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Cooking For Mother Earth

Audio

Aired 4/21/11

Earth Day reminds us to be aware of how our actions, even the food we eat, affect the world around us. We'll speak to organic farmer and author, Myra Goodman about how making small changes in the kitchen can have a big impact on the environment.

The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman is available in most book stores.
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Above: The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman is available in most book stores.

Pictured: the Earthbound Farm Health Salad.
Enlarge this image

Above: Pictured: the Earthbound Farm Health Salad.

Earth Day reminds us to be aware of how our actions, even the food we eat, affect the world around us. We'll speak to organic farmer and author, Myra Goodman about how making small changes in the kitchen can have a big impact on the environment.

Guest

Myra Goodman, is founder of Earthbound Organic Farm and the author of a new cookbook, "The Earthbound Cook."

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ST. JOHN: You're listening to These Days on KPBS I'm Alison St. John sitting in for Maureen Cavanaugh. It's amazing how small changes in the way we do things every day can have a major long lasting effect. Our guest this hour is full of ideas of ways we can live more in harmony with the planet and inn joy. For a start, she's a wonderful cook and has a mouth watering cook book out called earth bound cook. She also started an organic farm in northern California which is now the largest grower of organic produce in the country, Myra Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

GOODMAN: Thanks for having me today.

ST. JOHN: So we'd also love to have you join the conversation. If you're listening and you've got a question about a recipe or something -- an idea that she sparked in you, you can join us, 1-888-895-5727 is the number to join us. So Myra, now, you're right this when you first moved it a house with a two and a half acre lot back in the '80s, you were not planning on being a farmer. But you got seduced by the land. Tell us about that story.

GOODMAN: Well, my husband, drew, and I are both from New York City. He wasn't my husband then, but we moved on to this little two-acre farm. It was just gonna be for a year after we graduated college. I was gonna go to graduate school. And it just seemed like a fun project. But we really -- we really did get seduced by the land. You know be living in New York, looking out of my bedroom into the cement building the other 11th story apartment across the road, having to take an elevator down and walk to central park to see green. I felt so disconnected with nature. And living this lifestyle where we woke with the sunrise, and we tended the land, and we ate the harshest that we grew, and took a nap and worked till it was late. And our work schedule just changed with the seasons, it just was wonderful.

THE COURT: Now, you're a business woman as well, obviously, because you've turned this into a pretty big and growing business. So this is something where you're got your feet on the ground, but you're also make a good go of it financially, right?

GOODMAN: Right, well, at the beginning. We had the opportunity to do this farm to do improvements in exchange for rent, and we had a little savings, and I was gonna go to graduate school. My parents were helping us out. And then when we realized that we were not that eager to move onto the next stage of our life, and we wanted to live on the farm 678 we had to figure out how to actually make a living farming. And see we had this little heirloom raspberry farm and roadside stand, but then we started growing baby greens. And we actually became, it was 25 years ago, we became the first company to successfully market packaged salads for retail sale. And it was a revolutionary concept then. Both the little spring mixed greens, because people were icing iceberg then, and also having something prewashed in a bag, that you could buy in a super market. And once we started that, and it started taking off, we realized that we could make a living. That there was a business potential there. And so that's really the story of earth bound farm. How we grew from so small to so big way before people were buying a lot of organic food.

ST. JOHN: And the cook book that you've just produced, earth bound cook, this is basically promoting good, healthy, organic eating. Were you always a good cook?

GOODMAN: Oh, you know, it might seem surprising that a girl from New York City could become a farmer. It's probably even more surprising the way I was raised that I became a cook. I mean I -- my mom pretty much fed us TV dinners, buckets of Kentucky fried chicken. You want to hear the first thing I reasoned how to cook from myself?

ST. JOHN: Sure.

GOODMAN: When I would come home from school when I was nine, I would make homemade pizza, which was a piece of wonder bread and I would squirt ketchup on it, and open a piece of American cheese, take it out of the plastic, put it on top, and put it in the toaster oven till it bubbled. And that was the first thing I learned to cook. Never had home cooking. But I really learned how it cook on the farm. And when you're growing food, and you're harvesting it, and you're putting so much effort into it, you don't want to waste an apricot or one raspberry, or one almond that you picked and you shucked and you dries. So I really learned how to cook on the farm. And that's why so many of my recipes use so much fresh produce.

ST. JOHN: Okay. Soap let's talk about the kitchen. You learned how to create a green kitchen over time. I think what you're telling us is, it's a very encouraging message that you didn't start this way, you grew into this way of life, which is a green way of life. And you talk about a green kitchen of what are some of the easier ways to have a green kitchen.

GOODMAN: You know, when I wrote the earth bound book, a lot of my motivation, food to live by, really talked about organic and all the reasons why it's so important to protect the planet for our personal health, and I realized over time that there were a lot of ways that I wasn't that conscious about my research -- my resource usage and my impact on the planet in other ways. And so I really wanted to share the information that I've learned, but writing this book which took me two-year, I learned so much more. It's a 462 page book associate there's just hundreds of pages of information on what you can do, but I would say, choosing organic is great, it keeps chemicals out of the environment, organic soil also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, so it helps combat global warming. What's really important is eating lower on the food chain. I love meat, I'm a meat eater, but meat uses a tremendous -- especially red meat, a tremendous amount of resources, and also cattle generate tons of meth 18 which is 21 timeless more potent a green house gas than carbon dioxide. So one statistic that I'd like to quote is that if every American reduced their beef consumption by just four ounces a week, it would be the same as taking 4 to six million cars off the road.

ST. JOHN: So what do you mean by eating lower on the food chain?

GOODMAN: That means that eater more produce, eating more grains, eating food that isn't fed to animals to make the meat. But one thing I learned that was very significant, takes ten to twenty pounds of feed to make a pound of red meat. And it only takes two pounds of feed to make a pound of chicken. So the ratios are really different depending on the animals. And I have a chart in my book from the natural resource defense council that shows that pork, that raising pigs actually emits a fourth of the global warming emissions as cattle. And chicken a third as much as pork. So it's actually 1 twelfth the amount of emissions, when you choose chicken instead of beef.

ST. JOHN: Whoa. And so when you eat, are you thinking about the sort of carbon footprint of your food every time you cook a meal?

GOODMAN: You upon, I do think about it. And I love meat, and I have meat recipes, but I think of meat as taking a hot bag. I know that it's a splurge, it's using a lot of water, it's using a lot of energy. A quick shower would be better on the environment. But sometimes I really need and want a hot bath, and I appreciate every moment of it. So I do think about it, I think that when you're deciding what to eat at home or in a restaurant, you might think about the cost, you might think about the calories, you think with what you're in the mood for. And now this is another thing that I think about. If I can't decide between a Hamburger and, say, my chicken puttanesca pasta in my cook book. I'll go, I can't really decide, and the chicken's one twelfth of the global warming emissions as the meat, I think that's gonna tip the scales.

ST. JOHN: I can't help saying that I noticed in your cook book, this is definitely not a vegetarian cookbook, there's some wonderful meat recipes, including crazy messy delicious buffalo burgers.

GOODMAN: Yes, that was my daughter did a European travel trip when she graduated from high school a number of years ago, and the recipes -- she's a real foodie, and all the recipes that she's most excited about, when she came home, we recreated them, and put them in here. But ONE thing you mention, the bison, I talk about how not all meat is created equal. The conventional farmed meat that all the grain that is grown is grown conventionally with a lot of chemicals, there's a lot of humane issues and environmental issues in these big conventional farming operations. Grass fed meat is healthier for the environment, the meat is actually healthier for you to eat. Organic is a huge step up, organ ib, not only the are the animals fed organic feed, but never antibiotics or growth hormones, and now the regulations are much more specific on how much time the cattle need to actually be out grazing. And so even more now, you can feel assured that organic is a more humane choice.

ST. JOHN: In your book, you have a page which helps you decipher, really, the labels on organic meat, and there's a lot of them, aren't there? Any pieces of advice that you can give us on how to really pick the best meat to buy?

GOODMAN: When we talk about organic, organic is defined. And we know that it's a method of production, and we know what's prohibited, so if you buy something organic, it doesn't mean that it was grass fed. And if you buy something grass fed, it's usually organic, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's organic. So I talk about sometimes you actually need to look for two or three labels to get everything that you want. A lot of people, one thing that I come across as a large organic farmer is that a lot of people feel that organic should cover everything, organic should mean social justice, and organic should mean small, and organic should mean local, and whatever sort of perfect means to you. And organic is really a very specific method of production that is, I think, the healthiest way to farm for the land and for people, and it's very scale neutral of we have 150 growers at earth bound farms. We have farms that are 680 acres, and farms that are as small as 5 acres. The same methods work. It's -- so organic doesn't mean everything. And that doesn't mean that it's not wonderful and important.

ST. JOHN: Do you think the term organic has been sort of confused?

GOODMAN: I think, you know, it's been interesting for me being in this industry for 27 years. Because I think that organic, month the people that in the beginning were supporting organic, sometimes has a little bit of a bad rap now because people are saying that local is more important than organic or small is more important than organic. And that's what you should look for. And for me, I think local is fabulous. Of and I think having a relationship with your local farmer, quieting stuff fresh from the farm is fabulous. But I don't want chemicals sprayed in my book yard next to where my kids are going to see. So to me, organic is the prerequisite. And I would pick something organic before local if it was conventionally grown.

ST. JOHN: How does the USDA monitor organic growing methods.

GOODMAN: They certify agencies, they accredit, sorry, I was missing the word. They accredit certified agencies. So we're certified by CCOF, and they come and they do on site inspections on our farms, they're check our records, but we also at earth bound farm also have a department that is quality food safety and organic integrity, and we do additional inspections. Just because we feel that we like to --

ST. JOHN: That's what you believe in.

GOODMAN: That's what we believe in, yeah.

ST. JOHN: You were saying in your book that you've got 12 reason it's -- and by the way, we're speaking with Myra Goodman who's written this beautiful cook book called earth bound cook. And you talk about how there are 12 reasons to eat organic. I had just thought about it being good for my health. But there are a lot of other reasons to be choosing organic food, right.

GOODMAN: There are. Terror so many reasons of you think about the habitat, you think about the animals and the surrounding areas, you think about the farm workers that are in the field. You think about the nitrogen run off that is causing dead zones. Conventional chemicals or petroleum based, ask so that's a nonrenewable resource. With organic farms, we recycle waste products from other industries on our farm. And I talked about how organic soil does sequester the carbon, and I think that good health is important, a lot of studies are showing that organic produce has 25 to 30 percent more vitamins, and -- specific vitamins and minerals. So you actually can be getting more nutrition when you're eating your produce too.

ST. JOHN: 1-888-895-5727 is the number. We'd love to hear from you. Myra Goodman is here in studio to talk about organic growing and eating. And Will Carless is on the line with a question. Good morning, will.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, guys. How are you going? Good morning. Sorry to call in on a noncontroversial topic for once. I just wanted to ask, I shop at my local farmer's market. I live just around the corner from it, and I walk to it, so it seems like buying vegetables in the farmers market is actually cheaper than going to Vons or one of the super markets, it works out cheaper and it's organic and it's delicious. But one of the problems I have, is organic meat just seems to be -- it's just ridiculously expensive, it's sort of five times the price of the meat you'd buy in the super market. I'd love to eat organic grass fed beef, but it's just so expensive. I wanted to ask your guest if she recognizes that and if she sees the price of organic meat coming down at some point in the future in the same way the price of organic vegetables is coming down.

GOODMAN: Yeah, you know, I think what I was saying before, is how it takes ten to twenty pounds of feed to make one pound of beef. The problem is that organic farming is more expensive. So if you imagine that it costs the grower 20 to 30 percent more to grow the organic grains, we'll talk about grain fed animals, which most animals are grain fed, grass fed is fabulous, but so then you're multiplying that by so much when you realize how much feed is being fed to the animals. Organic dairy is also really expensive. And if you look in this country, only 3.7 percent of food sold is organic. And the percentages in meat, they're a fraction of a percent, dairy's really low. If you look at our salad mixes, the earth bound salad mixes that are harvested really young, a lot of these ingredients are only in the ground for 25, 35 days upon we've been able to get the prices pretty similar, because we don't have as many problems with pests and with fertilization because it's such a quick turnaround, and we've been able to sell salads for almost the same price, and in our section of packaged salads, which is actually the largest section, 48 percent of the sales are organic. So it just shows that the price really does influence what people are buying. And honestly, organic meat is always gonna be more expensive. And what I say to people is that if you want to eat organic and not spend a lot more money, you really are gonna have to change your diet. You're gonna have to eat smaller portions of meat and eat it less frequently, because it will be more expensive. But when you understand, what -- you know, how much better it is to eat organic meat, and also to eat les meat, that might motivate you. [CHECK AUDIO] mostly vegetarian because I want to really show people how it doesn't have to feel like a sacrifice to eat les meat, that there's all these other wonderful foods that we can eat to feel satisfied and when we eat that way, we are protecting the environment.

ST. JOHN: Good point. But I think will's point is well taken that that's part of the reason why we're focusing on meat more than vegetable, you know, vegetarian recipes is because when you're looking at the planet, that is sort of a bit of a sticking point, that is, where does meat fit in, so will, I don't know if you're still there, but do you think you might get to the point whereby you believe so strongly that you believe it's important to eat organic that you would buy meat that is organic in spite of the price of it?

NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, I'm just -- I guess I'm just interested to see whether the market's growing enough, when you see the market growing, as markets get bigger, prices go down, right? And as more people buy organic beef, once you start selling organic steaks in Wal-Mart, they're gonna be cheap because they're gonna be bigger production in economies of scale. So I wondering if there's a mix towards that in meat as well as towards vegetables.

GOODMAN: Yeah, you know, honestly from my experience, and maybe there's someone else that would have a different opinion, I don't think it's an issue of economies of scale. Because we have economies of scale, you know, we farm 37000 acres, and we've been growing broccoli, and different vegetable items now for 27 years, and it still costs us 30 to 40 percent more to farm than conventional broccoli. You know, when you look at the cost of farming organically, and how many, resources go in to make a pound of meat, I think economies of scale might help a little, but it's gonna be more expensive.

ST. JOHN: It takes a commitment.

GOODMAN: Yeah, no, I honestly think that it's not very much having to do with economies of scale. And I think with the conventional food system, there's a lot of hood hidden costs that we don't pay for when we shop at the super market or the farmer's market, and you really do see the more true cost of this food when you are choosing some more sustainably produced food.

ST. JOHN: This is something that keeps coming up when we're talking about being more environmentally aware, it's the true cost of things, isn't it? 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call and talk with Myra Goodman. Author of the book earth bound cook. Now, Dena from La Jolla is on the line with a question that I think is gonna add to this discussion about our eating organic.

NEW SPEAKER: Oh, wow, thank you for this wonderful show. Yes, the question is, I'd like to know where your farm is, because I'd love to visit it. And we have a healthy eating blog, and we blow the whistle on toxic foods. And it's called free range club.com. And we got into this because my husband had some heart issues, bad genes from his father's side is, and they wanted to do all sorts of terrible invasive procedures, so [CHECK AUDIO] no red meat, even lessened the amount of chicken, no pork. We eat a little Turkey now and then. But mostly it's plant based, and my God, we're in our '70s and can't tell you, we take no medication, no doctors.

ST. JOHN: Ah, ha.

NEW SPEAKER: Everything is because of -- Hypocrites, who is the father of modern medicine said make food your medicine, and we took that to heart.

ST. JOHN: Deba, thank you so much for that story. Myra, is this something that you're hearing a lot from people about how it's affecting people's health.

GOODMAN: I think a lot of people turn to organic food either when they're pregnant or and their kids are little or when they start having health problems, and they're really understanding the connection between diet and health, and they're also seeing that there's such a down side to all these medications that are so routinely prescribed for symptoms but that aren't getting at the cause. And that having a healthy -- it's very analogous to healthy farming, we try to have healthy soils to avoid diseases because we don't really have these powerful pesticides that can kill these diseases. We don't have any organic fumigant. So we have to keep our soil sole healthy, keep our plants healthy, and we'd love you -- we have a farm stand in Carmel valley which is right next to our first farm we started 27 years ago.

ST. JOHN: This is Carmel Valley.

GOODMAN: This is Carmel Valley up north, yeah, it's a couple hours north of San Francisco. So it's a long drive for you or plane ride. And on our farm we actually have a certified organic kitchen. We were one of the first three to open back seven years ago, and a lot of the recipes from my cook book come from there. So every single thing, we have an organic juice bar, soup bar, sandwiches, and beautiful [CHECK AUDIO] where you can taste the first heirloom raspberries that we started with, so we'd love you to come visit us.

ST. JOHN: Do you have a favorite recipe? We haven't really talked much about vegetarian recipes, but I'd love you to tell us a salad, perhaps, that nobody's thought of.

GOODMAN: Oh, you know what I've just been eating because in my farmer's market, and you probably have them, baby turnips are around right now.

ST. JOHN: Oh, yes.

GOODMAN: And I have the simplest sliced baby turnips and carrots, I splice them with a mandolin, but you can do them with a little knife. And some tossed Italian parsley. And I toss them with a vinaigrette, that's lemon juice, shallots, and a little olive oil, canola oil, salt and pepper, to two hours and then you don't let it go longer than that it, and is it just has the most fabulous crunch, and those baby turnips are sweet and juicy when they're baby, it's yummy.

ST. JOHN: That's great. You don't normally think of turnips as yummy, but yes, that does sound delicious. So Myra, tell us where people can get copies of this book of yours.

GOODMAN: Well, hopefully it's available at your local book stores, or any of the online book sellers, and if it's not there, ask for it.

ST. JOHN: Okay. Ask for it. That's right. It's got more than just recipes doesn't it? It has -- you talk about why you love cast iron cooking, for example. Cooking with cast iron.

GOODMAN: I do. I really share my passion for cooking and my passion for farming. And then all the things that I've learned through my life personally and also through helping to run a big business, that uses a lot of fuel, a lot of packaging, a lot of resources, to help reduce our resources.

ST. JOHN: Okay, so Myra good plan, thank you so much for joinings of it's bye-bye an inspiring hour. And helped, I think, to understand a little bit better some of these issues around organic food.

GOODMAN: Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure.

ST. JOHN: Great. Stay with us coming up in the next segment, we'll be talking about where you can get your Easter brunch this weekend.

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