LODI RULES : A Certified Winegrowing Sustainability Program

Swirl the glass of aromas, take a sip, and think about the flavors dancing around your palate.  Did you taste hints of sweet grapes or does it have a citrus flavor, perhaps even a dry cherry finish? As you take that next sip you’ve probably already made a mental note whether you liked it enough to have another glass.  Look at the wine in your glass, check out the color, smell it, and drink some more. While you’re enjoying that Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, or even a refreshing Pinot Grigio, did you think about the process to achieve such a smooth and balanced wine? Or maybe even how the grapes are farmed that end up in your wine?  Today, we are introducing you to LODI RULES and their Certified Winegrowing sustainability program.  So, pour another glass of that vino and pull up a chair.

LODI RULES

What do farmers and world-renowned scientists have to do with your wine?  Surprisingly a lot when it comes
to the sustainability process related to wine.  Launched in 2005, LODI RULES is the nation’s first-ever comprehensive sustainable winegrowing program. With more than 10 years of experience, this program has created the pathway for other sustainability programs from coast to coast. In fact, multiple vineyards, wine labels and lists carry one of the prestigious LODI RULES Certified Green labels. Headquartered just south of Sacramento, the Lodi region is one of the few American viticulture areas (AVA) with ancient vines that survived through the Prohibition era.  Today, hundreds of these treasured vines are part of the LODI RULES program – something truly unique to this region.  Little did they know, a mission started in 1992 to educate others and diminish the use of pesticides, would turn into a formal certification program with more than 1,000 certified vineyards to date.

Certification and Sustainability

LODI RULES promotes sustainable management of the entire vineyard ecosystem and is certified by Protected Harvest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz, California, with the principal mission to advance use and adoption of quantifiable sustainable agriculture standards.  Protected Harvest functions first and foremost as an independent certifier, but also conducts reviews of standards developed by industry-leading organizations, to provide third-party validation and confirm they are based on sound science and designed to promote continuous improvement.

So, what does sustainable vineyard management mean?  To ensure the grapes are producing remarkable wine, while enhancing natural and human resources, LODI RULES certified vineyards are held to a rigorous set of standards.  Producing exceptional grapes is key in the wine industry.  Farmers carefully manage the quality of the soil and water – maximizing the water penetration and enhancing organic matter within the soil. Sustainable farming also includes pest management and using integrated systems to minimize potential risks to animals, water, and people.  Safety, business and human resource practices are all additional criteria required to carry the LODI RULES Certified Green certification.  Each of the 120+ farming practice standards are measurable, auditable, and address at least one sustainability aspect (environmental health, social equity or economic viability).  Today three seals exist; LODI RULES, CALIFORNIA RULES, and a universal rules seal. All of these seals carry the same stringent process for verification.

SureHarvest and Where Food Comes From

So how does Where Food Comes From fit into this equation?  That’s easy, let us introduce you to SureHarvest, a division of Where Food Comes From.  SureHarvest administers the LODI RULES certification process on behalf of Protected Harvest. They provide a digital platform for growers and auditors to track and analyze vineyard management practices.  SureHarvest also provides consulting solutions to the wine industry on sustainability strategy. The next time you grab that bottle of vino be sure to look for one of the LODI RULES Certified Green seals on the back because they truly know what it means to provide exceptional wine for future generations.

Learn more by visiting the links below!

Storybit : LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards

A century-old relationship with sweets, movies, candlelight, and great conversation.  Do you find yourself leaning toward a lukewarm merlot or a refreshing pinot grigio? Before you pop open that bottle of wine for an evening in or if you’re celebrating a special event let us introduce you to some individuals that helped make that possible.  This week we head to sunny California, where nearly 90% of all US wine is produced, to share the story of LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards.


The Story

Agriculture and climate are both key to producing the finest grapes, which are later used to create your favorite wines.  In 1974, identical twins, Randall and Bradford Lange, sought out to provide the best ripe grapes for wine production.  The twins started farming winegrapes with one vineyard, one varietal and 120 acres in Lodi. In 2006 their evolution continued, from winegrape growers to winemakers, when they took the next step and opened a winery. For those of us who have a love for wine, we never pass up an opportunity to visit and take in the experience a great winery has to offer.

The winery was a way to inspire future generations to see how their farm, communities and the agricultural way of life could thrive with the right focus.  Today, they are a multi-generational family working side-by-side to farm 29 varieties, 67 vineyards, and 8,100 acres, growing and crafting certified sustainable wines.  Starting in the Lodi Appellation the family expanded to additional regions – Clement Hills Sub-Appellation and Clarksburg, distinct areas that would allow their business to emerge.

All of their wines are proudly grown, crushed (pictured) and bottled in one location. Their commitment for winegrape growing and winemaking practices comes from their agricultural roots.  Farming land for wine lovers who value a genuine connection to people and the authenticity of a real place is a true passion for the family.  Each member of LangeTwins has unique responsibilities within the winery and play a pivotal role in the growth of the brand.  They look forward to working with the sixth generation of winegrowers.


Verification Services

LangeTwins certify their vineyards through the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program (LODI RULES).  This is California’s original third party audited sustainable winegrowing program. It validates the farming techniques that LangeTwins have been practicing for decades, farming in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible while also being economically viable.

LODI RULES is certified by Protected Harvest, a  501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz, California, with the principal mission to advance use and adoption of quantifiable sustainable agriculture standards. Protected Harvest contracts with SureHarvest, a division of Where Food Comes From, to operate the program and manage the auditing and certification process.


The Benefits

LangeTwins is committed to a healthy environment producing the best quality grapes.  Sustainable business practices are top of mind when it comes to this family. With 67 individual vineyards, they farm, protect and preserve the land for generations to come. Certification through a rigorous, third-party program like Lodi Rules adds a level of credibility to their efforts and helps educate customers about the importance of sustainability. The Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program is the right fit for LangeTwins and helps to ensure all aspects of their business that include environmental health, social equity, and economic viability.  For us it can be difficult to understand the complexities of these programs. For that reason, LangeTwins family speaks to their sustainability efforts in the context of responsible farming and management of their business for future generations.  They hope their customers share their mindset of practical, measurable ways to reduce our overall impact while still being able to produce the highest quality wines.

Everything connects back to their love of farm and family. They are proud to craft wines which allow their farm, community and all of the families connected to thrive. They work diligently each day together to preserve the agriculture way of life.  To find out where you can purchase wines from LangeTwins please contact them at info@langetwins.com or visit their social media channels by searching @langetwins.

 

  

 

 

 

Storybit : Quarter Circle U Ranch

What does a doctorate in nuclear science have to do with animal science?  Scratching your head?  While neither have much to do with one another, they both are part of our latest Where Food Comes From story.  This week we visit Chuck Backus of Quarter Circle U Ranch in Arizona.  This former engineer turned rancher is taking beef quality to new heights.  Let’s find out how Chuck and his family are hitting the mark.  

The Background
For 36 years, Chuck Backus, a Virginia farm boy at heart, had a very high-profile academic career at Arizona State University (ASU).  In the 1960’s Chuck was part of the space program’s Mars Mission.  He later assisted with the world’s premier solar-testing laboratory and served as the first ASU associate dean of research in the 1990’s.  Although his academic career was extremely successful, Chuck felt something drawing him to return to the outdoor life.

In 1977, Chuck and his wife, Judy, purchased a 10-acre piece of land with a 22-section grazing lease of Arizona State Trust land.  Even though his commute to the college would be 45 minutes, he knew this was the place he would be calling home.  Chuck attended classes at Arizona State that focused on animal science and range management, and through trial-and-error practices, he was able to gain more hands-on experience.  He focused on land and water improvement and those improvements were recognized by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Chuck knew there was more improvements to be made, which included adapting the Angus breed to the Arizona climate.  After extensive surveying of the land, Chuck developed an unusual cattle rotation plan by moving the herd to specific sectors of his ranch during specific months.  This allowed more cattle to be raised along with improving the overall quality of the land. In addition to improving the land and water, Chuck also worked tirelessly to improve the facilities for the cattle by adding new lanes for smoother cattle movement, tubs, and in-line electronic weight scales.

In 2004 Chuck retired from ASU to focus solely on ranching.  By 2006 he was collecting genetic information on his herd and he had determined there were ways to raise higher quality calves.  By understanding the genetic traits of his cattle, Chuck was able to provide a better tasting product for consumers.  In 2014 and 2015, 84% of his beef qualified for either “Prime” or other certified grades.  These calves were raised as “natural calves” carrying the “Verified Natural Beef” certification.  Chuck has had lots of success raising high quality cattle and remains extremely close to the community. He currently participates in multiple lectures and conferences educating other ranchers on modern techniques to produce quality products.

Audit Services
Today, the Circle U Ranch participates in the Source & Age, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) and Verified Natural Beef (VNB) verification programs through the IMI Global division of Where Food Comes From.  When asked why he utilizes verification programs, Chuck replied,

“I strive to raise gentle, high carcass quality calves in a very humane way, but in a very harsh environment in Arizona.  Each year, I have my calves and ranch operations inspected and certified by IMI Global.  By retaining ownership through a feedlot in Oklahoma and then selling to a specialty packer in Kansas, I am able to receive multiple premiums for my calves –  thanks to the IMI Global certifications.”

The Benefits
Over the last 5 years Chuck has received numerous awards for his advancements in the industry.  While his first goal was to raise highly efficient cattle so consumers had the best tasting product on their dinner table, his techniques have also improved other elements of farming, such as the land.  Chuck plans to help close the gap between farmers and suppliers to deliver better food for generations to come.

 

Storybit : Frozen Garden

We live in a fast-paced world where sometimes it seems like we are always on the go. When it comes to the effect that has on the food we eat, it can equate to a fast, convenient meal that probably isn’t providing you with all the nutrition your body needs. What if someone could make that easier? Our good friends at Frozen Garden did just that. Don’t have time for meal prepping? No problem! They did all the work for you with their frozen green smoothies. Just open a smoothie pack, blend and enjoy! It’s a quick nutritious meal you can have on the go. Let’s get blending and learn more about Frozen Garden.

Background Allyson Straka

Allyson Straka, corporate business mom turned entrepreneur, wanted more than her 9-5 job had to offer. She wanted to do something where she could not only better herself but help others. As she was expecting her first daughter, Allyson really started thinking about the food she was putting in her body and the effects that food was having on her and her child.Attempting to have a more balanced diet, her daily green smoothie routine turned into much more. She became obsessed with what was really in the food she ate. Fast forward to after her second daughter arrived, Allyson decided to ditch the corporate scene and became a certified Holistic Health Coach. Educating people on the real food movement was something she became very passionate about!

As a health coach, Allyson taught clients how to reduce their consumption of processed foods while getting back in their kitchens to cook real, nutrient-dense foods from scratch. For many, finding the time to shop and cook from scratch is their biggest roadblock. It was really frustrating to hear complaints about not being able to buy any “convenient” products.  That was when this entrepreneur took the challenge seriously and turned those frustrations into a major game changer. She wanted to create a healthy and convenient solution without chemicals or additives toprove that it is possible to eat healthy in our busy and fast-paced lives. Allyson began to brainstorm what the product should be.

After consulting her father, he asked, “If you could get your clients to do just one thing to improve their health, what would it be?”  Without hesitation she said, “Well, drink green smoothies every day!”  He responded, “How do you make that easier and more convenient for them?” Just like that, Frozen Garden was created.

Audit Services

Through Where Food Comes From, Frozen Garden is able to label their products as Non-GMO Project verified. The program is the most thorough third-party verification for Non-GMO products. In order to be certified and carry the label, they adhere to all processes under the Non-GMO Project standard. Frozen Garden products never contain sugar, gluten, dairy or soy. Their frozen green smoothiesare also vegan friendly.

The Benefits 

While all of Frozen Garden’s ingredients have always been Non-GMO, they are dedicated to continued transparency and believe everyone has a right to know what’s in their food and where it comes from. Where Food Comes From was instrumental in helping Frozen Garden receive their certification. By partnering with Where Food Comes From, the process became simple and easy to certify new products to their growing list. Allyson and the Frozen Garden team love being able to provide a healthy and convenient food solution to consumers without any powders, supplements or gimmicks.

Next time you’re looking for a quick, easy and nutritious meal remember Frozen Garden!   Frozen Garden green smoothies are made with 100% realfruits, veggies, seeds and spices andingredients are sourced from local farmers, when available. All you have to do isadd water and blend!  Sounds easy and delicious enough to us!

Learn more about Frozen Garden here.
Learn more about Where Food Comes From here.
Locate products with the Non-GMO Project label here

 

Storybit : Taylor Ranch

Here at Where Food Comes From, we love sharing the stories of those who support our vision and values when it comes to your food.  We head to Western Oklahoma this week to meet Jimmy and Tracy Taylor from Taylor Ranch. 

Taylor Ranch 

With generations of family farming experience, this husband and wife duo know a thing or two about raising quality cattle.  Jimmy and Tracy Taylor own and manage Taylor Ranch, a ranch they consider a “mom and pop operation,” located just south of Cheyenne, Oklahoma.  The ranch was started by Jimmy’s great-grandfather in 1914 and his father Jim was the first to manage the ranch in 1953.  After getting married the newlyweds quickly learned everything about the land where the ranch resided before taking over management in 1993.  From the start, their goal was to sell quality beef products creating a better eating experience for their consumers, and that same goal continues today.

Their herd currently includes approximately 600 Angus heifers (females) running on 12,000 acres in the heart of the rolling Red Shale Hills in western Oklahoma. When it comes to the maintenance of the cattle, both Jimmy and Tracy are extremely hands-on.  They care about their cattle and ensure each animal is receiving top notch care.

Happy cow, happy life – right?

Our definition of a happy cow is that at the end of every day, all her nutritional, mineral and health needs have been met and she is content and lying down.  When we have done this, we have done our job.  – Jimmy Taylor

 

Taylor Ranch strives to provide the best end-product possible for every consumer and to them that means happy and healthy cattle.  They treat every animal as if it is going to be served on their own table.  In order to provide a great eating experience, Taylor Ranch focuses on two things : verification programs and genetics.  Through DNA testing and genetic profiling, they are able to ensure they retain a high-quality herd.

In 2011, the Taylor’s won the Cattleman Commitment to Excellence Commercial Award.  Since becoming a recipient, the Taylor’s have continued to evolve their processes and care of their cattle.

Verification Process

As mentioned above, verification programs are a main focus for Taylor Ranch. Today, they partner with IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From, to participate in the Source & Age, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) and Verified Natural Beef (VNB) and China Export Verification (EV) verification programs.

The Benefits of Verification

Verification is important to the Taylor’s because not only does it provide transparency to the consumer, but they also receive a premium for their hard work and dedication to providing the type of beef that consumers demand.  These programs also allow cattle to be eligible for buyers and brands seeking specialty markets that require these specific beef attributes, including export to China!

 

It’s evident that the Jimmy and Tracy Taylor of Taylor Ranch not only care about their animals, but also the experience that consumers receive at their dinner table.  It’s important that we remember their hard work and passion when we’re at the grocery store or our dinner table.  We love telling you these stories, and we can’t wait to share more!

Interested in learning more about the programs that Where Food Comes From offers?  Check them out here.

 

 

Worker Care Review Certification by Validus

Heart and Soul of the Food Industry  

Most of us have been employed at one time or another.  Think about your current job or maybe a past position.  The work you do or have done might seem to be small in relation to the overall company, but every action translates to a bigger picture. So how does your role affect the outcome of your company’s goals? Work performed by yourself and others may help achieve specific objectives that translate to a better experience for customers.  In any business environment, the most valuable asset is their people.  They are the heart and soul – ultimately determining the success and growth of the company.  This holds true for every industry, and most especially food and agriculture.  Without farmers, growers, or producers we wouldn’t have the food supply we have today. Not to mention the support of our auditors who partner with our farm teams to ensure nothing but the best when it comes to transparency with your food.  In our previous blogs you learned about Validus certifications that included Animal Welfare and Environmental Review. This week we focus on the next Validus Certified Program– Worker Care Review – because people matter.

Validus Worker Care Review

Coming into a positive work environment makes you feel good about the job you are doing.  Part of keeping those feelings optimistic is the conditions that you work in.  When you leave home and head to work, you want to return safely to your family and loved ones after the day is done.  As part of their verification practices, Validus created the Worker Care Review Standard, which includes a comprehensive pre-audit of worker care practices consisting of worker eligibility, worker safety and worker compensation.  It is verified on-site by Validus auditors who receive on-going, comprehensive training based on International Organization of Standards (ISO) requirements.  The audit focuses on many areas, including the following:

  • Federal and State Labor Laws
  • Employee Worker Health and Safety Requirements
  • Transportation Requirements
  • Non-discrimination Practices
  • Employment Records
  • Applicable Housing Provisions
  • On-Site Working Conditions Observations

This audit helps ensure employees are hired legally, treated and compensated fairly, and provided a safe working environment.

A CARE Producer

Validus and Where Food Comes From understand you spend a lot of time at your job and that conditions there should be safe and harmonious.  In fact, Validus felt it was so important they included it as part of their designation.  To learn more about the verification programs, check out Where Food Comes From and Validus Certification.

Storybit : Southern Cross Farm

The Story 

Gary and Nancy Jackson spent most of their lives around small cattle farms. Like many of us, right after high school they went on to pursue college degrees, careers, and start a family.  Both pursued careers in the agricultural field.  This led Gary on his path to becoming becoming the Director of Mississippi State University Extension Service in Starkville, MS while leading Nancy to become a veterinarian specializing in food animal medicine.  Driven by a desire to return to their roots, Gary and Nancy Jackson started the Southern Cross Farm in 2005. Starting with just 20 pregnant heifers and 270 acres of land they grew the operation to 706 acres with 175 female cows with their future set on eventually reaching 250 mature cattle.

Nancy has spent years developing the cow herd to reach an optimum mature body weight to flourish in the Mississippi environment, while still producing a calf capable of becoming high quality USDA Choice or Prime Beef. Each heifer calf is blood sampled to compare its genes to high performing Angus cattle in the national database, and only the best heifers that fit the long- term goals of the farm are kept for replacement heifers. Bulls are chosen for their longevity, docility, and the ability to transmit characteristics for their calves to perform well once they reach the feedlot phase of their life.

The Jacksons strive to be good stewards of the environment with their cow herd, while also increasing the local wildlife populations and diversity of species. A few of the environmental stewardship practices that are utilized on the Southern Cross Farm are rotational grazing, having a defined and short calving season, utilizing solar energy for water pumping and delivery, and using only home-grown forages to provide the feed for the cow herd.  Another management practice used on the Southern Cross Farm is the inclusion of clover plants in the fields.  It provides a high-quality protein for the cows, and when the plants die, they increase soil fertility.

Last year, Nancy’s ongoing efforts in agriculture and contributions have been recognized by the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association.  In fact, she became the first female President of the association!

Audit Services 

The Jackson’s focus on high performing, healthy cattle that will produce a tasty, enjoyable beef-eating experience.  This is why they make the decision to partner with IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From. The Jacksons chose to enroll their herd in the Source & Age and Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) verification programs. Individual identification of every calf with its birth date and dam records were already being kept, so it was not hard to add the radio frequency identification tags to each animal before it was sold. This program made the calves produced by Southern Cross Farm eligible for export to countries that require NHTC cattle, as well as brands withinthe U.S. that promote NHTC beef. The 2018 calf crop was sold utilizing a video auction broadcast over satellite television, which allowed the cattle to stay on the farm where they were raised until the day they were shipped to the feedlot. IMI Global provided the documentation of the NHTC status of the calves and this information followed the animals all the way to harvest.  The Jacksons will continue expand their relationship with IMI Global in 2019 through enrolling their entire calf crop into the Source & Age and NHTC verification programs.

The Benefits

The Jacksons raise cattle for many reasons, but they truly love seeing the animals grow and transform on the farm into a nutritious beef product. They take great pride in knowing that they are part of the United States population that raises our food.  They love to educate consumers about their ranch and the “farm to fork” process of producing a safe, nutritious beef product.  

 

Storybit : Gerber’s Amish Farm Chicken

It’s an ongoing debate on which came first, the chicken or the egg.  This week we head to Ohio to learn more about the Gerber Amish Poultry Farm.  Starting with the management of hatching over 125,000 chicks four days a week, their round the clock farms settle for nothing but the best when it comes to providing poultry for millions of consumers. At their operation, philosophical questions aside, the egg came first.

The Story Behind Gerber

Dwight Gerber lived in a small town in Kidron, Ohio that was a little over an hour from Akron in a large Amish and Mennonite farming community. Surprisingly, he didn’t start his career working with poultry, instead he began purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from the Amish neighbors and selling them door to door in Akron neighborhoods. His frequent visits to Akron eventually turned into customers requesting more than just produce, they wanted poultry. As more customers inquired, Dwight saw this as an opportunity to develop a sustainable business providing food to his communities while supporting his family financially.  This revelation led him to begin raising his own chickens.  The operation was truly a family venture supported by his wife and children. From feeding the chickens to delivering product to neighborhoods, his family enjoyed being involved.  Home deliveries became so popular that Dwight was able to expand his business to local grocery stores.  The expansion was a direct result of Dwight’s focus to provide clean processed poultry, something not available in many meat markets at the time. His continued focus on quality translated to a booming business that allowed him to not only support the Amish community, but also to expand and support over 500 team members and the stores carrying Gerber’s Amish Farm Chicken® products.  Today, Mike and Sue Gerber oversee operations with a very active third generation involved in multiple aspects of the company.  What started out as a simple produce delivery job quickly lead to a successful career path producing great tasting chicken for generations of the Gerber family.  

The Audit Services

Today, Gerber is source verified through Where Food Comes From, which means that Where Food Comes From is able to identify the source of origin for Gerber products.  Gerber’s policy requires that chickens never consume feed with antibiotics or unnatural additives. Gerber also requires that all the family farmers, as well as anyone who handles live chickens, receive annual humane handling training. Care is monitored daily by members of the Gerber Farm team.   

The Benefits

Today’s consumers want products that meet high standards for quality and taste. Gerber Poultry’s goal has been to produce a chicken that meet or exceed those expectations. They begin with a selected breed of chicks that are hatched at their own hatchery. The processing plant then follows specific guidelines in accordance to all USDA food safety standards. Through the assistance of Where Food Comes From, Gerber is able to provide you reassurance about your food and the claims behind it.  The partnership of Where Food Comes From has opened other doors for Gerber including a partnership with Heinen’s Grocery Store, a retailer of Where Food Comes From Source Verified products.  They also share the same philosophy as Gerber to provide fresh, high quality foods to consumers.  You can learn more about Heinen’s or find your local store at www.heinens.com.

Learn more about the Gerber Poultry story here as well as an in-depth Q&A with their farm team!