Delivering the week’s top organic food news
2.20.2019
100% Non-GMO

Major Tech Companies Embrace Corporate Organic Gardening Programs. Shouldn't Our Industry Do the Same?


Tesla, Intuit and PayPal.

What do they all have in common?

Aside from the fact that they are all Silicon Valley heavyweights, these three companies understand the importance of their employees growing organic food — during work hours.

As such, they have enlisted the help of California-based StartOrganic, which provides onsite organic gardening services, education and training for these tech giants.

While the exact offering varies from company to company, a big selling point of StartOrganic is that it does much of the heavy lifting for its clients. StartOrganic comes in, creates garden beds, builds the irrigation system and entire infrastructure, and trains the employees to care for their dedicated beds, whether that is thinning the crops or pruning the tomato plants.

At PayPal, where 80 people are growing organic food and there are 56 garden beds, StartOrganic visits the campus once a week to provide “office hours.” This could be to answer questions or to simply help the employees maintain their own beds.

“We are there to educate them in any way we can, and we start with the basics, such as how to grow vegetables and to show them that it can be done without pesticides and GMOs. Based on our research across all clients, 96.1% are visiting their beds once per week and 60.8% are visiting them multiple times per week,” said Josh Levine, co-founder of StartOrganic.

It is clear that people are taking real ownership and interest in what they are growing, which is reaping other tangible benefits as well.

“Because of this program, employees are eating more organic food, including the food that they grow. Furthermore, growing these organic vegetables has resulted in stress reduction, made them more confident to start a garden at home and contributed to positive life changes in general,” affirmed Josh Levine.

Despite the fact that StartOrganic does not currently have any organic companies as clients, having employees of organic brands participate in such a program makes total sense. More than anything, it would deepen the meaning of what they are doing on a daily basis — selling high-quality, organic food to consumers — and build their appreciation for organic farmers.

But a potential hurdle for many organic food brands, who may rent space in an office building or do not have their own campus, is that having dozens of organic garden beds is simply not a possibility.

In these types of situations, StartOrganic works with clients even if there is only room for one or two garden beds. Or, if that is not even an option, StartOrganic gives workshops at companies in a classroom-type setting to teach employees how to plant organic vegetables and educate them on everything they need to know to be successful in a garden.

Whether an organic brand works with an organization such as StartOrganic, which is only servicing clients in California at the moment, or partners with a local organic farmer, having employees intimately involved with growing organic food will not only improve engagement at work and have a positive impact on their well-being, but they will become much more effective and passionate advocates for the healthy, regenerative food system that we are trying to advance.

If there is a formal program at your organic company where employees are currently growing organic vegetables, please let us know. We’d like to feature you in a future Organic Insider.

On Monday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, I interviewed my good friend and New York Times best-seller Vani Hari for the launch of her excellent new book Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health. It’s a very important read.

While in Charlotte, I also visited two fantastic organic venues — Clean Juice and Luna’s Living Kitchen.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
Food Navigator

Tilray Purchases Manitoba Harvest for $317M

By Elaine Watson

Cannabis giant Tilray has purchased organic and non-GMO hemp brand Manitoba Harvest for $317M and is planning a summer launch of broad spectrum hemp extracts with CBD.

New Hope Network

'Better-for-you' Ingredients Aren’t Necessarily Better for Everybody in the Supply Chain

By Alan Lewis

An excellent op-ed by Natural Grocers' Alan Lewis who delivers a much-needed message that many "better for you" products are actually causing real harm to the environment and are not improving the lives of farmers.

Bloomberg

Monsanto's Roundup Attacks Healthy Gut Bacteria, Lawsuit Says

By Lydia Mulvany and Deena Shanker

Monsanto is already facing a slew of lawsuits for causing cancer, but now it is being sued for impacting healthy gut bacteria.

Organic Trade Association

Organic Grain Collaboration: "U.S. Needs to Grow More Organic Grains"

With the production of organic grains very slow to take off in our country, the U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration, in partnership with the Organic Trade Association, released a critical report today looking at the state of organic grain in the United States. It also identifies specific industry solutions to overcome the hurdles.

Second Course
Modern Farmer

Meet the New Faces of Agriculture in Congress

By Brian Barth

After being controlled by Republicans since the GOP took the majority of the House in 2011, the agriculture committee is back squarely in the hands of the Democrats, and here are some of the folks who will be leading it.

Progressive Grocer

MOM’s Organic Market CEO Calls for Revised Food-Dating Regulations

After chronicling his consumption for more than a year of foods whose expiration dates had passed, MOM’s Organic Market CEO Scott Nash is calling for the government to change its approach to food-dating regulations.

EcoWatch

EPA OKs 'Emergency' to Dump Bee-Killing Pesticide on 16 Million Acres

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently reported that in 2018 it issued so-called "emergency" approvals to spray sulfoxaflor -- an insecticide the agency considers "very highly toxic" to bees -- on more than 16 million acres of crops known to attract bees.

Third Course
BevNet

Rowdy Mermaid Closes $3.5M Series A

By Brad Avery

Organic kombucha brand Rowdy Mermaid has closed on a $3.5M Series A led by KarpReilly, and the company will use a portion of the funds to focus on the food service sector.

Food Dive

Will GMA's New Strategy Bring Back Former Members?

By Cathy Siegner

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which fought for years against GMO-labeling, is now revamping its strategy and leadership in a bid to win back influential members who recently quit.


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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* On Saturday, March 2nd, the Real Organic Project Symposium will be held at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and features a stellar lineup of speakers.


* Center for Food Safety has launched a petition to make the National School Lunch Program organic. Click HERE to sign.


* Domestic doyenne Martha Stewart paid a visit to Mike’s Organic, a fantastic organic delivery service and retail store in Connecticut.


* The New York Times has just put out an excellent Wellness Guide to London, which features many different organic places for food, juice, clothing and spa services.


* At the recent Biofach conference in Germany, the non-profit research institute Agriculture FiBL said that Denmark is leading the world in organic food consumption, with organic comprising 13.3% of all food sales in the country. Wow!


* Yes, there is such a thing as avocado toast-inspired sneakers.


Organic Insider