“Find your place on this planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there.” ~ Gary Snyder

hazard symbol

I found a horrifying-slash-cool website this week. Our link to the site as it relates to food initially seems tenuous at best. But, since we are all about supporting local farmers, restoring land, being good caretakers, and loving where we live, I’m going to drag you down the rabbit hole with me anyway. Look it up: www.toxicsites.us

Toxic Sites lists the most toxic and contaminated sites in the United States, as identified for remediation through Superfund. Superfund, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLA) of 1980 is a US Federal Law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. So there is a hazard ranking system, and a national priorities list, and this data is beautifully captured in a visual presentation on this website.

Here’s what I learned after a few minutes of clicking: the closest ‘toxically hazardous site’ to me is South Weymouth Naval Air Station. Remediation seems to be recent or ongoing, with the last event on the site being in 2012. Primarily, the type of contaminants are carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and neurotoxins, the actual chemicals found on site: nickel, vinyl chloride, manganese antimony, dichlorethane, benzofluoranthene, chromium, mercury, zinc, lead, and more. The area covers 1,500 acres and the site has a hazardous ranking score of 50 (28.5 qualifies it for the Superfund National Priority List). It also has an outline of the site’s history.     Want to know what else I learned? There are ‘top ten’ lists – top ten states with the most toxic sites, top ten contaminants, and my personal favorite, top ten responsible parties. Why is it my favorite? Because these are the companies that are on the list with the MOST NUMBER OF OCCURENCES, want to know who they are?

General Electric Company | E. I. Du Pont De Numours And Company | General Motors Corporation | Shell Oil Company | Ford Motor Company | Atlantic Richfield Company | Union Carbide Corporation | Monsanto Company | Ashland Chemical Company | U.S. Airforce

So here’s where it gets really interesting. Du Pont, number two on the list, boasts ‘Animal Nutrition & Disease Prevention, Crop Protection, Seed’ as their major product lines in the agricultural sector. They also work in ‘Food & Personal Care (offering dietary supplements and food ingredients amongst others), High Performance Materials, Industrial Biotechnology, People & Process Safety, and Polymers and Fibers’, according to their website.

The Union Carbide Corporation, seventh on the list, boasts that some of their products go into everyday items, like food containers and toys. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Company, and in addition to products like paints and coatings, personal care soaps, textiles, they also boast an agricultural division.

Eighth on the list needs no introduction, Monsanto. Leader in biotechnology and genetically modified crops, they also offer ‘crop protection products’ and on the front page of their website is a big blue button titled ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ which leads you to a farmer’s market graphic with the byline ‘growing food more sustainably’. I didn’t find anything on their website to indicate that they were responsible for contaminating enough sites with hazardous ranking scores of above 28.5, putting those sites on the national priority list and qualifying Monsanto for position number eight.

Finally, Ashland Chemical Company has products in Agricultural, Food & Beverage, and Personal Care markets, amongst others.

Anybody else horrified that 9 out of the top ten companies on the list are oil companies, or service food, beverage, or most importantly, agricultural markets?

What to know something else? Eight of them are on the Fortune 500 list: (Ashland #371, Monsanto #197, General Motors #6, General Electric #8, DuPont #87, Union Carbide #48, Ford Motors #9) – three of them even made the top ten list again!

Huh. How’s that for ‘food for thought’. Written by Pam Denholm


Crimson Tide

By Pamela Denholm

Crimson TideThe most important things to us at SSO is supporting our local growers, and local community at large. Like many of our customers, we live on a budget and have to make careful purchasing decisions to make ends meet, and we are constantly balancing our food values and ethics with the bottom line: how much does it cost?  I have reached a point where I have stopped comparing prices of local and organic food to imported or mass produced food, because at the end of the day, there is no comparison, its apples and oranges.  Firstly, we have managed to transition to almost all local/organic food without going broke, and secondly the true cost of ‘buying cheap’ comes at a price I really don’t want to pay – loss of liquidity, jobs (and personality) where I live, not to mention the environmental and health tallies.

This came to the fore again when I stopped in at a grocery store the other day and saw cranberries on special.  They were from Wisconsin, who for nearly 20 years has been the biggest cranberry producers in the country.  “That’s nice,” you may say, “good for them!”  And it is good for them, around 3,500 jobs are created and it is their largest fruit crop bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state each year.  Regrettably, as with every story there is a flip side . . . the Wisconsin crop ‘floods’ the local market where land and labor are more expensive, making it more challenging for our own cranberry growers to gain traction in the space – cranberry bogs are a part of the New England cultural landscape, fall wouldn’t be fall without apples, pumpkins, foliage, and cranberry bogs in harvest.  And here are a few other things to think about:

  1. The berries in your basket are of a far superior standard, they are picked dry, sorted by hand, and packed dry, giving us an excellent quality berry with longevity. The Wisconsin berries are wet picked by flooding the bogs, and then dried for packaging. The wet pick method bruises these beautiful red orbs, and leaves us with an inferior fruit
  2. Cranberries are good for you! They are very high in fiber and vitamin C, and also boast Vitamins A, E and K and are low in cholesterol and sodium. The fresher the berry, the more nutritious, and local berries are absolutely fresher
  3. Environmentally speaking, the unmeasured cost of the carbon foot print (1200 miles vs 20 miles) should be factored
  4. Our farmers, our neighbors, employ neighbors. If we want unemployment to go down in our state, we need to support local businesses and farmers. You only need to spend a third of the money with a local business to have the same impact within your community as spending with a big box chain store when it comes to liquidity and jobs.

Our cranberry growers are sitting on a wonderful harvest this year and call me romantic, but I love seeing the bogs in our landscape, they belong, and I also love the idea that it was grown right here in New England – talk about tradition and heritage! I am proud of this culture.  We will continue to buy local berries, at a price that is fair to our farmer for as long as he has them available, and we can do that because our customers know the value of the product they are getting.  They know too that the people employed to pick and screen the berries live within our community, and their children go to the same schools as our children.  Here on the South Shore, we are a community with pride, we work together and we live together, we have soul.  Cheap berries from Wisconsin may put an extra dollar back in our pockets, but our berries are worth so, so much more and they are better for us in every way.


Never Miss a Monday: Just start it!

juststartSorry Nike, as catchy as your tagline is, in the real world when it’s time to accomplish a goal, the idea of “just doing it” can be overwhelming. Whether it’s adding in a strength training routine or committing to a weekly meal preparation session, we tend to think in all-or-nothing terms. These unreasonable expectations (sure, I’ll just add in three 45 minute strength training sessions each week to my calendar, easy-peasy…) can lead us to procrastinate on health goals that are very attainable, we just need to take small steps to get there.

Forget “the first step is the hardest”, instead I encourage you to make the first step the easiest. Choose a current health goal/wish/dream and determine the first few small, simple steps. Pick a specific date and time when you will complete that first step and mark it in your calendar. It’ll be up to you how much or little you do of that first step, the aim is to commit to the day/time you chose and “just start it”. If you find yourself moving through to the second step, cool, go with the flow and see where you end up. Below are suggestions to start towards two common health goals, exercising and eating healthier:

Start a running/walking program: (1) Go to store and buy some fun sneaks! [be sure to have the sales person help you with a proper fit] (2) Put on your new sneakers every weekend and walk around the house. Continue with this step until you are ready to move onto the next set of simple steps towards a running/walking program.

Start prepping meals/snacks for the week: (1) Monday, print out Nourish to Flourish (N2F) “What’s in my green bag” email, highlight one item to prepare as a healthy snack for the week and put on the fridge (2) On Tuesday, take that item out of the bag first and put on counter, put away the remaining items. Prep item for easy grab-n-go for the rest of the week.   Continue prepping one chosen item from you N2F per week until ready to move onto the next set of simple steps towards a meal/snack preparation routine.

For some goals, the first few simple steps will be as far as you get, and you’ll realize it’s just enough. For others, you’ll find yourself moving towards the next level as the first few simple steps become routine and you’re ready to take it up a notch. Either way, the only way you’ll find out is if you “just start it”!

Sea to Table – Connecting Fishermen to Families


Erik and John Bahrt of F/V Kristina from Sitka, Alaska, photo courtesy of S2T.

At South Shore Organics, we are committed to local, independent food system, families feeding families. We are always on the lookout to see how we can support other like-minded organizations so it is with great pride that we announce a partnership with Sea to Table, and I wanted to share all the great reasons we chose to work with them.

Firstly, they are a registered B Corp, required to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. That sounds like us already! Their definition of ‘sustainable fisheries’ extends beyond just the number of fish in the ocean, they also work with sustainability ranking agencies, environmental partners, emerging scientific data and the fishermen themselves to achieve their goals.Did you know, fish have seasons just like vegetables do? Sea to Table works closely with docks and fishermen to identify key species for their cold storage programs. They then buy a fishermen’s entire catch at the peak of the season and process it at the dock to ensure that a well-priced, consistent local product is delivered year round. The fish are minimally handled, and never sent overseas for processing (like most frozen fish available in the supermarket). All the fish is cut, frozen, and packed at local docks, and is traceable back to specific fishing boats.

They work with both independent fishermen, and some local docks. Their partners are small-scale domestic fisheries so that they can offer full transparency, traceability with a lower carbon foot print all the while supporting traditional fishing communities, like New Bedford. They don’t work with fishermen they don’t know, and they never warehouse fresh fish. Each dock has a certified HACCP on-site cutting and packing facility, subject to state and health inspections, which means as the fish comes in, if it wasn’t filleted and portioned on the way in, it is done at the dock within hours of being caught. S2T only works with licensed fishermen who have appropriate cold storage facilities both on their boats, and at the point of landing and packing – ensuring the catch is always delivered to you fresh!

The other advantage is that they work with fishermen up and down the East Coast, and in Alaska, so we can source sustainably caught fish from outside of our immediate area, as well as the local catch. I did try some of their products prior to listing them on our website as available for residential deliveries, and have to say the fillets defrosted beautifully, were not spongy like some frozen fish, they smelled fresh, and were delicious. We offered Pollock on our website last week, and this week decided to offer Alaskan troll-caught Salmon. Troll-caught salmon is wild caught, and the fish are caught on lines instead of nets, a farm more sustainable method since nets tend to be a catch all, pulling everything out of the water including the salmon.

Some of the local ports we are supporting with this initiative: New Bedford, which is one of our country’s oldest fishing ports, and is the setting of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (I didn’t know that!). Today the dock is especially known for its exceptional day boat scallops. Fall River, originally inhabited by the Pokanoket Wampanoag tribe, Portuguese settlers brought their fishing culture which continues to dominate the Fall River waterfront today. Narragansett, established as a small fishing village in the mid 1800s, and by the early 1900s was one of the largest ports on the east coast. Today it is an active port as well as a thriving tourist hub.

We are encouraged and inspired by this group, and would love to see more initiatives like it popping up within our food system!