and when Prius came out, a lot of people didn’t think there was a market for it,” said Yves Potvin, founder and chief executive of Gardein Protein International, which makes the Gardein line of meatless products. “Now people are willing to pay $70,000 for a Tesla, and more than one million Prius cars are sold each year.”

MorningStar Farms accounts for more than 60 percent of the market, according to Mintel, while new competitors like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek have sprung up in the last five years. Gardein, founded a little more than five years ago, is the granddaddy of new companies making meat substitutes. Its products, sold by conventional retailers like H-E-B and Target as well as specialty groceries, include “chicken” wings, “fish” fillets, “beef” tips and breakfast patties.

“The category was stuck between the bun for many years,” Mr. Potvin said. “We came along and developed a new process that creates fibers that are very meaty from a plant base, and now we’re in 20,000 supermarkets and responsible for 75 percent of the category growth year over year.”

Creating from plant proteins something that will pass as meat is complicated. Companies must first identify the right plant and extract its proteins, then figure out how to reassemble them to taste like meat and develop the technology to do it.

Hampton Creek Foods, a start-up working to develop egg substitutes from plant proteins, tested thousands of varieties of Canadian yellow peas before it identified what would mimic the functions of eggs, including emulsification.

The goal? A mayonnaise that was nutritionally equivalent to one made with eggs.

The company tested 2,200 prototypes before landing on Just Mayo, the plant-based protein now sold in some 70 Whole Foods stores and arriving in Safeway and Costco stores.

Beyond Meat’s proteins come from yellow peas, mustard seeds and camelina, among other plants, and yeast. The company had a three-year setback when it decided to remove an artificial sulfide and had to find a natural substitute.

Mr. Brown said he did not expect Beyond Meat to replace a porterhouse from Lobel’s butcher shop, but the bulk of beef consumed was ground and turned into things like patties and chili. A chili made from the company’s imitation-beef Crumbles, studded with beans and garnished with cilantro and scallions, that he brought for a reporter to sample tasted no different from one made with ground chuck.

A 55-gram serving of Beyond Meat’s “beef” Crumbles contains 4.5 grams of total fat and no saturated fat, in contrast to the same amount of 80 percent lean ground beef, which has 11 grams of total fat, 4 of which are saturated fat. The Beyond Meat product beyond meatcontains the same amount of protein as the ground beef.

Mr. Brown is most proud of Beyond Meat’s “chicken breast” products, which are sold in strips that look like real chicken and can be pulled into shreds for chicken salad. “That was kind of the holy grail,” he said.

He knows, however, that his meat substitutes and others must gain acceptance from mainstream consumers.

“It has to be just as good as, just as convenient as and maybe even cheaper than ground beef or chicken,” Mr. Brown said. “Our business is to create something better than meat; otherwise we are not going to move the needle.”

source: NYT

Go Veggie and Spork Foods Tour Whole Foods

Agritopia: Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root


It's not vegan, but still, Agritopia is pretty interesting...

Agritopia® community is something of a modern day village set within the urban fabric of the Phoenix metro area. The name says it all: Agritopia® is about preserving urban agriculture and integrating it into the most neighborly, well-designed community possible. It is a principle-driven development that puts people and relationships ahead of money and trendiness. We believe that a simple life with friends and family is a rich life. The design of the community is intended to breakdown traditional barriers between people to encourage formation of real community among people of varied backgrounds.

Agritopia® is located at the Northwest corner of Higley and Ray Roads. Freeway access is easy. The San Tan Freeway (Loop 202) forms the northern border of the property and has an exit at Higley Road. The community is 160 acres and has 1/2 mile of Higley Road frontage and 3/4 mile of Ray Road frontage.

The community is comprised of 450 residential lots along with commercial, agricultural, and open space tracts. Agritopia is gridded with tree-lined streets and pathways to make the entire project accessible to pedestrians. The major connector street within the community is Agritopia Loop, which arcs its way from Ray Road north and east to Higley Road.

In many American suburbs, outward signs of life are limited to the blue glow of television screens flickering behind energy-efficient windows. But in a subdivision of this bedroom community outside Phoenix, amid precision-cut lawns and Craftsman-style homes, lambs caper in common green areas, chickens scratch in a citrus grove and residents roam rows of heirloom vegetables to see what might be good for dinner.

The neighborhood is called Agritopia, and it’s one of a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. The real estate bust in 2008 halted new construction, but with the recovery, developers are again breaking ground on farm-focused tracts. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food.

“I hear from developers all the time about this,” said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow for sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit real estate research group in Washington, D. C. “They’ve figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.” Not to mention a potential tax break for preserving agricultural land.

Sixteen of Agritopia’s 160 acres are certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community’s 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. A 117-unit assisted- and independent-living center is set to open this summer.

The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A., program. Neighbors trade recipes and gossip, and on the way home can pick up dinner from one of a few food trucks stocked by the farm.

Continue reading the main story

“Wednesday is the highlight of my week,” said Ben Wyffels, an engineer for Intel who moved here with his wife and two sons two years ago from another Phoenix suburb, attracted by the farm and the community’s cohesiveness. “To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing,” he said, and has helped steer his family toward kale and carrots and away from chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

This way of life does not come at a premium, either; Mr. Wyffels, like residents of other agrihoods, said his home cost no more than similar houses in the area. And because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, as farms are in many of these developments, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the C.S.A.

Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho — established just as the real estate market collapsed. They have emerged intact, with property values appreciating and for-sale signs rare.

At Serenbe, all 152 homes are occupied and its 3 restaurants draw tourists from surrounding states. Builders are adding 10 custom homes, with plans to break ground on at least another 20 by year-end. The 7-acre organic farm, soon to expand to 25 acres, lured Vikki Baird, a fund-raising consultant, who moved to Serenbe last summer from the affluent Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta. She had divorced, and said she was looking for a “healthy place” to settle. “You walk down the street, open your bag and say, ‘Give me what’s fresh this week,’ ” Ms. Baird said.

Newer developments include Willowsford in Ashburn, Va., which opened in 2011 and was named the National Association of Homebuilders’ 2013 suburban Community of the Year, largely because of its 30-acre farm and a culinary consultant who regularly teaches classes in how to prepare whatever is in season. The Kukui’ula community in Kauai, Hawaii, opened in 2012 and has a 10-acre farm in addition to a clubhouse, spa and golf course.

“As a developer it’s been humbling that such a simple thing and such an inexpensive thing is the most loved amenity,” said Brent Herrington, who oversaw the building of Kukui’ula for the developer DMB Associates. “We spend $100 million on a clubhouse, but residents, first day on the island, they go to the farm to get flowers, fruits and vegetables.”

Mr. Herrington regularly fields calls from other developers who want to incorporate farms into their housing projects. At least a dozen new agrihoods are underway or have secured financing, including Bucking Horse in Fort Collins, Colo.; Skokomish Farms in Union, Wash.; Harvest in Northlake, Tex.; Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, Calif.; and Prairie Commons in South Olathe, Kan.

Their success or failure may depend on hiring the right farmer. Agritopia went through four before finding the right one.

“This type of farming is hard and requires an incredible ability to multitask,” said Joseph E. Johnston, the developer and a resident of Agritopia, which sits on what was once his family’s farm. “I’m not sure most developers have the patience to really see it through and make it work.”

Though Mr. Johnston’s father planted four kinds of commodity crops, like cotton and corn, a community farmer must plant a vast variety of highly perishable, organic (or at least not chemically treated) crops, then market them to residents and sell the excess at farmers’ markets and to local chefs. Agritopia sells to 20 highly regarded chefs, including Charleen Badman (a.k.a. the “Vegetable Whisperer”) of the restaurant FnB and Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco.

“You have to be an excellent grower but also good at customer relations, business projections and labor controls,” Mr. Johnston said. “There’s no manual or anyone at the county extension service to tell you how to do this.”

For guidance, many developers are turning to suburban farm consultants like Agriburbia in Golden, Colo., and Farmer D Organics in Atlanta, which assist in choosing farm sites, building the requisite infrastructure and hiring farmers who work for salary or in exchange for housing and proceeds of whatever they harvest.

“The interest is so great, we’re kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,” said Quint Redmond, Agriburbia’s chief executive. In addition to developers, he hears from homeowners’ associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms.

Driving the demand, he said, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. “Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days,” he said.

Take L. B. Kregenow, a lawyer who with her husband, David, a doctor, has contracted to build a home in the Skokomish Farms community southwest of Seattle.

“I’m a foodie and interested in animal husbandry and cultivating my own wasabi and mushrooms,” Ms. Kregenow said. But she also likes to travel, which she said makes living in an agrihood ideal. “For me, the serious downside of farming is doing it on your own means, doing it 365 days a year,” she said. “But in this scheme we will have a farm without all the responsibility.”


During the early 1900?s, Gilbert was known as the “Hay Capitol” of the world due to the dominance of alfalfa hay on the local farms. In 1927, the Reber family homesteaded a farm on the dirt roads named Higley and Ray. They built barns, sheds, and a small home and began farming hay. By 1960, when the Johnston family bought the farm, the crops of choice had changed to cotton and wheat. Jim Johnston and his wife, Virginia, thought that this farm would be the perfect size for a family farm and an ideal place to raise their three boys, Joe, Steve, and Paul.

They built a home on the farm (which is now Joe’s Farm Grill) and lived a very rural, independent life. The boys all attended Higley Elementary School and Gilbert High School and worked on the farm during the summers and as needed by Jim. After Steve and Paul graduated from University of Arizona, majoring in agriculture, they returned to the farm and continued the family farming tradition. By the late 1990?s, Gilbert was growing rapidly and it became clear that the farm would soon be surrounded by housing. The family made the decision to start planning what would become of the farm after nearly 40 years of farming.

The eldest son, Joe, had taken a different path and had become an engineer. He spearheaded the design of what would become Agritopia®. Working with a land planner, landscape architects, and others in the development community, a land plan that met the family’s goals was created. It preserved urban agriculture, was very walkable, neighborly, broke down barriers between people, and had many use categories. In 2000, the Town of Gilbert approved the zoning and land plan for Agritopia® and construction began.

Today, all of the homes in the residential portion of the community have been built, as well as some of the commercial properties. The Johnston family still lives in Agritopia®.

source: NY Times

“Turlock: the Documentary” Will Make You Want to Hug a Hen

animal place

The documentary film Turlock the documentary ( chronicles the rescue of chickens from the largest animal neglect case in U.S. history. When Northern California animal sanctuary Animal Place ( found out an egg farm in nearby Turlock had closed, and more than 50,000 hens had been abandoned and left to die without food or water, Animal Place’s team and volunteers leaped into action to save thousands of lives. Despite considerable odds and a dramatic standoff with local authorities, the heroic rescuers know they could not leave these fragile beings behind to suffer even if it meant risking their own freedom.

Turlock: the documentary raises timely questions about how we view non-human animals and modern industrial egg farming, a living nightmare for hundreds of millions of hens in the U.S. alone. Whether caged, cage-free, or free-range, these quirky, social, loving animals are denied all natural behaviors, experience fear and stress, and suffer from diseases. The film also introduces several chickens lucky enough to be adopted into happy homes, where their unique personalities are allowed to blossom.


We spoke to Marji Beach, Animal Place’s education director, about the rescue and the documentary film:

Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest sanctuaries for farmed animals in the U.S., provides refuge to hundreds of neglected farmed animals. But nothing can compare with the experience in Turlock.

The Turlock rescue was extreme in its scope and scale, as the largest rescue of farmed animals in California history and the second largest in U.S. history. Approximately 20,000 of those hens had already starved before we even knew they existed.

It was emotionally and physically extreme. We saw firsthand the treatment of the animals on that egg farm – and knew that was standard treatment for more than 250 million hens.

It would take hours of negotiations (executive director Kim Sturla never gave up) while we felt indescribable helplessness watching birds being gassed before our eyes.

And then word came down that we could save birds. Magical words, really.

While the rescue took its toll emotionally and physically on our staff and volunteers, we took from it the knowledge that large-scale rescues are not beyond the realm of possibility.

In fact, a year after Turlock in 2013, Animal Place rescued 3,000 hens from a commercial egg farm in California. A generous donor funded an air transport of 1,150 of the hens to east coast sanctuaries. In the last few years, we have rescued more than 12,000 former egg-laying hens.

Chickens are the most exploited and abused species in the world and hens on egg farms suffer immensely. It doesn’t have to be that way. By making compassionate choices, all of us have the ability to make a difference. And in our view, the kindest and most just choice we can make to help other animals is to simply stop eating them or their by-products, like eggs.

"Turlock: the documentary" is available for grassroots groups, meetups, clubs, and individual activists who want to host screenings in their communities. Whether it’s a public event at the local library, or a small gathering at home, we want as many non-vegans as possible to see it and connect in some small way to the chickens and rescuers in the film.

Inviting people to watch a film is effective and easy. (What's easier than getting people to show up for movie night?) We are also sending out literature, vegan food coupons and information, and other goodies to help hosts plan a successful screening. See to participate.


WHO Cuts Sugar Intake Advice to 5%

Sugar should account for less than 5.0 percent of what people eat each day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain and tooth decay linked to excessively sugary diets, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Issuing new draft sugar guidelines, the United Nations health agency said its recommendations were based on "the totality of evidence regarding the relationship between free sugars intake and body weight and dental caries".

Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and sugarswho-logo naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

"WHO recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life-course," the agency said in a statement.

It said the 5.0 percent level should be a target for people to aim for - calling it a "conditional recommendation" - but also reiterated a "strong recommendation" that sugar should account for no more that 10 percent of total energy intake.

"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars - particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages - increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories," the WHO statement said.

This can lead "to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer)."

Five percent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).


Chipotle’s Vegan Tofu Burrito Goes National


Over the years, we've written about a couple of articles about Chipolte offering vegan options (Chipotle to Offer Vegan Burrito in Pacific Northwest and Vegan Chicken at Chipotle). According to the article from Fast Company earlier this week, the vegan burritos (Sofritas) will now be offered nationwide at Chipotle. The company indicated that tofu burritos, tofu tacos, and tofu bowls accounts for 3% of sales.

Here's the article:

Chipotle does not often update its limited, but classic, menu. In fact, despite minor tweaks like adding brown rice and burrito bowls, in its 20-year history, the Mexican fast-food chain has never added an entirely new item. But today, after a year-long testing period in select locations, Chipotle is officially adding Sofritas--the official name for the shredded organic tofu braised with roasted poblanos, chipotle chiles, and spices--to its nationwide menu. So how did the humble bean curd win its slot on the Chipotle menu board?

"It was really ingredient driven," Chipotle culinary manager Nate Appleman explained to Fast Company. As Fast Company's Ariel Schwarz explained last fall, the burrito maker partnered with Hodo Soy for the main ingredient in the then-unofficial meatless taco filler. The Oakland-based company has amassed a hearty following for its tasty, organic, and GMO-free soy-based protein. Appleman, who worked in several Bay Area restaurants before coming to Chipotle in 2010, was one of those fans. Under his guidance, Hodo debuted at ShopHouse, Chipotle's Southeast Asian-style outpost, which opened in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

A little over a year later, Appleman started experimenting, mixing Mexican flavors with Hodo's tofu. Eventually, a chili-based recipe stuck.chipotle "We just fell in love with the product itself and came up with something that I think even if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, you could eat it and love it," he said.

That's one key reason Hodo's tofu appealed to Chipotle: It tastes better than "99% of the tofu products you'll find in the grocery store," as Schwartz put it, and it therefore may appeal even to carnivores. The chain restaurant had tested a vegan option,  the Garden Blend, once before, and it did not meet that taste standard.

The current tofu-based recipe started out as a chorizo substitute and took a year to perfect; one of the final recipes contained honey, which would have DQ'd it for vegans. But Appleman realized Chipotle would miss a huge opportunity to appeal to a group of eaters that not too many fast-food behemoths even consider. And meat eaters so far haven't been deterred: Appleman says he has even seen people mix the tofu with chicken, for example.

All in all, customer feedback has been positive and tofu burritos, tofu tacos, and tofu bowls make up 3% of sales in restaurants, and that's with "very little marketing," added Chipotle's communications director, Chris Arnold. I, a meat eater who appreciates tofu, went to taste it with a vegetarian companion. We both happily ate our entire sampling. My colleague, Jessica Leber, applauded the texture. Tofu dishes can be spongy; Sofritas comes chopped up so that it almost feels like eating chorizo. As for the taste, it has a chipotle chili flavoring, which isn't overpowering, but it's there. So you have to like a smokier taste.

Beyond its tastiness factor, the inclusion of soy also fits in neatly with Chipotle's branding strategy. The chain's last few marketing pushes have highlighted its commitment to sustainable farming. Which is great, despite the unfortunate reality that Chipotle can't always get the ingredients it wants and often serves commodity meat.

Adding tofu to the menu might reduce that problem. "It could cut into the sales of meat and also maybe help reduce meat consumption," argues Appleman. He adds: "Growing soy is less harmful on the environment than raising a cow just because the earth energy it takes to raise a 2,000-pound steer versus soybeans is completely different." (For every 100 calories of energy put into producing conventional beef, you get only six calories back to eat. For the same 100 calories, raw soy yields 415 calories, according to a 2010 Mother Jones article.)

Sure, offering tofu might shift some meat eaters away from steak. Or, it might just attract the already converted to Chipotle, which would be good for business, but has less of a humanitarian ring to it. That second point is also arguable: Soy isn't that great for the environment. Although, to Hodo's credit, its creation is organic and GMO-free, making it a better bet than factory-farmed meat.

Plus, unlike grass-fed organic beef, the tofu will never run out. Before making Sofritas official, Chipotle worked with Hodo to ensure that it could meet demand without compromising quality. "We didn't want to take shortcuts and get a product that was not as good at the one that we started with," says Appleman.

Chipotle's new menu item raises one other important question for hungry burrito lovers: Now that they've cracked the seal for new menu items, does that mean we can expect some of those "secret" menu options to start appearing as well? Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like it: "We don’t recognize whatever you’re speaking of--'off menu items,'" said Appleman.

Source: Fast Company