Buy local, avoid recalls

During the first week of September, the news is broadcasting the recall of cucumbers after many illnesses and a death resulting from salmonella contamination.

My heart goes out to the people affected. I will take this opportunity to remind you, buy local, know your farmer. When you look at the spread of the contamination, you can see that if all those people had adhered to the “buy local” philosophy, they’d be fine.

The news story doesn’t talk enough about how this widespread contamination can only occur in a too-big agricultural system.

Convenience and local pasture raised chicken eggs

It is TOUGH to get my hands on humanely harvested chicken eggs, in spite of all the backyard chickens in this town. Mostly it’s because of the effort it takes to coordinate schedules with friends and making requests coincide with egg production.

That’s why I was so delighted to find that Chuck’s Produce is carrying Botany Bay Farm’s chicken eggs. These folks are very nice and are good to their animals. If you are in the area, you probably can even tour the farm.

Maybe I backed in to that…

Neighbors (could be) closing

I recently (2/4/14) sent a newsletter and posted on Facebook that my husband and I had arrived at a decision to try to sell the store or close it. I did point out that a couple of things could affect these decisions, but somehow, it seems most people have received the idea that the shut-down is imminent.

Well, I wanted to be prepared, and to prepare others, if the closing should happen soon; on the other hand, I wanted to be clear that there are a couple of dependencies. I didn’t emphasize that enough.

The Columbian called…

Anyways, the local newspaper person called to get the details of our demise. Not a big article, just one of those passing notes that five or 6 of us read in the business section. Well, that clued me in that I need to put some more information out in the community.

The store, for the most part, has been a one-person operation and I’m it. I’m also mother to a young man of very special needs, who, at this particular juncture, is in dire need of much more one-on-one attention than he’s receiving. My crisis – and therefore the store’s – is that there is not anymore time in my day to attend to both of my “babies”. That’s what lead to the decision to sell or liquidate.

A Glimmer of hope

I posted the store for sale. Still waiting for a buyer. Notice that the store was in peril resulted in one good thing: an interested party has come forward and we have a potential partnership that will help the store in such a way that I can get the time out of the store to attend to my family. So, the store is still for sale, but the imminent closing is no longer imminent.

Neighbors is still in business

We are business-as-usual and hopefully this little scare will remind our supporters to come a little more often and to tell more like-minded people about us. I’d love for the store to be the gem I envisioned: an employer of 5 or 6 people with me in a less active role in the day-to-day operation and an outlet for our local food producers; the one store where you can rest assured that the food is all natural, in the way you mean natural, from independent companies, and from ethical sources; all the time, every time.

Beyond Me…

Beyond Me(at)

Recently I received product samples from a company called Beyond Meat. Generous portions of three flavor varieties.

The product looked like cut up strips of chicken breast. The product was white-ish gray-ish: the color I would associate with boiled or baked chicken flesh.

Food Flags

BeyondMeat_Package_Nutritionals_web_lightlyseasoned

For me, the first (red) flag is this: the product is pretending to be something it’s not. Be it people, clothing, or (especially) food, pretensions are generally not good things. Beyond Meat is not made from animal flesh, but it wants to be like animal flesh.

This leads to the second (red) flag raised from this “vegan gluten-free” product. Of the several apparently highly processed ingredients, it has two items in particular that caught my attention: soy protein isolate and pea protein isolate. WTH? Do YOU know how to isolate the proteins in soybeans or peas? I don’t and I’m willing to bet this isn’t something the average cook at home can do. This product, Beyond Meat is just imitation. Meat. That’s a big deal for me: if it’s not real food, I don’t want to eat it. Do you?

Imitation by any other name

Imitation anything is suspect, in my book. Imitation implies pretension; deceit. I acknowledge there is a HUGE market for imitation foods – think sugar free soda, fat free sour cream, imitation crab, low calorie beer, velveeta – and I’m willing to wager a bet that regular consumption of those imitation foods leads to many health issues.

Being a real food enthusiast, I can’t see where a product like this could fit in with a healthful diet.

More flags

Behind the up-front issues of this being, really, a non-food item intended for human consumption, I have concern about the people backing this product. This new company is being backed by Bill Gates, as mentioned in an October Fortune article.You may have seen the Huffington Post article or the Dr. Mercola article about another of the projects he has invested in involving Monsanto GM products and African farming opportunities. Or perhaps you have read the InfoWars article about it? At any rate, I’m not comfortable with a proponent and investor in GMO foods or Cargill executives getting all excited about a plant-based meat substitute. Without going too far down the conspiracy theory trail, do you see the closed loop of opportunity for power there? Convince the millions of meat eaters they will do their bodies and the earth good by eating this highly processed product derived from plant materials – from plants that you have a patent on?

Too far?

Alright. Maybe that’s too far for you. But. Do you really want to eat imitation food? Why not just eat the real, whole food? Why Beyond Meat is beyond me.

Yes, Vancouver, Downtown Grocery Stores Do Exist

Downtown Grocery Stores Exist

Our town is in the long process of revitalizing its downtown core. A commendable and important activity that is the result of continuous efforts and a strong vision of a vibrant city center. Many people have exerted considerable efforts toward individual and organizational vision with notable financial risk. An important component of this move to a sustainable economic core is the addition of multilevel residential units.

Now that the housing appears to be arriving, an oft repeated complaint is that “downtown doesn’t have a grocery store”. Well, that’s not true. As of October 2013, there are two grocery stores on Main Street. The first Main Street grocery store for downtown in several decades opened at 1707 Main Street in 2010. We offer the essentials of a well stocked kitchen such as bread, milk, eggs, meats, produce and all from local Washington and Oregon sources.

Neighbors Market has clean food (pastured raised, locally grown, no HFCS [high fructose corn syrup], little or no GMO [genetically manufactured organism] food, organic, etc., etc.). What those people who are saying “we need a grocery store” are visualizing is “a big box grocery store”; you know, the kind that import foods from central distribution centers; foods that come from industrial growing or industrialized meat processors; those big box grocery stores that are part of the consolidation and homogenization of our food systems; the members of the mega-corporate complexes that are part of the destruction of middle-class America and the wiping out of small family farms. Those kind of stores.

Vancouver (WA) is retro-fitting its downtown but if it hadn’t lost its way during the 1950s and kowtowed to the Car God and Urban Sprawl for 60 years, it would have maintained the livability and walk-ability it yearns for now; vital elements of many small shops in proximity to neighborhoods and apartment buildings. It would have multiple neighborhood grocery stores (not to be confused with the Walmart fakes), each with its own character and all supporting local food production. More local food production which would support more local jobs.

People are saying they want to support local business, support local farms, eat real foods, support the local economy. They are turning a blind eye to the answer presented.

Neighbors Market needs downtown Vancouver residents to walk the talk and actually buy local foods from our independent and locally owned grocery store. This store is unique in the clarity of its values and which companies we support by offering products from local and independent producers. We support local farms and job-building local businesses by buying from them and populating our store shelves with their products.

We’re here for you, Vancouver.

Big Sale

reddot

The BIG SALE has been renamed the Red Dot Sale. We have discounted items that we are not going to re-stock, so you get especially attractive prices.

The sale includes beers, many of the Eden brand of canned products, soaps, deodorants, body scrubs, paper products, frozen vegetables, pastas, and packaged seasonings, all the Bio-Kleen products and several other items. Sales pricing is still evolving, but count on prices being from 25% to 75% less than the price tag. We’re still getting signage in place, but if it has a red dot on it, you have a savings!

Help us shift to our new product mix by telling your friends and neighbors about the Red Dot Sale.

Check back often, as this list is being updated as I go.

Some of the items you’ll find at discounted prices in the store (okay, this is probably not the best use of my time); it isn’t comprehensive, it includes a few of the items I’m adding that might not have red dots on them yet.

  • Beer
  • Coalition King Kitty
  • Coalition Two Dogs
  • Widmer Omission
  • Wandering Aengus
  • Odin
  • Elysian Men’s Room Red
  • Fearless Scottish Ale
  • Fearless Mjolnir
  • Vertigo Razz Wheat
    Loose Teas

  • Enchanted Tea 40% discount
  • Oh Qua Tea 40% discount
    Theo’s

  • Cherry Fest Caramels
    Oliver’s Olives

  • All Oliver’s 27% discount
    Sweet Creek Brand

  • Sweet Creek salsa: hot, medium, mild
  • Sweet Creek relish: dill and sweet
  • Sweet Creek fruit spreads: blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry
  • Sweet Creek enchilada sauces: mild, hot, green
  • Sweet Creek Cat Food

Fido-Quattro-LeParfait come to Vancouver, WA

canning_jars

Canning and Bottling Supplies

It’s that time of year when we have so much harvest bounty to save in south west Washington. I’m still learning (and in love with) fermenting. Many of the items in the store are a result of my own a-little-at-a-time lessons in food preservation. As I learn, I’m adding more products for Urban Homesteading.

Finding canning supplies in Vancouver, Washington is a bit easier now that I have found some sources I’m comfortable with. I carry the replacement lids for regular and wide-mouth Ball and Kerr jars, standard canning tools in America. (Have you ever wondered about the history and evolution of food preservation? Find a bit at the Wiki site and the book that got me asking more about how we got where we are with food preservation, Pure Ketchup: The History of America’s National Condiment.)

While Ball and Kerr are American icons, I am uncomfortable with so much of the glass being made in China and the fact that one company, Jarden, owns so many brands. So I went searching and came up mostly empty for a source of independent glass making companies for America, at least for canning.

milk_bottle

As far as I can tell, the jars and bottles we have added to the store line of urban homesteading supplies, are from independently owned companies. We have beautiful bottles made in Italy and Spain and some excellent jars from France and Italy. The brands we’ve added are Fido, Le Parfait, and Quattro. We also have the spare gaskets for 85mm and 100mm jars. These containers will showcase your homemade goodness beautifully.

We have liter, half liter, and quarter liter sizes of jars and bottles. The canning jars include shoulder and straight sided designs.

Oh, the other nice thing about the gasket seals are that they are BPA-free.

What are you trying to do here?

What is the purpose of Neighbors Market?

Front door with art

Neighbors Market

This question comes up more than you might expect. I asked, and continue to ask, that question from the beginning of my start-up plans and continue to ask this as the store evolves. This question comes up when I meet with advisers such as the fine people at S.C.O.R.E., the local S.B.A. consultant, and so on. It’s back in the forefront as I meet with the local university as a client with the senior class as their first term project. And it’s a good question to keep asking.

Our purpose to to make shopping simple.

4852_ComboFruit

This may beg the question, “How complicated can it be to buy groceries?” And that’s where Neighbors Market comes in. I started really paying attention to labels when I began trying to keep certain foods out of my son’s diet. Just by reading the labels, labels I had originally thought were just a wasted effort of “the liberals”, I entered onto a path of food awareness that culminates in this store. For me and many others, the labels were just the tip of the ice-berg.

Who grew this food?

Once I started seeing the labels, I started asking the questions about the ingredients. And I started learning who the producers of these products were. And learning about the growing conditions of the food going into the packages. And then I started learning about water systems; about water shortages. And how who’s doing the growing has a great impact on the inherent food justice.

A few times, I bought products under the belief that I was supporting a small company, or that my purchase was supporting fair trade practices and learned later that I was mistaken. I felt pretty bad; a bit deceived.

A habit of buying local is just another habit

When I was young, most food was local. Most businesses were locally owned. I lived in smaller communities most of my life. Even as I was maturing, the interstate highway systems and industrial food growing and marketing were maturing and things were changing in America, but change was slow to arrive in the communities I lived in. So, for me, buy local was just the way to buy.

build_community

What are the options?

As I became more educated and more discerning about food, I saw fewer and fewer options and less and less transparency in the main stream food systems. I realized the difficulty I was having in buying local food was probably a symptom that it was hard for farmers to sell their food locally. I felt a need for a store that offered real food, from real people, with real justice in the growing and harvesting of the food. Buying local and direct seems the surest way of knowing the truth about our food.

Neighbors is here to be local.

That’s it. Neighbors Market exists to serve people who want to grow and eat local food. That is the simplest way I can describe what Neighbors is trying to do.