WFCF Storybit: Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op

Close your eyes and imagine these colors; alluring corals, pristine white, and luscious reds.  Both beautiful and calming to the mind. Can you think back to a time when you received an arrangement of flowers or walked past a colorful bouquet and how it made you feel?  It probably put a smile on your face or made you feel good inside.  To keep you in the spirit, we are brightening your week with incredible arrangements from the Alaska Beauty Peony Cooperative.

The Story
Five peony farmers founded the Alaska Beauty Peony Cooperative in December 2013 with a goal of creating sustainable cut flowers.  They knew setting themselves apart from others in the flower industry would be key.  With the help of shared marketing resources, infrastructure and education in the Homer area they “grew,” no pun intended, into a sustainable flower farm.

Their growers cooperative now includes eleven family owned farms. That’s five generations that actively participate in the co-op operations today.  Several of the farms are even located on homesteads established prior to Alaska’s statehood.  Needless to say, these farms have been around for a while.

These farmers are dedicated to bringing you premium peonies all through sustainable practices.  That means they follow specific farming practices including using chemical-free design techniques.  Being sustainable isn’t only for food practices, but flowers too!  Whether you’re planning for a wedding or need some flowers for that special someone to brighten their day, Alaska Beauty Peonies Co-op has you covered with sustainable options. To learn more about their varieties you can visit their website.

Certified American Grown Certification
All of the farms are American Grown Certified. That means they follow specific practices and policies to ensure everything is grown and processed in the United States. Where Food Comes From conducts the audits for all Certified American Grown flowers. By partnering with a third-party verified program, Alaska Beauty Peonies Co-op is able to provide the trust you need when purchasing flowers with specific claims.

Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op is also a member of the California Cut Flowers Association and Alaska Peony Growers Association. In addition to the mentioned certifications, the growers are considering Salmon Safe, Sustainably Grown and Organically Grown certifications.  They want their product to be identified with the high standards associated with these locally grown labels because they know that is important to those that purchase their flowers just as much as it is important to them. 

Why Certify
There is a growing consumer trend for brands to carry specific certifications as consumers start to seek them out when they purchase all types of products.  This means certain grocers are very interested in supplying their stores with brands that carry these certifications. Alaska Beauty Peony is considering additional sustainability certifications to acknowledge practices that they already implement today. Their plants benefit from cover crops, use of animal manures, and the gifts of the local marine environment where fish by-products and kelp, are used extensively to feed their flowers. They believe these certification programs help tell you the story of farmers and what they represent.

How to Order
Alaska’s cool summers and midnight sun aid their farmers in cultivating peonies of extraordinary size (6-8″ blooms!) with intense color saturation. They are able to supply farm fresh flowers starting in late June through early September (the longest harvest period for fresh cut peonies in North America) and they are the only source for fresh cut peony stems in late Summer. They harvest at the mature bud stage, so their flowers travel well through the cold chain. They ship flowers direct to doors across North America and can-do air cargo for large orders.  To check out their floral inventory or to place an order, check them out online, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram at @alaskabeautypeony.

WFCF Storybit : Five Dot Ranch

  Saddle up, this week you’re in for a treat as our next WFCF Storybit feature takes us to Five Dot Ranch in Susanville, Cali.  This isn’t your typical family ranch, because, not only do they raise cattle, but they also have their own butcher shop and restaurant located in Napa Valley, Cali. At their restaurant, The Cookhouse, they do things a little differently. You pick it, they grill it! That’s right, at their restaurant you pick any fresh cut from their meat case and they grill your pick just for you.  Locals even have the chance to buy beef and take it home for themselves.  So while you’re thinking of planning your next trip to Napa, let’s dive into the story of the Swickard Family and Five Dot Ranch.

The Story

In order to get to the beginning of the Swickard family’s long history and tradition when it comes to cattle, we have to look all the way back to 1852 to get it. Traveling by wagon across the plains and the Rockies, the Swickard’s landed in California in 1859 with 250 head of cattle. Their story continued to evolve over the decades as the ranch they established was continually passed down to the next generation.

In 1949, Jack Swickard would have his turn, at the age of 15, to step in and help care for the cattle and the ranch. Jack was one of the youngest purebred Hereford breeders in the nation. If that wasn’t enough, Jack was also the youngest commercial breeder in the Santa Clara Valley. He was quite the local celebrity. He took over the ranch and put the Swickard Ranch on a path to success. Along with the success of the ranch, Jack was also expanding his family. After marrying Margret Hangstabeck, they had two sons, Tim and Todd. In 1959, the family would soon be on the move north to Susanville, California. Jack planted new roots and started the Five Dot Land and Cattle Company in Lassen county, now full of Angus cattle as well. Within four years of Jack starting with 200 registered Hereford cattle, his brother, Tom, joined him. Together they developed successful herds and land operations.

In 1994, Todd, Jack’s son, would step in to take over the daily operations of the ranch. Since that time, Todd and his wife, Loretta have maintained the herd and in 2006 developed a Verified Natural Beef, a third-party verified branded beef program, named Five Dot Ranch.  They had been raising Natural cattle since the ’90s and saw a demand in California.

They spent every weekend visiting farmers markets throughout the state, which is what got them noticed by the people that were opening up the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Cali.  So, in 2008, they took the plunge and dove head first into the restaurant industry! Today, their beef product is sold wholesale to multiple restaurants in California, and most recently has been added to Crowd Cow.  Todd and Loretta’s children now assist with the ranch and make up the 7th generation family ranching legacy, and the first born of the 8th generation was born last year!

Verification

Today, Five Dot Ranch takes part in many, many verification programs through Where Food Comes From and their IMI Global division.  They are Source & Age Verified, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), Verified Natural Beef (VNB) and Non-GMO Project Verified.  Todd is dedicated to creating a product he’s proud to put their family’s name on. Through the use of verification programs and labeling claims, the team is able to learn about new processes and Standards that help continually improve their product. Verification is more than a term, it’s a commitment to their consumers.

Why Verify

The team at Five Dot Ranch is highly skilled and focused on the quality of their Angus cattle herd. This includes everything from what the cattle eat to their daily care. They own and trace every cattle they produce because they know the importance of understanding the story behind your food. Their standards are high and proud producers of beef. They believe in order to raise natural cattle they must provide the finest environment and sustainable practices. If you want to learn more about Five Dot Ranch check out their site, and stay tuned for our next WFCF Storybit video!

WFCF CARE : PoultryCARE Added to Suite of Sustainability Programs

Another week brings more exciting news for our Where Food Comes From fans!  A few weeks ago, we got a chance to introduce you to our latest Where Food Comes From Standard: CARE™.   We are humbled at the wonderful response from consumers as well as our producers who have embraced CARE so quickly. With that positive response, we are excited to announce an update to the CARE suite of sustainability standards with our most recent addition, PoultryCARE!  So, keep reading as we explore more about CARE and introduce PoultryCARE into the CARE family.

What is CARE?

John and Leann Saunders, the founders of Where Food Comes started with a vision more than 25 years ago to create traceable, transparent food systems for producers and consumers.  Now, Where Food Comes From has expanded that vision by introducing a new program called CARE.

Let’s tell you a bit about the new program.  Where Food Comes From CARE is a suite of sustainability standards.  If you’ve been following our journey for a while, then your familiar with what sustainability means.  If your new to us, don’t worry, we will give you a quick crash course. You might hear others throwing the word around and it may be used in many different ways.  When Where Food Comes From talks about “Sustainable Agriculture” they mean doing what’s right when it comes to the animals, the environment and the people and communities in which they live.  This means caring for animals, environment, and people through wellbeing policies and practices, while also reducing their waste and energy by creating long-term strategies.

The CARE program certifies participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.

The Standards

The BeefCARE Standard was the first program introduced into the CARE suite of sustainability Standards.  IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From, launched BeefCARE to help to provide a better future for all generations to come by allowing producers to have a continuous improvement plan on their operations.

The DairyCARE Standard was launched next.  This program is administered by Validus Verification Services, a division of Where Food Comes From.  Dairy operations are evaluated under three specific Validus programs, this includes animal welfare, environment and worker review standards.

The PoultryCARE standard is the newest to be added to the CARE suite.  The main objective in developing the PoultryCARE standard was to develop a set of standards that reflect state of the art best practice and science in sustainable poultry production for the protection of birds, workers and the environment. PoultryCARE is the poultry industry’s most comprehensive third-party verified sustainability program.  It will be administered by WFCF’s IMI Global division, utilizing reviewers and auditors with extensive experience in poultry production. Certification to the PoultryCARE Standard is achieved following on-farm evaluations by IMI Global auditors who focus on the same three pillars as the BeefCARE Standard : Animal Husbandry, Environmental Stewardship and People & Community.

The launch of PoultryCARE follows the recent rollout of WFCF’s BeefCARE™ and DairyCARE™ Standards.  WFCF’s goal is to establish its CARE sustainability Standards as the gold standard throughout the food supply chain.

To Learn More  

Today, Where Food Comes From supports more than 15,000 farmers, ranchers, vineyards, wineries, processors, retailers, distributors, trade associations, consumer brands and restaurants with a wide variety of value-added services.  That’s a lot of support and we’re growing!  The reason why farmers, consumers, brands and other organizations work with Where Food Comes From is because we lead with our heart.  Sustainability is important to everyone at Where Food Comes From. The demand has never been greater and Where Food Comes From is here to deliver on those demands through more transparency and standards.  So we thank you for letting us speak to you from our heart about something that we CARE so much about!

For more information, visit WFCF CARE. 

 

WFCF Storybit: McCarty Family Farms

To all our milk drinking, yogurt consuming, dairy loving blog readers out there, did you get a chance to watch our WFCF Storybit video on McCarty Family Farms yet?  If not, don’t worry!  Today, we’ve got their story here for you and if you didn’t catch the video you can check it out here for yourself. We are excited to have the opportunity to share their story on today’s blog. While Tom and Judy McCarty never thought their farming operation would get as big as it is, they always lived by the idea that, “You can’t be complacent” and they never have.  It’s time to hear their story and how not being complacent has helped the McCarty’s grow their dairy farm.

The Story

Tom’s family story dates back all the way to 1914 in Northeastern Pennsylvania with his great grandfather milking eight cows in a small barn without any electricity.  It’s a little hard to imagine not having any electricity in this day and age. That farm has passed from generation to generation beginning with Tom’s grandfather and on down to his mom and dad and then to him.  But, Tom and Judy began to see a change.  The population was growing and logistics were making it difficult to be dairy farmers.  They knew if they were going to stay in the dairy industry they had to make a change.  So, in 1999,  visiting many cities in many states, Tom and Judy moved their family to Rexford, KS., a place they saw the most potential for sustainability, a place they believed they could operate until their sons, if they chose, could take over, which they did.

Since then McCarty Family Farms has grown to five farms – three in Kansas, one in Nebraska and the most recent addition in Ohio.  This 4th generation farming family team encompasses over 200 members across all of their locations.  This requires a lot of coordination, which is why the McCarty brothers divide the responsibilities of running the farms.  They each have a different role to ensure every aspect of the business was cared for. Ken McCarty, one of Tom’s sons, it responsible for managing animal welfare, third-party verifications, sustainability efforts, public relations and data flow.  Being a true dairy farmer at heart his favorite role at work is simply walking pens and spending time with their cows.  The entire team at McCarty Family Farms receives special training in animal care, handling, and nutrition to ensure that every animal receives the proper care and respect.

All of the milk that their cows produce turns into a yogurt brand that I am sure you are familiar with.  In fact, you’ve probably seen it in almost all of your local grocery stores – does Dannon Yogurt ring a bell? McCarty Family Farms has been in a direct supply relationship with Dannon since 2012.  Before it heads out to The Dannon Company to be made into yogurt, it goes to their state-of-the-art processing plant.  What’s so special about it? Well, the McCarty family has a commitment to not only the animals, but the people and land.  With that in mind they built a one of a kind processing plant that allows them to remove water from milk and reuse it for other purposes. How amazing is that?  In a day and age where many companies are talking about sustainability, the McCarty’s are living it! They also use solar activated lighting and other renewable sources like wind power.  Tracking feed, equipment uses, and utilizing manure for fertilization has allowed them to diminish their waste.  Let’s just say they are a team of multiple families with one mission.  They are creating wholesome dairy products with the future in mind.

Verification Programs 

McCarty Family Farms is CARE Certified under the DairyCARE Standard, a program that Validus, a div. of WFCF, audits to.  This certification has three pillars – animal welfare, environmental and worker care.  McCarty also takes party in many other third-party verification programs –  Non-GMO Project, Safe Quality Food (SQF) and the Validus Traced and Controlled Plant audit at their plant.  Their goal is to push their farms to the highest levels possible in terms of performance, accountability, and transparency. They believe that the verification programs offered through WFCF and Validus gives their customers – and consumers – confidence in their products. 

 Why Verify?

“Third-party verification helps hold the team accountable to the stakeholders and demonstrates that the team is truly providing the best product possible through sustainable practices.  Our team has a responsibility to everyone associated with the farms.  That includes the cows, teammates, customers and the communities that support them.  Where Food Comes From allows us to meet those responsibilities,” said McCarty.

Through the use of the verification programs, McCarty has continuously improved their cattle wellbeing, environment, and business.  They value consumer trust and relationships which is why they choose to participate in these verification programs.  The audits maintain high standards that consumers now demand when it comes to their food choices.  The entire family, and team, loves their cows, teammates, communities and their farms.  They love every opportunity to show anyone and everyone what they do and why they do it.  So the next time you walk down the yogurt aisle, think of McCarty Family Farms and the amount of CARE they put into your finished products.

Learn more about McCarty Family Farms here.  And don’t miss their WFCF Storybit, either!
Interested in learning more about third-party programs?  Check out Where Food Comes From!
If you want more information on CARE, you’ll find that here!

Who is Where Food Comes From?

Just like all great stories start, “once upon a time” a husband and wife duo, John and Leann Saunders, had a vision to change the way we think about our food.  Most of us have dreams and aspirations that don’t always end up the way we envisioned.  However, there was something different about this dream.  John and Leann both knew that by providing a traceability solution to producers, they’d be able to give consumers transparency and the stories behind their food would open a new door in the food industry.  For twenty five years, they’ve dedicated their lives to driving value and communication when it comes to the process around whom and how your food is produced.  This food story doesn’t end here.  In fact, we are just getting started. 


How did Where Food Comes From come to be?

John and Leann have been instrumental in changing the way the beef industry authenticates livestock raising claims to meet the demands of consumers world-wide.  In 1995, Leann worked for PM Beef Group, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, while John launched Integrated Management Information (now known as IMI Global and now a division of WFCF)), without any capital.  John worked tirelessly building custom cattle information sharing databases for various different beef organizations.   While John was building these systems and working with the initial infrastructure around animal identification and traceability in the beef industry, Leann was working with the USDA developing the first-ever USDA Process Verified Standard.  With Leann leading the charge, PM Beef Group was the first beef company to verify production practices and claims from the cow/calf producer all the way through the supply chain to retail outlets.

In December of 2003, BSE shut down the US beef export markets and, after much convincing from John, Leann made the decision to join John at IMI Global so they could provide animal identification, traceability and verification solutions to the industry.  While John was promoting his main products in the market, Leann was working with major packers to create the first USDA QSA Programs for Japan and meet export verification instruction requirements.  It became evident quickly that the industry needed a way to ensure buyers through the beef supply chain that cattle met the source and age specified product requirements for Japan on live cattle.  John, Leann and the IMI Global team created an infrastructure to audit and verify these attributes across the beef supply chain.  Developed as an “umbrella” program under the USDA Process Verified Program Standard, their third-party system allowed packers to buy “verified” cattle without the responsibility of auditing/verifying the locations themselves.  This revolutionized the way cattle are marketed for verified and value-added programs.

In the beef industry today, IMI Global verifies cattle for a number of programs, standards and claims including, but certainly not limited to, source, traceability, age, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), Verified Natural Beef and a variety of Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standards.  They also provide an infrastructure that authenticates the claims being made on packages at retail.

John’s entrepreneurship nature then pushed the company to diversify.  In 2006, IMI Global became a division of Where Food Comes From, Inc. (WFCF), which is a name John and Leann chose to better describe what they were doing and where they believed the future of their business was headed. WFCF began to acquire additional businesses to round out its certification and verification portfolio. 

WFCF now includes Validus Verifications Services, LLC, a leading auditing company for the pork, dairy, egg and poultry industry; Sterling Solutions, a leader in beef and beef on dairy verification programs, two organic certification companies, International Certification Services (ICS) and A Bee Organic; and SureHarvest Solutions, a leader in systems that help capture and report sustainability metrics in many industries.   


What does Where Food Comes From do?

So, now that you know the history of WFCF, let’s dive into exactly what all of that means.  WFCF is an independent, third-party food verification company.  Yes, it’s true, WFCF considers themselves the ultimate food nerds.  WFCF cares about every aspect of your food.  From how the food is grown or raised, to the quality you purchase at the store.  Where Food Comes From plays a pivotal role in bringing your food story to life.

WFCF visits more than 15,000 farms and ranches a year!  They collect information by looking at animals, plants, and records.  WFCF also develops Standards and guidelines about how food is produced.  Being a partner with the farmers and ranchers has made these programs successful.  WFCF wants farmers, retailers and even consumers like you to count on them for authentic and transparent information about the food you eat. Basically, the how, where and by whom questions we often wonder about when we pick up a package at our grocery and turn it over to check the label.  The process WFCF has created has allowed us to establish a link between you, the consumer and the individuals who produce your food.

We all deserve to know what we are eating and serving our friends and family.  In order to do that, the information collected and validated must be unbiased.  So, what is the verification process?  Farmers, ranchers, growers and producers submit applications to the specific claim they are making.  That can be anything from Non-GMO, Organic, Gluten-Free or simply Source Verified to verify that the animals came from a specific location, and WFCF will verify the locations it visits along the way to your local retailer.  But, that’s just a few!  Once a producer submits the verification application, onsite audits, interviews and assessments are conducted.  This requires a lot of coordination and work, but the benefits are well worth it.


The Programs

Every food has a source, origin or date when an animal was born.  Today, Where Food Comes From offers hundreds of claims and programs across multiple markets.  These include USDA Process Verified Programs, which means that the USDA audits them and their processes, Safe Quality Food initiatives, Organic Certification, Non-GMO Project Verification, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle and Verified Natural Beef programs in the beef industry, Certified American Grown flowers and so much more. Keep in mind certain programs may not fit the needs of a specific food group.  Meaning what works for beef verification may not be the same needs for a product like honey.  Where Food Comes From helps guide the farmers, ranchers and food producers in the right direction to ensure they sign up for the program that best fits their operation.  Only audited and verified/certified products can make certain claims on packaging that you see in the store.  When you see claims that require a third-party to verify them,  you can rest assured that the product went through a stringent process.  Wondering what claims you should look for? You can check out our full list of programs we partner with on our site.


WFCF CARE

The latest addition to our verification programs is Where Food Comes From CARE®.  At the request of many customers who were looking to promote their sustainability efforts, the CARE program was created.   The CARE Standards certify that participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.

BeefCARE®, and DairyCARE® were launched for the beef and dairy industries respectively.  They are Standards that measure and monitor key indicators and metrics that are critical for sustainability and provides a mechanism for continuous improvement.  Poultry and Pork are launching soon!

Learn more about Where Food Comes From CARE by checking out our recent blog post, or visit the website!


Why Verify?

As a consumer, if you want to know where your food comes from, or what you’re buying is what it says it is, it’s important that you get authentic information.  And, over the years, an increase awareness has been created about the process of how our food reaches our plate.  Sure, we know food is sold at retail locations, but where does it come from before that?  How do we know that the labels we read on food packages are authentic?   John and Leann never gave up on their mission.  They started WFCF with a foundation around traceability and through that they have provided food producers an opportunity to add value and to be able to tell their story to consumers, which in turn has allowed consumers to understand where their food comes from and has given them reliable, trusted information source when it comes to the food they’re eating.

Today, WFCF now has thousands of partners, communities and employees who support that vision.  It takes a village to make change.  For those who are new, welcome!  Too all the existing followers, thanks for continuing the journey.  Is there something you want to hear more of?  Let us know!  WFCF can’t wait to share more exciting stories with you in 2020.  So stay tuned for an exciting year of food verification!

Be sure to check out our weekly blogs and follow us on social media.

Where Food Comes From CARE

It’s Valentine’s week and there couldn’t be a more perfect week for this week’s blog.  What comes to mind when you think of someone speaking from their heart?  When you speak from the heart you’re open and honest with your communication.  One way to speak from the heart is telling a powerful story about your life.  Maybe you talk about an event or something that touched your heart in a specific way.  Today we are happy to speak from our heart about the latest Where Food Comes From Standard.  We would like to introduce you to CARE™ – Food from the Heart.

What is CARE?

John and Leann Saunders, the founders of Where Food Comes started with a vision more than 25 years ago to create traceable, transparent food systems for producers and consumers.  Now, Where Food Comes From has expanded that vision by introducing a new program called CARE.

Let’s tell you a bit about the new program.  Where Food Comes From CARE is a suite of sustainability standards.  If you’ve been following our journey for a while, then your familiar with what sustainability means.  If your new to us, don’t worry, we will give you a quick crash course. You might hear others throwing the word around and it may be used in many different ways.  When Where Food Comes From talks about “Sustainable Agriculture” they mean doing what’s right when it comes to the animals, the environment and the people and communities in which they live.  This means caring for animals, environment, and people through wellbeing policies and practices, while also reducing their waste and energy by creating long-term strategies.

The CARE program certifies participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.  Where Food Comes From CARE has been launched in the beef and dairy industries, with more to come in 2020.

The Standards

The BeefCare Standard was the first program introduced into the CARE suite of sustainability Standards.  IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From created new technology platforms to help farmers and ranchers capture and analyze data. This data is critical in understanding what consumers want and to meet requirements in other markets.

IMI Global launching BeefCARE will help to provide a better future for all generations to come by allowing producers to have a continuous improvement plan on their operations.

Speaking of improvement  brings us to the latest addition to the CARE suite – the DairyCARE Standard.  This program will be administered by Validus Verification Services, a division of Where Food Comes From.  Dairy operations will be evaluated under three specific Validus programs, this includes animal welfare, environment and worker review standards.  As a consumer, you’re looking for certain preferences when it comes to your food choices and Where Food Comes From hears your concerns and is answering those through the CARE Standard.

To Learn More  

Today, Where Food Comes From supports more than 15,000 farmers, ranchers, vineyards, wineries, processors, retailers, distributors, trade associations, consumer brands and restaurants with a wide variety of value-added services.  That’s a lot of support and we’re growing!  The reason why farmers, consumers, brands and other organizations work with Where Food Comes From is because we lead with our heart.  Sustainability is important to everyone at Where Food Comes From. The demand has never been greater and Where Food Comes From is here to deliver on those demands through more transparency and standards.  So this Valentine’s Day week, we thank you for letting us speak to you from our heart about something that we CARE so much about!

For more information, https://wfcfcare.com

WFCF Storybit : Mariah Vineyards

Let’s go where the hospitality is genuine, and the wine is aromatic. Jump in the car, take in the scenery, we are headed down the country roads to check out Mariah Vineyard.  Let’s savor the fantastic taste of their many different grapes grown from sustainable farming practices. Their handcrafted wines are sure to leave you wanting more. From red berry fruit to vanilla spice they truly create a unique wine.  Let’s find out how a dream became a reality.

The Story

Starting in 1975, Vicki and Dan Dooling searched for the perfect land to start a vineyard.  This was prior to the popularity of vineyards and they wanted land outside of the mainstream vineyard areas. Dan was on the road during those days trucking throughout the 11 Western states for a company out of the San Francisco Bay area. Whenever he had a few days free, Vicki and Dan would look for potential vineyard land.  Finally, they found exactly what they were looking for.  The land was located on a mountain top in North West California in Mendocino County, which is 6 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at 2,700-foot elevation. Dan had also showed the location to a close confidant of his from the local wine scene.  He instantly thought that Dan had found a diamond in the rough. Now, Dan had to turn it into a shining jewel and that he did over the next 25 years. They bought that timbered ground in 1979, cleared it, worked the ground, and established an infrastructure which became Mariah Vineyards.

Dan and Vicki planted their first 20 acres of Zinfendel in 1980 and 1981.  They did this all while living in a very small cabin with their two ranch dogs.  Because they had no employees during those years, Vicki’s mom and dad would come up from San Francisco to help layout the vineyard and plant the grapes.

Now, let’s fast forward to the present.  Today, they are in their 41st wine season and live by the philosophy of the Native Americans, “Walk softly on Mother Earth”. This has been their creed as stewards and farmers of the vineyard.  Their calendar year starts in January when they start pruning the previous year’s growth off. This means about 90% of all canes are the cut off, chopped up, and reincorporated into the ground.  They incorporate this with the cover crop of clover from the fall after harvest, then they tie up any arms that need tying and do any repairs to the stakes and trellis that support the vines. Spring cultivation and mowing is next with a few sprays of sulfur to clean up over wintering fungus or mildews.

One of the more important practices that they changed in the last 18 years is the switch to ‘dry farming.”  During that timeframe, they did experience a loss in acres and grapes, but one thing did stick out, the flavor profile.  So, in 1991 they started their own bonded winery and brand, Mariah Wines.  In doing so, they diverted about 2% of the grapes to their own small commercial winery. This gave them diversification in their farming operation regardless of the size.

This means they do not irrigate during summertime.  Instead, they rely on the rain they receive in the winter, which is usually between 80 to 120 inches of rainfall. With high organic content in the soil 9%-13% of the moisture holding capacity of the soil will get them through the growing season. They are not just farmers; they are winemakers and artists in their industry. Their pace maybe unhurried, but the flavors are worth the wait.

Verification Programs

Mariah Vineyards has been tied to the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance (CSWA) for years and have seen the benefits from their guidance and verification. They are currently in the process of upping their game even more in the near future.  This allows Mariah Vineyard to be more in tune with their family heritage of farming ideals. They elected to get involved with CSWA programs because it fit the way they’ve done business dating back to 1981.

Why Verify

Dan and Vicki are both supporters of the verification process because they have experienced the benefits and believe verification helps show credibility and honesty in the relationship between winegrower and customer.  This gives their customers assurance when selecting their wine and grapes.  Understanding the story of your product is important and with so many different brands and types it’s important to be transparent.  They rely and cherish the relationship they have created with their customers. If you enjoy reading about where your food comes from, Dan wants you to know it’s all about working hard with family and nature to produce an honest healthy product that you enjoy consuming. Wine and a good meal, the perfect combo!

Where Can You Find Mariah Wines?

Some of the wineries that buy Mariah grapes for their wines are:

  • Donkey & Goat – Berkeley, Cali.
  • Waist-Mast Wines – San Francisco, Cali.
  • Dogwood and Thistle – Napa, Cali.
  • Newton Wines – St.Helena, Napa Valley, Cali.
  • Seghesio Wines – Healdsburg, Cali.
  • LaRochell – Kenwood, Cali.
  • Wooden Head Wines – Healdsburg, Cali.
  • 1211Wines – San Francisco, Cali.
  • Rockwall Wines- Alameda, Cali.
  • Red Car Wines – Sebastopol, Cali.
  • Bee Hunter – Boonville, Cali.,
  • and their own winery Mariah Wines, Manchester, Cali.

Today they grow many different grape varieties – Old Vine Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, 4 varieties of Pinot Noir, and Primotivo; all of which are dry farmed.

Dan would like to share and give credit to the vineyards, that as stewards of the land they farm, which he says is best done by an old wine god saying :

“Back of the Wine is the Vintner
and back thru the years is his skill
but back of it all, are the Vines in the Sun and the Rain
and the Masters will”
-Bacchus, wine God

Learn more about Mariah on their website or by following them on Facebook!
Did you miss our blog on the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance?  Catch it here, and learn more about the program on their website.

WFCF Storybit : Carolina Ingredients

Savory, sweet, spicy and even cheesy… can you pick a favorite flavor?  To be fair, that’s a hard decision for most of us.  Most likely it will depend on what you’re adding that incredible flavor to.  Lucky for us Carolina Ingredients has all of our seasoning needs covered and best of all use sustainable practices in their quest to help other companies produce their fantastic products.  In fact, the research and development team at Carolina Ingredients work tirelessly to create custom seasoning blends and new products that they know people will love.  This week we’re heading to South Carolina to check out how Carolina Ingredients is decreasing their carbon footprint and optimizing sustainable practices all while helping other companies make the food we eat even more tasty!

The Story 

Since 1990 Carolina Ingredients has been working hard with businesses you trust to meet and exceed their seasoning needs for products that make their way onto your grocery shelves.  Since 1990 the business has grown substantially and in 2009 Carolina Ingredients relocated to Rock Hill, SC. Just a year later in 2010, Carolina Ingredients became the first seasoning manufacturer to achieve Silver Award LEED status.  So, what does LEED mean?  LEED stands for The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Carolina Ingredients earned the Silver Award Status by using green material on their building.  The greener features the higher the LEED rating. We don’t mean the color green of course. When we reference green, we mean using material, design, and construction that are safer for the environment.  This helps generate savings with water and energy while decreasing waste.  Every story involving a LEED partner is a story about the people who support the best environmental practices.  So now that we know how they are helping to conserve the environment, what about sustainability when it comes to food?

Today, Carolina Ingredients has the ability to package as small as 1oz seasoning packets to as large as full totes. The companies that they sell to, that ultimately make delicious products that we consume, seasoning needs are met through their comprehensive warehouse and global sourcing departments.  They provide the service, expertise and consistency in snack seasoning notes, flavor profiles and flavor systems to become each company’s personal blending room. They have a highly trained research and development team that helps blend “Better for You” products.  So, what makes these seasonings so unique?

All of their seasonings are created with the consumer in mind.  They create recipes by removing artificial flavor and colors.  They even eliminate high fructose syrup and companies can even customize sodium level requirements. Maybe they are looking for a seasoning that’s Gluten free?  No problem! Carolina Ingredients has them covered on that too.  Maybe they want seasonings with vitamins.  Yes, they can even add vitamin fortification to their blends. Maybe they want to cater to those with a more basic palette and prefer simple flavors like French Onion, Garden tomato, or cheese blends.  They can find it all at Carolina Ingredients.  Carolina Ingredients can also provide more complex blends like Ancho Chili, Avocado Cilantro, and even Birthday Cake.  Yes! We did say Birthday Cake.  Can you imagine that delicious flavor on something like your popcorn? Sign us up!

So, what’s their trick to being so successful?  That’s easy!  Partnering and listening to their customer’s needs and understanding consumers.

In January 2019, Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients acquired 100% of Carolina Ingredients and they continue to stress the importance of partnering with their customers and creating value. 

Verification

Carolina Ingredients is USDA Organic Certified through International Certification Services (ICS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Where Food Comes From, Inc.  This means that they can meet all of their customer’s organic seasoning needs! The best part is if there is something that a customer wants but they don’t see an organic flavor they need, the team and Carolina will develop a sample especially for them.  How awesome is that?!

Carolina Ingredients also carries many Non-GMO seasoning blends.  The Non-GMO Project Verification is the leading independent verifier of Non-GMO foods.  Carolina Ingredients is leading the way when it comes to evolving seasonings in the food industry.  You can learn more about their products and their customized blends by visiting their website.

Why Verify

As you can see from their efforts, sustainability and verification is extremely important to the team at Carolina Ingredients.  In fact, it’s part of their core values. They pride themselves in being a steward and leader of sustainability.  It’s not just about being environmentally responsible, it’s about being environmentally responsible while also providing a quality food product to their customers that will help them make the best products for you and your family to enjoy.

WFCF Storybit : Kuaiwi Farm

For many of us, the best part of getting ready for our day is drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning.  There is nothing that can put the appropriate amount of “pep in your step” like your favorite cup of joe to start the day.  Most of us have probably even seen coffee popping up as an ingredient in everything from delicious desserts to beer and to even being used in a rub blend for your pork roast.  Coffee certainly has a lot of different uses, but drinking it will likely always be the most popular!  You’ve probably already guessed that we are going to be talking about coffee verification today.  That’s right, our International Certification Services (ICS) division, whom specializes in organic certification, works to verify coffee!  So, grab a cup of joe and let’s chat about Kuaiwi Farm and what sustainability and being Certified Organic means to them.

Their Story

It all started back in 1977 when Una Greenway and family made the move to the Captain Cook region of Hawaii.  The move to this beautiful region came with the purchase of a 5-acre farm above the Kona coast.  The farm was acquired with the full intention of healing the land and bringing it back to a natural state.  That’s where Una Greenaway and her husband stepped in to make the necessary changes for the future of Kuaiwi Farm.  For more than 4 decades their practices have helped Kuaiwi Farms thrive.  Their practices are based on respecting the earth and cultivating the land in a sustainable manner.  Today, their five acres are being worked organically and they also create their own amendments, which means they use compost and recycle all of the organic matter from the farm.  Una and husband Leon are very proud of what they have helped cultivate in Kuaiwi Farm.  So proud in fact that they even provide tours of Kuaiwi Farm to those interested in seeing things up close.  In those tours they treat their guests to “Old Kona Coffee” while showing off the many highlights of the farm which include some coffee trees that are more than 100 years old!

Verification  

Today, Kuaiwi Farm is an ICS client.  As you may recall from our earlier stories, ICS (a division of Where Food Comes From, Inc.) specializes in organic, gluten-free, and other related services.  In fact, ICS, founded in 1979, was one of the first organic certification companies in the U.S.  Needless to say, they have some experience when it comes to food certification.  In order to get Certified Organic through ICS, Kona had to follow specific guidelines within five different steps, including an onsite audit.  The team at both Kona and ICS share the same values about Organic practices for the land, environment, animals, and people.

Why Verify

Kuaiwi Farm grows a wide range of crops including Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, avocados, bananas, pineapple, tea, citrus, vegetable gardens and so much more.  Just like Where Food Comes From, they want to be transparent with their consumers because the story behind your food matters.  Kuaiwi Farm offers farm tours to consumers to learn more about their products and see the organic farm practices firsthand!  Come drink some coffee, taste jams, macadamia nuts and chat with the team at Kuaiwi Farm.

Learn more about Kona Old Style Coffee.
Learn more about Where Food Comes From, Inc.
Learn more about ICS.

Certified Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Verifies Sustainable Operations

Has the craziness of the holiday season finally caught up with you?  Are you looking to unwind and relax?  Well, if you’re a wine lover there is nothing like a glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind with. You probably have your favorites to celebrate special occasions or just a nice table wine after a long day.  Regardless of the situation, you want a delicious wine made from the best grapes.  You want the best wine choices just like you do when you grocery shop for food.  Well, this week we are here to tell you about some very sustainable options.  Sit back, relax, and learn all about California Certified Sustainable wines from grapes to glass.

California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance

We’re here in sunny California to share with you the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance program, and what it means to drink a certified sustainable wine.  Introduced in 2010, the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE) is administered by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA).  The CSWA is a leader in promoting sustainable practices when it comes to winegrowing within the California wine community.  For all of us that are wine drinkers, we know that quite a bit of the domestic wine we drink comes from the California wine community.

At this point, you probably have wine on the brain and are wondering how wine and Where Food Comes From go together?  Let’s start by telling you a little about SureHarvest, a division of Where Food Comes From, Inc. since 2016.  SureHarvest works with diverse programs and collaborations to help with sustainability performance management.  But, what does that really mean?  This means that SureHarvest provides a platform solution that helps groups like the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance manage their sustainability efforts more effectively.  Today, SureHarvest, through the assistance of Where Food Comes From, helps deliver the story to you, the consumer, about where your wine comes from with CSWA. You can say we are one big happy family.

Certification Requirements  

On an annual basis, vineyards who participate with CSWA are audited to maintain their certifications. They must meet 58 vineyard and 37 winery prerequisite practices exceeding an overall score of 85%, which equates to a 2 or higher on a 1-4 scale.  Having flashbacks yet of taking your ACT test? Well, this is a kind of a test for sustainable wine growers.  Besides adhering to certain practices, they must also implement an integrated pest management approach that complies with restrictions on crop protection.  An approved list of appropriate alternatives is provided.  All of this must be documented along with their performance metrics, which include water, energy, and many other resources. All of this is a continual improvement process that the wineries and vineyards must prioritize and implement regularly.  See, we weren’t kidding.  The CSWA takes sustainable winegrowing very seriously, which equates to the best possible wine for consumers like you.

Benefits of CSWA Certified Sustainable Wine

There are many benefits when it comes to sustainability, one of them being the environment.  During the sustainable winegrowing process, natural resources are preserved.  It also improves air and water quality, which we need to survive every day.  Sustainable growers and vintners help steward both human and natural resources.  Cultivating and preserving the land, and contributing economically within those communities, is what sustainability is all about.

What’s the major takeaway?  Vitners and growers attribute high-quality grapes used for wine production to their sustainable practices.  This is a very detailed process that requires continuous improvement.  Rest assured the CSWA always has your wine loving needs at heart.  When it comes to the benefits, here’s the short version; high quality wine, good neighbors and employers, thriving business, and environmental protection.  Who could ask for more?

How to Find CSWA Certified Vineyards and Wineries

Today, more than 2,000 vineyards and 149 wineries are CSWA Certified Sustainable.  As of July 2019, more than 255,000,000 total cases of wine have been verified CSWA Certified Sustainable.  That’s a ton of wine…actually that is much, much more than a ton of wine! The program’s growth continues to increase every year. CSWA Certified Sustainable is included in the domestic and international communication efforts of CSWA and the Wine Institute, which has export marketing programs for 25 countries.

The further the distance from California, the more important it becomes for wine regions and American Viticulture Area’s (AVA) to identify as being under the California umbrella. California winegrape growers and vintners have multiple factors to consider when choosing the right certification program.  CSWA Certified Sustainable has more than 8 years of recognition in the wine marketplace, which should give you comfort when selecting wines certified by CSWA.

We’re glad you stuck around and hope we educated your palette when it comes to your next wine purchase.  For a complete list of all Certified Sustainable wineries, vineyards, and wines check out the links below.  Happy Holidays and happy wine tasting!

For a complete list of CSWA CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE wineries, click HERE.

For a complete list of CSWA CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE vineyards, click HERE.
For a complete list of CSWA CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE wines, click HERE.