Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dole Goes Green?

From Allen Zimmerman, produce buyer:

I received the following "News Flash" from a supplier on 1/29/08:

Dole Switches to Bio-diesel Fuel

After five months of testing, Dole Fresh Vegetables Co., a division of Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif., has converted all of its harvesting equipment in Salinas, Calif., and in Yuma, Ariz., to B20 bio-diesel fuel, according to a news release. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that B20 bio-diesel, a domestic renewable fuel for diesel engines that is derived from natural oils, has 20% less unburned hydrocarbons than conventional diesel as well as less carbon monoxide and particulate matter, the release said. "Being good stewards of the environment is very important to Dole, and this includes reducing emissions and using alternative sources of energy," said Kevin Fiori, Dole's senior vice president, agriculture operations. "Those of us in agriculture, who depend on the environment, land, water, and air quality to grow foods, are keenly aware of the importance of applying sustainable agricultural practices," he added.

The person who sent it to me was impressed that Dole made such an important environmental contribution. I was also impressed, but mostly because Dole managed to look "green" while possibly not helping the environment at all. I responded to my supplier:

"I’m not sure, but I think that bio-diesel may be worse for the environment than petroleum. Especially since it allows giant corporations to claim that they are green. Bio-diesel, so heavily dependant on corn, encourages mono-cultural farming, the acquisition of small family farms by giant corporate farms, is very involved with genetically engineered corn, uses tons of petroleum fertilizer. A good deal of the corn is grown overseas, for example India, where land is diverted from food production, and water is diverted from local consumption to irrigation."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter Weather Shortages

Cold weather in current growing regions, Florida, California, Texas, and Mexico, have led to various crop shortages and higher prices. Rain, wind, mud, and frost will affect the availability of many green things for a few weeks. Among the items that are most affected are artichokes, arugula, basil, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, escarole, all kales, leeks, lettuces, okra, parsleys, radishes, scallions, and spinach. The severest shortages will affect availability of salad mixes and baby spinach. All tomatoes are scarce, expensive and why do you all need to eat tomatoes in the winter anyway? Let this scarcity problem inspire you to try something new, and to continue to support our local family farmers by eating more roots.
—Allen Zimmerman
Long Time, No Blog

The period of time beginning a week before Halloween and ending a week after New Year's is a time of extreme stress for the produce department. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's require a great deal of handling of special orders, special items, special quantities, and oh so special needs, that it would be impossible to write during this period. In addition, our local abundance ends and we transition our sourcing for each item, one by one, to far away places, just when the peak shopping, cooking, and eating season occurs. I apologize for the lack of information during the last few months.
—Allen Zimmerman