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riley shaia spinach health benefits

Spinach is good for your brain, too…

…and other cool spinach facts

By Riley Shaia, certified holistic nutritionist, fitness instructor & Seasonal Roots member (Pictured: center, kneeling)

VEGGIE FAIRY NOTE: You can connect with Riley on Instagram and Facebook!

Vintage cartoon fans can probably quote Popeye the Sailor Man’s famous line from memory: “I’m good to the finn-ich cause I eat my spinach!” A whole generation of kids grew up thinking they would be stronger if they ate spinach.

While that’s still true, it turns out the genesis of that popular notion actually began by mistake. A scientist misreported the number of grams of iron in spinach. According to thekitchn.com, in “1870 a German chemist, Erich von Wolf, correctly ascertained the amount of iron in spinach, but while transcribing his notes, he accidentally misplaced a decimal point: Instead of recording that spinach had 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving (as is the case), he wrote that it had 35 milligrams.” That is a lot of iron!

In response to this, the creators of Popeye decided that this would be his superfood. The rest is history. Despite the error, it helped spinach gain popularity with parents and children alike.

In my opinion spinach is extremely versatile and I use it almost every day. Spinach is a great way to get your servings of greens in your diet. It’s easy to throw into smoothies or soup and easy to finely chop and add to spaghetti sauce and other foods.

What is spinach?

Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse that is in the same family as beets, chard, and quinoa.

Spinach’s amazing health benefits!

Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, and K; minerals such as magnesium and calcium in addition to iron (obviously!); and antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids. These good things are associated with boosting immunity, lowering blood pressure, fighting the causes of cancer, reducing inflammation, easing constipation and ulcers, and supporting good vision, healthier skin, and stronger bones. It may even improve your memory and slow down the aging of your brain! Watch this quick CBS News report about a recent scientific study on spinach brain power.

How to store and wash spinach

  • Fresh spinach should be kept unwashed, wrapped in a paper towel, and placed in an airtight container in your fridge’s cool, dark crisper. If it’s local and freshly harvested, it can be stored this way in the refrigerator for up to a week. But the sooner you eat it, the more nutrients it will still have.
  • To be the most economical and still get the nutrients, you can buy it frozen. If you buy it fresh but can’t eat it right away, it’s easy to freeze yourself to preserve the nutrients. Here’s how.
  • DO always wash freshly harvested local spinach just before you use it! It’s grown in fine sandy soil, which gets splashed up on the leaves. Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water and gently agitate the leaves with your hands so the grit sinks to the bottom. Lift out the greens and change the water as needed, repeating until the water remains clear.
  • Surprising fact: Cooked spinach is better for you — with one exception

    In most cases, cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits! (I’ll explain the exception in a moment.) Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you three times as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. That’s because the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach to make full use of all the goodness contained in the leaves.

    Here’s the reason why: There’s a compound in spinach called oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. The problem is solved when you cook the spinach — the heat reduces oxalic acid’s power. But cook spinach lightly to preserve the nutrients while reducing the acid.

    By the way, avoid cooking spinach in aluminum – some reports indicate it may ruin the spinach’s color and taste.

    The exception to the “cooked is better for you” rule is when you pair raw spinach with a food that’s high in vitamin C. Vitamin C counteracts oxalic acid, too. Mandarin oranges and cantaloupes will do the trick, and combining them with fresh spinach leaves makes for a delicious salad.

    There are so many ways to use spinach!

    Cooked or raw, you can add spinach to almost anything.

  • Throw it in soups or smoothies for a nutritional boost.
  • Saute it in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and/or onions.
  • Sneak it into sauces — chop it finely first.
  • Use it in salad alone or with other lettuces.
  • Add it to a stir fry.
  • Make it an appetizer! Check out the following recipe…
  • Dive into this highly addictive spinach appetizer

    DAIRY-FREE SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP

    Recipe from ForksOverKnives.com

    INGREDIENTS: (Shout-out to our local food providers in all-caps!)
    1¼ c unsweetened unflavored plant-based milk (such as soy), or grassfed TRICKLING SPRINGS CREAMERY milk
    3 T all-purpose or oat flour
    1 t onion powder
    1 t garlic powder
    1 T fresh lemon juice
    2 c COTTLE ORGANICS spinach (fresh, or frozen and thawed), finely chopped
    1 (14-oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped (about 1½ c)
    sea salt to taste
    black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

    DIRECTIONS:
    1. Combine the milk, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to a spreadable consistency. If using cow milk, use medium heat and watch closely to avoid burning the milk or boiling over.
    2. Add the spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2 minutes more, until the spinach has wilted. Add 1 to 2 T of water if the sauce gets too thick.
    3. Let the dip cool completely.
    4. Serve the dip warm or cold with the baguettes, tortilla chips, or pita chips.

    This recipe and lots more are on the Seasonal Roots Pinterest spinach board.

    No spinach? Try creasy greens!

    Creasies are native plants that are much hardier than spinach, while still rich in iron and calcium with lots of vitamin A and C. Cooking tames creasy greens’ peppery arugula flavor, turning it mild like spinach. You can substitute it for spinach in any of our recipes. If you’ve never tried this native treasure, enjoy the thrill of discovery — that’s what eating local and seasonal is all about! Click here for a farm wife’s tutorial on creasy greens.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    whole grains grat harvest bread co

    Does freshness matter in whole grains?

    EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 21,2018

    Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

    THIS LOCAL BAKER GRINDS WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR DAILY. IS IT WORTH THE TROUBLE?

    Two of our most popular breads are the honey whole wheat and the 9-grain from Great Harvest Bread Company in Mechanicsville, Va. We wanted to know: Does whole grain have to be fresh to be good, the way produce does? The minute veggies and fruits are harvested and exposed to air, light, and heat, they start losing their vitamins. Does the same thing apply to whole grains?

    In their unmilled seed form, grains are designed to last at least until next year’s planting. The thing is, once you grind those whole grains into flour...

    Find out more about grains and baking bread from June, owner and head baker at Great Harvest, below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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    great harvest bread co whole grains

    Does freshness matter in whole grains?

    This local baker grinds fresh whole wheat flour daily. Is it worth it?

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Two of our most popular breads are the honey whole wheat and the 9-grain from Great Harvest Bread Company in Mechanicsville, Va. They’re both really popular with Seasonal Roots members, partly because they’re full of whole wheat goodness, but also because they’re just delicious.

    Seasonal Roots is all about fresh local food, so we wanted to know if the freshness factor has anything to do with how good and tasty this bread is. Is just being fresh-baked enough? What about the flour — how fresh does that have to be? We talked with June, the bakery’s owner and head baker, but first the backstory.

    Does grain have to be fresh to be good?

    We all know that when it comes to produce, freshness counts — the minute veggies and fruits are harvested, they start losing their vitamins. The longer they’re exposed to air, light, and heat, the more vitamins they lose.

    Does the same thing apply to whole grains? After all, in their unmilled seed form, grains are designed to last at least until next year’s planting. The thing is, once you grind those whole grains for flour, the seed’s protective coating is crushed to pieces and some of the sensitive insides are exposed to air. Air is the enemy of vitamins B, A, and E, which are all found in whole grains.

    Now we do eat grains for more than just the vitamins. Grains are an excellent source of energy, fiber, and proteins, and we can only access those nutrients once the grain is ground into flour. The vitamins do help with the digestion of these important nutrients, but we also get those vitamins in the other things we eat. So even if the flour isn’t super fresh, it still has a lot to offer.

    But taste-testing bread connoisseurs will tell you that the freshness of the flour definitely affects the taste of the bread. Just like freshly harvested produce, freshly ground whole grains are more flavorful, plus they still have most of their original vitamins.

    So when you have the choice, bread that’s fresh-baked from freshly ground flour is always better, as we discovered in our conversation with June of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Mechanicsville.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    So what part does freshness play at your bakery?

    JUNE:

    To make good quality bread, it really is a science and freshness is one of the most important factors. We get started at 4:00am every morning, fresh milling our 100% whole wheat flour daily right here in the bakery. We’ve got our own stone-grinding mill because the fresh milling is really the key. When you grind your wheat fresh it maintains the quality so you’ve got more nutrients, more proteins, and definitely more flavor!

    great harvest bread co june's whole grain bread

    June in her element!

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    What are some of the other factors that go into quality bread?

    JUNE:

    Definitely the ingredients. For the honey whole wheat bread, we use only five simple ingredients: fresh milled whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, honey, and water. No preservatives, the water’s filtered, and the wheat is non-GMO. The same ingredients go into the 9-grain, both red and white wheat, plus buckwheat, corn, rye, barley, flax, millet, and oats.

    great harvest bread co kneading whole grains

    Some of the kneading crew, working their magic.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Have you always been a baker?

    JUNE:

    When I was little I loved baking pies from scratch with my mother, but then I grew up and worked in the insurance industry. After 25 years of that, I was ready to give up the corporate world and that childhood experience was my inspiration. So I started my own Great Harvest franchise.

    great harvest bread co whole grain team

    The bakery staff are like family.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Why a franchise? Why not just open “June’s Bakery”?

    JUNE:

    The franchise really simplified the business side of it, and taught me the science side, too. So for five years now I’ve been able to focus on my favorite parts of what I do. I have a passion for the bread and I’m a people person. The staff here at the bakery are like family. There are eight of us, including two with autism, and everyone’s an important part of the team. And I love getting to know our customers, they’re like family, too. We love to share samples with everybody. We’re also big on bakery tours with Girl Scout troops and elementary schools.

    great harvest bread co future whole grain bakers

    June with the whole grain bakers of tomorrow!

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Sounds like you’re really part of your community.

    JUNE:

    We are, this is where we live and work. We really try to live our mission: Be loose and have fun. Bake phenomenal bread. Run fast to serve others. And give generously. We donate bread to area church food pantries, to make sure it goes to local families in need. And we donate on several levels to local charities, like giving them gift certificates that they can use to get nutritious, flavorful bread for free. We really appreciate everyone who shops local and shops fresh, people like the members of Seasonal Roots.

    Want to drop in and meet June and her team at Great Harvest Bakery Company in Mechanicsville? Directions and more are right here.

    And here are some tips on whole grains from the USDA, including how to store whole grain bread.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    humane farming

    Humane farming is good for humans too. Here’s why.

    EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 14,2018

    Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

    LOTS OF PASTURE AND NO PESTICIDES, ANTIBIOTICS, HORMONES, OR GMO'S AT THIS LOCAL FARM

    Out of the six kids in the Avery’s Branch Farms family, Oliver is the one in charge of their pasture-raised chickens. The family also raises cows and pigs. With support from Seasonal Roots and other Virginia families and restaurants, their farm has really grown. Their chicken flock has grown from five hens and a rooster to 3,800 hens. The egg business is now big enough for 24-year-old Oliver to launch (cue the drumroll…) AUTHENTICITY FARMS!

    Even as the flock has grown, Oliver’s commitment to his family’s humane farming practices has remained the same...

    Learn the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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    pasture-raised chickens authenticity farms

    Humane farming is good for humans too. Here’s why.

    Lots of pasture and NO pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or GMOs at this local farm

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    There’s no such thing as a chill chicken. Pigs may be laid back. But laying hens are in a constant state of panic, as if today could be their last. That’s what Oliver has observed since his parents started farming a dozen years ago when he was 12. Relying on humane farming practices, they raised cows, pigs, and chickens at Avery’s Branch Farms in Amelia, Va.

    “Now and then we have some hens that like to be petted, but that’s just a random individual,” Oliver says. “I’ve never heard of a super chill chicken.”

    So apparently, Chicken Little, who famously ran around crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” was a pretty typical chicken. But can you blame her? For a chicken, the world is full of imminent death and dismemberment by raccoons, possums, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, untrained dogs, and as if that weren’t enough, hawks from above. When you’re raising chickens, the temptation is to lock them away inside where it’s easier to raise them.

    Easier. But not healthier. And the resulting flavor’s nothing to write home about, either. Being stuck inside doesn’t even make the chickens any less frantic.

    The humane farming backstory

    Avery’s Branch Farms has been supplying Seasonal Roots and other Virginia families for a long time. We love how the hens have access to pasture year-round. Grass makes up 50% of their diet. The rest of what they eat includes insects, worms (chickens are not naturally vegetarian, which is why those “100% vegetarian feed” claims are not necessarily a good thing), plus local, non-GMO grain. During the winter when the grass isn’t growing, the grass portion of their diet is supplemented with alfalfa, a high quality hay.

    Even when it’s cold out the girls always have outdoor access. So they’re able to do all the natural things that make a chicken happy — grazing, pecking, scratching, and flying short distances out in the fresh air and sunshine. As a result, they naturally stay healthier.

    According to Oliver, “We never use pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones. Our animals are kept healthy by their exceptional diet and environment. In return they give us the healthiest, tastiest products.” And the chickens are kept safe from predators under the watchful eye of trained, hen-loving dogs. The chickens are as naturally frantic as ever, but they’re happy and safe and truly pasture-raised.

    That’s a much higher standard than “cage-free”, which means the birds are not confined in a tiny cage but are still kept indoors, roaming around inside long, low, crowded warehouses. Pasture-raised is better than “free-range” too, which usually just means the chickens have minimal access to an outside concrete pen while spending most of their lives stuck inside like the cage-free birds. For an excellent explanation of the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised, read this.

    A local farm success story

    Out of the six kids in the Avery’s Branch family, Oliver is the one in charge of their pasture-raised chickens. He recalls, “I had always wanted to partner with restaurants to offer the same life-giving products to restaurant-goers we had always offered to our family customers. With the help of the nearby Amish community, we started delivering to restaurants and it was a big hit. Soon we had to increase our flocks to accommodate the demand.”

    Seasonal Roots helped Oliver introduce more Virginia families to the goodness of his family’s pasture-raised eggs. Just like Virginia’s high-end restaurant chefs, we could all see and taste the difference that a grassfed diet makes (more on that in a minute). But the restaurants needed a consistent supply to make pasture-raised eggs a regular part of their menus, and so did we. A bigger flock made the small family farm in Amelia a more dependable supplier to everyone.

    They started out with five hens and a rooster in 2005. Today their flock has grown to 3,800 and the egg business is big enough for Oliver, now 24, to make the flock his own and launch (cue the drumroll…) AUTHENTICITY FARMS!

    Even as the flock has grown, Oliver’s commitment to his family’s humane farming practices has remained the same. So one local sustainable, humane family farm is now two. Seasonal Roots members can pat themselves on the back for being part of making that possible.

    The health benefits of pasture-raised eggs

    Humane farming practices aren’t just good for the animals. They’re good for the humans, too. A pasture-raised egg looks different from an industrial farmed egg, even if it’s cage-free or free-range. A pasture-raised yolk is deep orange surrounded by a thick, milky white. The flavor is richer. And it offers higher amounts of vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

    A pasture-raised egg offers the highest quality protein, second only to the lactalbumin protein in a human mother’s milk. It is a true superfood. A study found that compared to industrial farmed eggs, the benefits of pasture-raised include:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • 3-6 times more vitamin D (thanks to hanging out in all that sunshine!)
  • We’re proud to support the humane, healthful, life-giving work of the newest addition to our market, Authenticity Farms!

    Visit the Authenticity Farms website for more on Oliver’s goals and mission.
    Visit the Avery’s Branch Farms website to get to know the family and their principled approach to farming.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    kids healthy snacks

    The step-by-step guide to kids healthy snacks

    This is how you get kids to make good snack choices like these!

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    This cutie’s mom, Beth, snapped her son’s picture to show what happened after she joined Seasonal Roots and got into eating local.

    “My son just came home from school and these were HIS choice of snack!” Beth reported. “In the past he would go for something in the pantry. He loves the fresh veggies as much as I do!”

    The average American kid snacks three times a day, and chips, candy, and other junk foods account for almost a third of their daily caloric intake. That discovery was revealed by a study that came out in Health Affairs Journal in 2010. Since then, childhood obesity rates have continued to rise, so apparently not much has changed.

    Lucky for us locavores, local food can make change happen. It tastes so good that kids naturally love it, and it’s really good for you. So first of all: GO LOCAL!

    Next, when it comes to kids healthy snacks, experts say it’s not the between-meal-snacking that’s the problem — it’s the quantity, quality, and timing of what you’re eating that counts.

    Eat 6 times a day

    Eating every few hours during your waking hours keeps your metabolism cranked up so you burn off calories. Starving yourself or your kids between meals and/or cramming all your calories into one or two big meals a day does the opposite. It tells your body that food is scarce. To get you through this time of “scarcity”, your body slows down your metabolism to use fewer calories now, storing those calories for later by converting them into fat.

    So it’s better to eat six small meals a day — with three of those meals being super small, a.k.a. snack-size, like an apple and a handful of nuts.

    Eat within a 12-hour window or less

    The one time it’s okay to “starve” yourself between meals is overnight (or whatever time of day you sleep.) Multiple studies have shown that if you eat your breakfast at, say, 8:00am, and then eat your last snack of the day before 8:00pm, you’re more likely to keep weight off and stay healthier.

    Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this is true. But they believe it could be that the timing of when you eat influences your body’s internal clock. Meal times affect your circadian rhythm more than whether or not the sun is up. Circadian rhythm impacts the function of many genes that are known to affect metabolism. And metabolism is involved in whether your body burns calories… or stores them.

    Science has also uncovered another possibile explanation: Your body needs downtime to repair itself from the day’s wear and tear, right down to the cellular level. If you go to sleep with a big meal in your stomach, your body will spend its night shift processing those calories instead of keeping up with its daily overnight repair duties.

    Use snack time to supplement kids’ diets

    Snack time can accomplish so much more than just postponing hunger pangs! It’s actually an opportunity to fill in whatever might have been missing from the last meal you or your children ate. For example, if you had cereal and milk for breakfast, what’s missing? Fruit! Serve up an apple or berries. That way you’re using snack time to complement the bigger meals.

    Mix it up

    One of the most common bad-snacking habits: Eating too much of one kind of food, like crackers, chips, or cookies. Worse, processed foods like that are often made with artery-clogging trans fats. These are usually labeled as ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ in the ingredients list.

    Rather than offer kids just one food item as a snack, combine at least two food groups, like a protein and a carbohydrate. That can be as simple as serving a granola bar with a glass of naturally sweet grassfed milk, full of healthy fats your body needs. Other local food combos: peanut butter and whole wheat crackers or bread, a boiled egg and carrot sticks, grassfed cheese and a pear, or hummus and pita. Combo snacks like those deliver a one-two punch: more nutrients plus they’re more filling, to tide kids over until the next meal.

    Think small

    The point of snacking is to keep hunger pangs at bay while enjoying something tasty. Snacking isn’t about eating until you’re stuffed. Instead of handing your kids whole bags of chips, dole out small portions into small plastic bags or containers that can be grabbed on the go. Or leave out a snack-sized serving on a plate.

    Go local!

    Healthy snacks start with healthy ingredients, and you can’t beat local food that’s produced sustainably and humanely… and flavorfully. If it tastes better, Beth’s son is proof that kids will naturally love it.

    Local produce that’s freshly harvested has more nutrients and flavor than grocery store produce that’s a week old or older. Locally made artisan goods are created with wholesome, recognizable ingredients, no toxic preservatives or additives. And local grassfed dairy and meat, and pasture-raised chicken and eggs, are so much more nutritious and delish than industrial-farmed animals. All that fresh air, room to roam, and natural diet makes for happier animals, too.

    To make healthy snacking a habit, it also has to be convenient. That’s where Seasonal Roots comes in. Members like Beth can order every week and home-delivery is included, so there’s always something fresh and tasty on hand.

    Click here for a list of all the amazing benefits of grassfed, compiled by Wendy and Keith of Saddle Ridge Farm, one of the local farms in our online farmers market.

    Click here to learn more about why avoiding midnight snacks makes you healthier.

    Click here for 20 creative snack ideas for kids that will make snack time delicious, healthy, and best of all, fun!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    sustainable farming compost

    4 reasons to support sustainable farming

    And all 4 reasons make your life better!

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    That’s Farmer Charlie of Victory Farms in Henrico County, Va., in the photo. He clearly loves his compost, but why should you care about sustainable farming if you’re not a farmer? There are four good reasons why, and they all make our lives better. But first…

    What is sustainable farming?

    The USDA defines sustainable agriculture as “the production of plant or animal products using techniques that protect the environment and the welfare of humans and animals.”

    Sustainable agriculture is focused on finding the right balance between our need to produce food and our need to preserve the environmental ecosystems that sustain our one-and-only planet.

    One thing sustainable farming is NOT, is industrial. Industrial agriculture uses industrial techniques, including a heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. That’s how they churn out huge volumes of crops and livestock. Industrial farming operations often treat the plants, animals, and humans involved like inanimate parts on a factory assembly line instead of like living things.

    And what are sustainable farming methods?

    To grow our food, farmers need clean water and good soil, and they have to be able to keep certain pests from eating up their crops before we can even take a bite. Sustainable methods make all that happen with a minimum of toxic chemicals.

    CROP ROTATION avoids the problems that build up when you plant the same crops in the same soil year after year. Many pests prefer specific crops and are happy to settle in, gorge on the steady food supply, and boost their numbers. Rotation breaks the pests’ reproduction cycle. Changing up the crops also changes what the plants take out of the soil and put back into it, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Farmers with pasture-raised cattle and chickens rotate them, too, fertilizing each field they pass through.

    COVER CROPS are also used in the rotation process. In between the main crops, farmers plant cover crops like clover or oats. The cover crops prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds, and improve the soil quality without chemical fertilizers or herbicides.

    SOIL ENRICHMENT produces good, healthy soil that’s full of life, which increases crop yield. In addition to cover crops, other sustainable methods of enrichment include leaving stalks and leaves to compost in the field after harvest, and using other composted plant material or animal manure. Some farmers rotate their cattle through harvested fields to graze on the leavings. They can be followed by chickens that eat the bugs in the cow manure, while adding their own rich manure to the mix — making them an all-natural source of fertilizer and pest management!

    NATURAL PEST PREDATORS like pasture-raised chickens are an integral part of a farm that’s treated as an ecosystem instead of a factory. In addition to predator birds, there are predator insects like ladybugs and certain wasps that eat crop-eating insects. But when pesticides are used indiscriminately, the good insects get killed along with the pests. So integrated pest management relies on pest predators, crop rotation, and special techniques like introducing sterile male pests. Chemical solutions are only used as a last resort.

    WATER & FUEL CONSERVATION includes drip irrigation instead of overhead spraying, so water isn’t wasted through evaporation. Many sustainable farmers also use solar or wind energy to power water pumps and electrical fencing.

    And now… here are four reasons why all these methods make our lives better!

    REASON #1: MORE NUTRITIOUS FOOD

    Sustainable food is grown with fewer toxic chemicals in naturally enriched soil. Sustainably grown crops and animals absorb or eat those nutrients, producing food that’s more nutritious and less toxic.

    REASON #2: SAFER ENVIRONMENT

    Reducing pollution, chemical use, and soil erosion improves air and water quality for all of us. Fewer asthma triggers and carcinogens are good our health. And by working with nature instead of fighting it, sustainable farmers maintain bio-diversity and functioning eco-systems that the environment needs to stay healthy, too. Sustainable farmers continuously replenish the land so it will be there for future generations.

    REASON #3: HAPPIER ANIMALS

    Pasture-raised animals can engage in their natural behaviors and eat their natural diet. Not only are the animals happier and healthier, they produce food for us that’s richer in nutrients and healthy fats. And knowing that the animals are being treated humanely just feels good, too.

    REASON #4: HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES

    Sustainable farmers are exposed to fewer toxins, reduce their costs, and boost their crop yields. So they’re better able to make a living while simultaneously feeding the rest of us and reducing pollution. That contributes to a community with a stronger economy and a healthier environment, the kind of place we all want to live.

    So how can you tell if your food was grown sustainably?

    It can be hard for the average person to figure out whether each item they eat was produced using sustainable methods. There’s no “sustainable” label at the grocery store. The best solution is to go local and get to know all the farmers who grow your food. Yet that would be seriously time-consuming.

    Fortunately, here at Seasonal Roots we check out the local farmers for you. So all you have to do is enjoy the food!

    Read about the sustainable practices of these typical Seasonal Roots farmers:
    Appalachian Harvest
    Keenbell Farm
    Saddle Ridge Farm
    Victory Farms

    For a deeper dive into the health benefits of eating sustainably, read the research collected by the GRACE Communications Foundation, a private foundation that advocates for sustainable alternatives.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    probiotics prebiotics local food

    Boost gut health with probiotics & prebiotics

    The local foods that have them may surprise you!


    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    You’ve probably heard of probiotics. But do you know exactly what they are, why they’re important, and that there are a lot of foods you can get them from? Turns out local food is a great source for this vital part of a healthy gut!

    What are probiotics?

    Most probiotics are “good” bacteria, though some species of yeast have also been ID’d as having probiotic qualities. Once these beneficial micro-organisms are ingested, they set up housekeeping in your digestive tract. The friendly microbes are believed to help you digest your food properly and may protect you from harmful bacteria that cause disease.

    What are prebiotics? Are they related?

    They are! Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. So you can boost the probiotics in your gut by feeding them prebiotics. The term “synbiotics” refers to foods or products that have both probiotics and prebiotics.

    Check out the health benefits!

    According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s evidence that probiotics may help:

  • Treat diarrhea, especially after taking certain antibiotics (which can kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut)
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
  • Ease allergic disorders such as eczema and hay fever
  • Scientists are also studying probiotics and prebiotics to see if they’re effective (and safe) in treating other diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. More research is definitely needed!

    Eat your way to a healthy gut

    You don’t have to take supplements to boost the good work that probiotics are doing inside you. In fact, the best way to get most of the micro-organisms, compounds, minerals, and vitamins that you need is from real live food, not pills. When you get it from food, it’s easier for your body to absorb it and put it to work.

    Here are the local foods to look for

    Both probiotics and the prebiotics that fuel them can be found in lots of local foods. In prepared foods, the key to probiotics is often fermentation. A fermented dairy product like YOGURT contains both live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive. The local supplier in our online farmers market is Trickling Springs Creamery. Using grassfed milk from local farmers, they make minimally processed yogurt, and BUTTERMILK that’s rich in probiotics, too.

    Fermented dairy’s not your thing? Then how about SOURDOUGH BREAD, like the sourdough boule baked in Ashland, Va., by La Bella Vita Bakery. The fermentation is in the sourdough starter that makes it rise, and sourdough is a source of probiotics.

    For additional tasty ways to get your priobiotics, try naturally fermented SOUR PICKLES, KRAUT, or KIMCHI. Any naturally pickled vegetable will get the job done. Matt’s Dirty Pickles are fermented in brine in Midlothian, Va.

    The prebiotics that feed probiotics can be found in local foods, too. Fresh produce like GREENS (including kale and spinach), ONIONS, LEEKS, GARLIC, and ASPARAGUS, and foods like WHOLE GRAINS, LEGUMES, and HONEY can all be had from local farmers and food artisans in our online farmers market. Yummvees vegan meals are made in Midlothian, and are full of legumes and whole grains. The bees of Alfredo’s Beehive gather their nectar in the toxin-free fields of Manokin-Sabot, Va., and produce the most amazing local honey.

    Are probiotics safe?

    If you’re getting extra probiotics and prebiotics from the food you eat, side effects are rare. Most healthy adults can safely add probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods to their diets. If you’re considering taking supplements, though, check with your doctor to be sure they’re right for you.

    Want to learn more about prebiotics and probiotics? The National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic are both good places to start.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    local family farms

    Love local family farms!

    Get to know one of the families who feed your family


    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Well, it’s February, and thanks to Valentine’s Day, this is a month that’s all about love and relationships. That perfectly describes how we feel about our farmers and food artisans — we’re falling in love with fresher, more nutritious and tasty local food, and building relationships with the people who grow and make it.

    Last week we all got to know Tracy, one of our newest food artisans and maker of vegan meals, desserts, and snacks. (Read her story: Out of tragedy, a vegan dream is born.) This week, we’d like to introduce you to one of our longtime, old school family farmers: Chris of Deer Run Farm.

    We fairies asked our farmer connector, Sam, what kind of crops Chris harvests for us. Sam started to run through a long list: “Cabbages, all kinds of tomatoes and radishes, broccoli, eggplant, several varieties of peppers, red potatoes, curly kale, collards,” before he ran out of breath and added, “Just to name a few!” There are beautiful photos of Chris’s harvests on the Deer Run Farm Facebook page.

    This weekend, in the middle of winter, we have Chris’s sweet potatoes in our online farmers market. So you can tell it’s quiet on the farm this time of year. Quiet enough for Chris to sit down and talk with us for a little bit. He says he likes meeting the families who buy his produce.

    Veggie Fairy:

    When you meet them, what do they ask you?

    Chris:

    How do you do it all?!

    They look at everything we’re growing and that’s what they want to know. You get up when the sun comes up and work ’til 10-11 o’clock at night. You just work ’til the work is done. You rest up in the winter. But next week already we’ll be getting started in the greenhouse. We’ll start our seedlings of tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower and later we’ll transplant them to the fields. That way the produce is ready earlier in the season.

    Veggie Fairy:

    When you say ‘we’, who’s working with you?

    Chris:

    Mostly my family.

    My mom Mildred, my wife Britney, and my two daughters, Emily and Sidney, plus a few hired hands in the summer. And my in-laws help out at the farmers markets. We’re all right here on the farm. My mom’s in the house I grew up in, and I bought the old 100-year-old farmhouse across the road.
    (Watch a video of the girls transplanting seedlings from the back of one of Chris’s antique tractors!)

    Veggie Fairy:

    So tell us about your tractors!

    Chris:

    I have a lot of old tractors.

    With the old ones, I can work on them. Most of mine are from the ’70s. The newer tractors are all computerized, and someone else has to hook them up to a computer to figure out what’s wrong. With mine, I can do the work myself.
    (Watch a video that shows how the wheels of one of his old tractors are designed to avoid crushing the seedlings his girls are planting.)

    Veggie Fairy:

    Have you always been a farmer?

    Chris:

    I was born into it.

    My father and grandfather farmed in the Short Pump area near Richmond, back when it was fields and forests instead of malls and big box stores. Then in 1979, when I was 5, we moved out here to King William County and we’ve been farming this 100 acres ever since. I like working outside. When I got older I worked as a machinist during the day and farmed at night. I did that for 15 years ’til I got let go, and I thought, well, I’ll try farming fulltime. I’ve been doing that since 2005, so it’s turning out all right. The members of Seasonal Roots and Dominion Harvest (FAIRY NOTE: Seasonal Roots and Dominion Harvest joined forces last year) — the support of their members has been helpful because you can plant more knowing you have an outlet.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What kind of sustainable farming methods do you use?

    Chris:

    We use drip irrigation to conserve water, and we’re low- or no-spray.

    We don’t spray for pests unless we see something, and we aim for a one-day interval. That means it’s the kind of thing that disappears quickly so you can get back in the field within one day. We keep our own bees and we don’t want to kill the bees. We also use drip application, so we don’t spray it on the fruit.
    (Watch a video of pollinators hard at work on Deer Run Farm.)

    *

    Family farms like Chris’s are the heart of Seasonal Roots and the local food movement. If you want peace of mind about the food you’re eating, you have to know and trust the farmers!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.