GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! GRC Elections: Your individual vote and participation in our food co-op matter!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


Last night, the Member-Owners of the Honest Weight Food Co-op held their quarterly  meeting. Elections were held to fill a vacant seat on the Governance Review Council (GRC). The results of that election, as certified by Rita Nolan, Chair of our Elections and Nominations Committee, are as follows:

“166 Member-Owners were in attendance at last night’s Membership Meeting.

131 votes were cast so 33 votes is a 25% plurality:

Gene Reilly          103 Votes
Rebekah Rice        26 Votes
Nancy Van Deusen  1 Vote
Russell Ziemba        1 Vote

Two (2) Provisional Ballots are awaiting verification but these votes will not affect the result.”

Gene Reilly is the newest member of our GRC. Congratulations to Gene and thank you for your willingness to serve a three-year term! I served with Gene on the HWFC Corporate Compliance Committee (CCC) and I can tell you he is very balanced in his decision-making process, focused, thoughtful, calm, and extremely easy and pleasant to work with.

Gene is the person from the CCC who recommended the term “time investment,” which is the term we now use to refer to the “work” we Member-Owners do at our co-op; his recommendation made it all the way into our bylaws!

Member-Owners, help Gene out by attending GRC meetings and supporting his work…

…errr, that is, time investment!


I was part of the team which made sure the “chain of custody” of the ballots was secure; that is, the ballot boxes were watched by a number of people from the time they were opened at the meeting, until the time they were placed on the table at HWFC, to be opened and ballots counted. I was also on the team which counted the ballots.

The ballot counting process which our Elections and Nominations Committee has developed is detailed, logical, clear, transparent and – most importantly – has multiple times where ballot counting is double-checked by “multiple eyes:” that is, there are multiple checks & balances.

A team of four people is initially involved in the physical count; each of the four checks the count of the others. Once the paperwork is signed off by the team of four, it is passed on to another team, which double-checks the work of the first team and tallies up the final vote count.

The Chair of the Committee was present at all times to answer questions about, for example, an unclear or spoiled ballot, so that the actual counting could proceed efficiently and without difficulty.

Member-Owners are invited and encouraged to witness vote counting at our co-op or to actually count ballots. Please do! It is important that we protect the sanctity of our elections’ process. We need to continually monitor the accuracy of our ballot security and our ballot counting and the certifying of elections so all are comfortable that the results are fair, accurate, transparent and that there is no possibility that the ballot boxes, the ballots, and counting have been tampered with in any way.

A process of hand-counted paper ballots, in public, with multiple people in attendance, with multiple redundancies, with a clear and verifiable, paper ballot re-count process, if and when necessary – according to a League of Women Voters member with whom I worked closely years ago – is still considered the safest way to conduct elections.

This is the process our Election and Nominations Committee has instituted for our co-op.

Thank you to each and every member of our Elections and Nominations Committee – Rita Nolan, Tom Spargo, and Karen Roth – for your hard work in developing this fair and transparent process which we can trust and which we can also verify.


What is crucial to our food co-op is your participation.

The recent first-ever HWFC Coffeehouse (thank you Membership Committee and all the musicians!), our second Art Exhibit opening (thank you Honest Arts Committee and all the artists!), and our Fall Festival, Homegrown Happening (thank you to all the staff involved, the vendors, and all who participated!), are all testament to fantastic teamwork happening at our co-op, both among and between Member-Owners and our wonderful staff.

Thank you to every person who was a part of all those team efforts!

However, governance also needs team effort. Perhaps it is not always fun, like being involved with music and art. It is, however, vital and necessary.

PLEASE start attending Board meetings. PLEASE start attending GRC meetings. PLEASE join a Committee.

More than ever, we need Member-Owners to fill vacancies upon the Board.

To that end, the Board will be holding a meeting this Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 5:00PM to fill vacancies upon the Board of Directors and upon the Executive Committee. Place: HWFC. Nominations are due by 5PM Friday, October 27, 2017, submitted to or submitted in paper format in a sealed envelope to the Service Desk at HWFC. Please do not leave it to somebody else to do; right now we need new Board members. 

Member-Owners, also, do not forget to thank Board members who have recently left our Board; they all put in hard work on our behalf. Thank yous are very, very important, don’t neglect to express your appreciation.

The name of my blog has “Grassroots” in it for a reason. You are one of the grassroots. Together, we families all keep our food co-op strong, resilient, transparent and democratic.

The fewer there are of us, the more chance for non-transparent actions. The more of us, the more roots to keep us grounded, co-operative, self-reliant, and strong.

We are all in charge of our mission which, remember – from our co-operative beginnings back in the ’70’s  – is, at its basics: high- quality, low cost food.

From my perspective – for my family – being involved in  protecting our sources of local, organic, high-quality, nutrient-dense food and building bridges to the local families which produce this food – is an extremely good investment of my time and energy.

Being involved in co-operative governance, to assure that end, is one of the ways to invest your time in our co-operative.

Wouldn’t you and your family agree it’s a sound investment?

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! Neonics 2: Flowers, the Place Where Honey Bees & Gardeners Meetup


Posted by Laura Hagen, Honest Weight Food Co-op, HWFC, Member-Owner and family to an ‘organic practices’ beekeeper

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


ACTION ITEM – HWFC Member-Owners: This is a reminder that there is a quarterly HWFC Membership Meeting on Sunday, October 22, 2017 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church (FUUSA), 405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY. The meeting consists of:

4:30 – 5:30pm: Meet the Governance Review
Council (GRC) Candidates
5:30 – 6:00pm: Dessert potluck
6:00 – 8:00pm: Meeting, with GRC elections to
take place at the meeting


This is Part 2 (here is Part 1) of my continuing series about honey bees, pollinators, gardeners… …and neonicotinoids, that unwelcome ‘invasive’ poison in our gardens about which we gardeners need to immediately take up arms. Each successive post will focus on a particular issue relating to the need to ban neonicotinoids from our gardens, our farmlands…

…and our planet.

“Wee haue by this Shipp and the Discouerie sent you … Beehives…”

Letter written December 5, 1621 by the Council of the Virginia Company in London and addressed to the Governor and Council in Virginia 1

There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world; honey bees – both ‘managed’ and wild – are the most well-known by the public. Honey bees have been thriving for 50 million years! (In contrast, we’ve only been around for 6-7 million, 2.5 million or 200,000 years, depending upon your anthropological criteria.) They have a highly-complex and ordered social life; different from the majority of the world’s bees, which are solitary. Each honey bee has a distinct job within the hive, all contributing together to its order, harmony and productivity.

That hive is home.

How did honey bees happen to become part of the ecosystem of this continent?

Well, the honey bees with which we are all familiar here in the United States are actually an import. The first English settlers arrived on this continent in 1607 and created the permanent English colony of Jamestown, located in present-day Virginia.

Fifteen years later, in 1622, the very first bee hives on the continent were brought over from England.


In her outstanding introduction to the history of bees in American, Honey Bees Across America, Brenda Kellar informs us:

“The only evidence we have of the initial importation of honey bees to North America is a letter written December 5, 1621 by the Council of the Virginia Company in London and addressed to the Governor and Council in Virginia, “Wee haue by this Shipp and the Discouerie sent you diurs [divers] sortes of seedes, and fruit trees, as also Pidgeons, Connies, Peacockes Maistiues [Mastiffs], and Beehives, [emphasis added] as you shall by the invoice pceiue [perceive]; the preservation & encrease whereof we respond vnto you…” (Goodwin 1956; Kingsbury 1906:532). The Discovery (60 tons, Thomas Jones, captain, and twenty persons) left England November 1621 and arrived in Virginia March 1622 (Langford Ship Information; Brown 1898:469-470). The other ship described only as “this shipp” could have been either the Bona Nova (200 tons, John Huddleston, master, and fifty persons) or the Hopewell (60 tons, Thomas Smith, master, and twenty persons), also known as the Great Hopewell. The Bona Nova was a month behind and arrived at Jamestown in April (Langford Ship Information). This was the Hopewell’s first voyage to Virginia and there is no record of the date of its arrival (Langford Ship Information), although Brown claims it arrived at Jamestown within 24 days of the Good Friday March 22, 1622 massacre (Brown 1898:469).

Historical documentary sources tell us that from Jamestown the honey bees multiplied and spread out. It would be another 16 years before the next successful shipment of honey bees made it to North America (Free 1982:116; Ransome 1937:260). However, the feral honey bee population boomed and by the mid 17th century honey bee hunting or ‘lining’[1] was a popular activity and would continue to be so well into the 20th century.” 2

Among all of the items critical for the survival of this fledgling English colony in Virginia – shipped over on a four-month long winter journey across the north Atlantic and explicit in the bill of particulars from 1622 – were “Beehives.”

This highlights just how important the English colonists – many of them farmers – knew honey bees to be!

How did these bees survive a journey, in the cold hold of a ship from November, 1621 to March, 1622? (Were they in the hold or, perhaps, somewhere in warmer quarters? I don’t think history tells us.)

It’s nothing they haven’t done before – perhaps not often in the hold of a ship! – but certainly, for millenia, in forests and in trees, dotting winter fields covered in snow.

Clearly this delivery was a carefully-timed event.

Approaching fall, the queen normally stops laying summer bees, which normally live for six weeks. The remaining bees, consuming a bit of royal jelly, hatch out and live for six months: they’re called winter bees. Due to the lack of brood (baby bees), the remaining winter bees would have balled up around the queen (forming a literal ‘bee ball‘), keeping her at 70 degrees. This ball, due to lack of brood, would be free to move about the combs, consuming honey and ‘beebread‘ (fermented pollen) as necessary, to maintain core temperature.

This is all normal behavior in any winter honey bee hive.

Bathroom breaks? Bees are quite patient, they can wait! In the early spring, the hives would have begun to raise the core temperatures of each bee ball from 70 degrees to 98.6 degrees, at which point the queen would start laying eggs, which are destined to hatch as brand new summer bees.

This would have coincided with a March, 1622 arrival in Virginia: early spring, at which time the bees would have left shipboard, been placed in fields, and immediately begun foraging.

The beekeepers on both ends of this winter, trans-Atlantic journey would have carefully chosen the departure and arrival dates of the beehives. They understood how hives work; they worked with the seasons – and with the rhythms of the hive – to assure the successful transplant of those fledgling beehives.

Clearly the transplant took!


Here we are in 2017, almost 400 years after those first hives arrived. Ninety-nine percent of American beekeepers are made up of small, community-based apiaries; hives managed by a farmer for his or her own farm; or backyard beekeepers, called ‘sideliner’ or ‘hobbyist’ beekeepers. There are simply thousands of American families, across all fifty states – some gardeners like you and me – who maintain one or a few hives in the backyard, a larger apiary on the lower forty, many hives spread over several farmsteads, or a small or medium-scale business supplying honey and beeswax to the local community.

The American beekeepers who have been hitting the news since 2006 with massive bee die-offs, called colony collapse disorder (CCD), are – for the most part – large, commercial, migratory beekeepers: those who truck thousands of hives across the continent, following one or another mono-crop about to bloom, providing pollination services to the farms; California’s almond crops are, perhaps, the most well-known of these crops.

Many of the mono-crops their bees are pollinating in the United States are grown from neonicotinoid-coated seeds: some examples are corn, soy, wheat and sugar beets (used to make white sugar). Neonicotinoids are systemic, water-soluble pesticides which have been implicated in CCD and massive honey and bumble bee die-offs since 2006. (Please see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

These large-scale, commercial operations only make up about 1 percent of America’s beekeepers.


A backyard beekeeper conducting an inspection of a Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH), which is shaped like a hollow log (a preferred wild honey bee habitat). Note the dish of water, which is shallow and has stones placed in it, so that the bees may safely drink.

The community and neighborhood apiaries, the backyard hobbyists and their bees are, by the way, providing (free!) pollination services to all the neighbor farmers and gardeners in a three-mile radius from each hive. Your own flower and vegetable gardens thrive, in part, because of the attentive work of a beekeeper – somewhere local to you – and his or her apiary.

These beekeepers – the 99 percent spread out across America in every village, town, city and community – are your neighbors.

The 1 percent of our beekeepers traveling America’s roads, trucking hives, are providing pollination services for many, many of the crops your family eats: e.g., corn; almonds, citrus fruits, blueberries.

From those very first hives in 1622 up until today – we gardeners, farmers and beekeepers on this continent have had a symbiotic relationship – a very rewarding and a very essential relationship.

We gardeners and farmers are very, very lucky to have such accommodating neighbors, that is, those who keep bees!


 “…each of our individual actions can contribute to a grand solution … So, let the small act of planting flowers and keeping them free of pesticides be the driver of large scale change…

Dr. Marla Spivak, Bees Scholar
June 2013 at TEDGlobal 2013

Honey bees which, like all of us, need food, gather that food from simple, ordinary flowers. They derive virtually all of their food from flowers. Those flowering plants which you and I, as gardeners, delight in digging in, watering and caring for and, occasionally, moving around madly and obsessively until we create the perfect palette, are the main food source for bees. For flowers yield nectar and pollen.

From each flower – and bees have their favorites, just like you and I, with white clover blossoms and Linden trees in bloom (also called American basswood or ‘the Bee Tree‘) being two of them! – a bee will gather nectar which – when fermented back at the hive – creates ‘honey,’ the hive’s source of carbohydrate, and pollen which – when fermented back at the hive – creates ‘beebread,” the hive’s source of protein.

BeesKnees (2)

The ‘pollen baskets’ on this bee are packed to the brim with yellow, tacky pollen, stored behind the bee’s knees. The term ‘That’s the Bee’s Knees!’ was made popular in the roaring ’20’s; it is flapper slang, similar to our use of the terms ‘cool‘ or ‘way cool.

Pollen is that fine yellow dust – slightly tacky, yes? – which most of us have had occasion to encounter on our gloves or hands while gardening. Those of you who are alert and attentive gardeners – and who among us is not alert and attentive! – have actually seen the so-called ‘bees’ knees:‘ a bee, zipping by, appearing to have large, weighty, yellow appendages on her back legs. This is actually the storage spot, right on the bee, for that pollen, on its way to being delivered to the hive. She is a sort-of UPS driver of the hive!

That pollen will end up back home, get placed in a cell, and it will ferment for just the right amount of time, until it is capped off for long term storage.

Nectar, that sweet liquid produced by a flower, once harvested, will remain in the bee, until it is regurgitated back home, get placed in a cell, and it will ferment for just the right amount of time, until it, too, is capped off for long term storage.

Fermentation is a key word here, hang on to it.

What is nectar? Well, do you remember, in the early summer as a child, encountering a honeysuckle bush?

I remember, in early summer, a warm, sunny day, sighting the first honeysuckle stand in full bloom, and eagerly running over with my brother …each of us plucking off a flower and gently snipping off the petal end, without breaking those long, thin, delicate things with yellow pollen on them. We would each – oh, so gently – pull and tug and draw it apart until the very end of the flower yielded that one precious drop of crystal clear, sweet, sublime liquid.

I remember holding the blossom above my tongue, letting that one drop take its sweet time and eventually drip down onto that tongue, eager to taste the sweet liquid. This was repeated over and over again – brother and sister sharing a tiny moment of heaven, blossom after blossom – piles of flowers in the grass at their feet. That is nectar!

That is the raw material for honey, yet another of nature’s sweet fluids, created not by a flower, but by a flower, a honey bee and a little time and fermentation!


On the first day of autumn, this field bee travels back and forth between her hive and the flowers, taking full advantage of the warm, sunny day! She is gathering pollen and nectar. (Learn about that oh-so-innocent-looking vine – known as the evil ‘lesser bindweed’ – in my gardening-metaphor post, GRASSROOTS ACTION and invasives ARE POWERFUL!, here.)

Honey bees also need water, which is why it is essential that you, as a gardener, provide a source of clean fresh water – in a shallow dish with stones – for all of the pollinators which live in or visit your gardens.

Now, bees also gather sap from conifers, sap flows, tree buds, and other botanical sources, to create propolis (‘bee glue‘), out of which they create a resinous mixture to seal small spaces in the hive, keep the hive antiseptic, and defend against invaders, like ants and beetles. But that is another story!


Bees, in the course of simply living their lives, do an essential thing for us humans: they pollinate flowers. This essential act of procreation, the moving of pollen from one flower, one plant, to another, assures that somewhere down the line there will be food for us: a cherry tree will bear cherries, an almond tree will bear almonds, a tomato plant will produce tomatoes, a pumpkin vine will yield those big, orange pumpkins we all delight in for Halloween and for the pies which grace our Thanksgiving dinner tables.

If there is no pollination, down the line there will be no cherries, no almonds, no tomatoes, no pumpkins.

Honey bees are directly responsible for pollinating 30 percent of our food supply and 90 percent of our most commonly-grown foods; we rely upon all pollinators to pollinate 70 percent of our food supply. Pollinators – and honey bees – are essential to human survival.

This bears repeating: honey bees pollinate 30 percent of our food and are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of our most commonly-grown foods; all pollinators pollinate 70 percent of our food. They are all essential for the survival of our species.

If we do not – as a species – have pollinators, we do not have food.


I think you are beginning to understand that fermentation plays a rather big role here among honey bees, especially of interest to those of you who follow a ‘Paleo’ or ‘traditional’ diet or who are learning about the incredible health value of ferments in our own diets. For healthy, unstressed bees utilize bacteria (and other micro-organisms) to create their fermented foods for long term storage.

That beebread and that honey have to last the winter, a time when there are no flowers to visit.

I learned a visceral lesson about fermentation this autumn.

One night, an unusually warm late September evening about 8PM, I pulled into the driveway, opened the truck door, gathered my bags, stepped out, slammed the door shut …and I was met with a thick, foul stench. Now, the door opens right next to the garbage pail, so I assumed something had been left in the pail and was busily rotting. (Since we, as organic gardeners, re-use all our kitchen leavings and always maintain a tidy compost pile and the weekly garbage had just been picked up – I could not understand what that might be.)

I went to check.


About 10PM that evening the odor simply went away.

Now, understand, this was not just your everyday kind of an odor. It smelled exactly like the liquid which dribbles out of the back of a garbage truck which you (unfortunately) happen to be driving behind on a hot, humid, steamy summer morning.

As my Mom would have said, “It stunk to high heaven!”

Several days’ later, the same thing happened. Dining room windows wide open, this malodorous, horrific odor wafted in. I ran out, checked everywhere and determined something – somewhere – must have died.

Again, about 10PM the odor simply vanished.

A few days’ later, again at night with the windows, again, left wide open, this ungodly, foul odor blew in, as I was, thank goodness!, finishing up my dinner. This time – aha! – the beekeeper-husband happened to be home. He could smell it; there would be a witness to my olfactory discomfort.

I sent him out to investigate.

Twenty minutes’ later, perimeter check completed, he opened the back door with a big, secret smile on his face. But, will he tell me what he’s discovered? No. He leaves me in olfactory-limbo.

I noticed, though, that he had been rooting around the hive.

10PM rolls around, and, for the third time, that odor simply vanished. Sweet, warm evening air blew by my face.

By this time there was a definite pattern anybody would have noticed!

Well, the beekeeper in the family finally informed the gardener in the family that the bees had been very busily gathering nectar and pollen from all the golden rod, which was still, by the way, in full bloom. We had had unusually warm, fall days and cool nights; the cool nights were keeping the late season, high-sugar nectar from being delivered to the plants’ roots over night and, instead, it remained in the flowers. The bees took full advantage! They were having a continuous party feeding upon super-sweet nectar and golden rod pollen!

They gathered all the pollen they could individually carry on those bees’ knees, and collectively placed it in the hive cells –  allowing them to sit open, for just the right amount of time …and ferment.

They did the same with the super-sweet nectar, allowing the cells to sit open, for just the right amount of time …and ferment.

Well, ferment… …or stink, depending upon your point of view, they did!

At 10PM, right as rain, the bees had finished capping off their brand new beebread and honey, and, low and behold, that odor simply vanished!

The bees – so to speak – put a lid on it!

Since we make our own sauerkraut and Kombucha from a Jun culture (an ancient culture which specifically requires honey not sugar for fermentation), I know what fermentation can smell like! It can stink to high heaven!

Mystery solved! My goodness, I was amazed at the production plant which is a beehive! Those bees were busy stocking up for winter.

We, human beings and tiny little honey bees, share this basic survival strategy: don’t waste time, ferment your excess to get you through the winter.

We also share in another one: we each need to have bacteria to assist us in not only fermenting our foods, but also in the very survival of our species.

I am willing to bet, once I research it, that I will find out that bees, like us, need a healthy gut ‘biome’ with tons of ‘good bacteria’ keeping the immune system going strong. Maybe those bee bacteria, too, are ill-affected by antibiotics and chemicals and poisonous, pesticide residue in the food.

I will let you know what I find out. A closer look into just how honey bees ferment pollen and nectar is definitely in order.

Anyway, it was at that moment  – in the evening just after 10PM – that I gained a deepening understanding and appreciation of the intimate connection between our species’. We both prepare foods for the long-term survival of our families through winter: we both ferment food and, yes, it can smell! The bees, in gathering their own food, pollinate flowers, literally creating food for us. We also share in the bounty of their hives, for we humans have, for thousands of years, harvested honey, one of their fermented foods. A book no less than the Bible is testament to that!

In fact, everybody must have heard, by now, the story that they found thousands-of-years-old honey in an Egyptian tomb, tested it, found it pure …and they ate it!

Milk and honey on the other side,’ is not, apparently, just a myth. Pharaoh planned to have some honey put aside for his journey!

However, as any natural or ‘organic practices’ beekeeper will tell you, the best time to harvest excess hive honey is in the spring, when the hive is safely through the winter and the queen wants that honey out of her way! so she can get to work making brood  and summer bees!

To everything there is a season.” 3

I need to pay more attention to the seasons and the cycles and the interconnections between me – a human being – and the beings – some very tiny – which whom I share an ecosystem. For I, we all, do share living together in an ecosystem. We each have a responsibility to preserve it, to defend it, to safeguard it, to protect it and, equally as important, to understand it. For in our hands is the stewardship of the land and the protection of our ecosystems.

I am going to go back and re-read Rachel Carson’s works, all of them, 4 for she gifted us with these messages – ‘gifts‘ whose reason for being was ecosystem crisis by systemic pesticide – almost 60 years ago. 5

It is at our own peril that we ignore the warning signs that the honey bees are – many with their lives – giving to us in 2017. 6

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran



1. Kellar, Brenda. “Honey Bees Across America.” Oregon State Beekeepers Association. Web. 12 October 2017.

We are in debt to Ms. Kellar for this carefully researched information. I appreciate the time she took to create this story, with its detailed, original source material, all carefully cited. We can enjoy her well-done story… …and, because of her scholarship, also go and read the original sources for ourselves! (Ah, the blessings of librarians – my heroes – and the internet!)

I was so impressed with her article I went looking for others. In fact, I found Ms. Kellar had completed her Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology. Granted in 2004, the title of her thesis is: One Methodology for the Incorporation of Entomological Material in the Discipline of Historic Archaeology Using the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera L.) as a Test Subject. With the wonders of the internet, here is her thesis!

Ms. Kellar goes into much more detail about those first beehives which arrived in Jamestown in 1622. Curious? Please sit down and read her thesis!

2. Ibid.

3. Seeger, Pete. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” The Bitter and the Sweet. Columbia. 1962. Vinyl: LP.

Listen to Pete Seeger as he sings, at age 93, the song he wrote in 1962, Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season), which uses – almost word-for-word – the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, King James version. This recording took place on November 9, 2012, with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Foundation honoring legendary musician David Amram with the “Power of Song Award” at Symphony Space in New York City.

Pete lived near the Hudson River – a pristine river first explored in 1609 by an English captain on a mission for the Dutch: Henry Hudson in the ship the Halve Maen. Pete Seeger, in the Sloop Clearwater, helped clean up that same Hudson River, some 350 years later.

Consider, for a moment, the lifelong legacy of this one, simple musician. One of the many, many things he did was to take on the corporate polluters of the Hudson River … and win.

A little over a year after that Power of Song Award concert down near New York harbor, we – especially those of us on and near his beloved Hudson River – lost Pete Seeger on January 27, 2014. He was 94.

4. Rachel Carson was a scientist, ecologist, and writer. Employed for fifteen years by the federal government in the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief of all publications for that agency. Linda Lear, who wrote a biography of Rachel Carson, lists Ms. Carson’s four books as:

Under the Sea-Wind (1941)
The Sea Around Us (1952)
The Edge of the Sea (1955)
Silent Spring (1962)

Ms. Lear’s biography of Rachel Carson is entitled Biography Witness for Nature (1997); it was was re-issued in 2009 by by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature.

Ms. Lear also references the 1970 book by Frank Graham, entitled Since Silent Spring Rachel Carson has been proved right. What have we done about it?

A research archive of the life and work of Rachel Carson, the Lear-Carson Collection, is maintained at Connecticut College in New London, CT.

5. My generation will never forget the images of piles of dead fish on our river banks and in our streams, birds’ eggs not hatching, and the dire warning that the American bald eagle was poised to go extinct, all due to a systemic pesticide, DDT.

It is directly because of the impact which both Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Pete Seeger had upon me (my family lived near to the Hudson River and knew how polluted it was), that I, with a bunch of other like-minded students, co-founded our high school’s first-ever Ecology Club and we initiated its first-ever Earth Day celebration, which became a yearly event throughout the entire high school. Town-wide, monthly newspaper drives, initiated and organized by one of our French teachers, dear M. George Johnson, were the beginnings of ‘recycling’  in our community: a brand new concept in the late 1960’s – early ’70’s.

During high school, the Sloop Clearwater used to (and still does!) dock at key towns and cities up and down the length of the Hudson River from New York harbor up to Albany, New York; the sight of her majestic, tall mast and beautiful, white sails slowly floating downriver was unique, memorable and inspiring to a young adult concerned about the plight of the living beings we share the planet with.

Is it vacant, silent honey bee hives, backyards bereft of floating monarch’s and birdsong, and piles of dead bumble bees in store parking lots which are to be this generation’s systemic pesticides’ warning klaxon?

It was the Sloop Clearwater, Pete Seeger and a whole bunch of concerned citizens – Moms, Dads, kids (and musicians!) – who all changed the Hudson River’s story. People like renowned naturalist and Illinois beekeeper, Terence Ingram and his Eagle Nature Foundation, Ltd., (he began studying bald eagles in 1962, the same year Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published), positively changed the story of the bald eagle.

Who is changing the systemic pesticide / neonicotinoid story for our pollinators here in 2017?

Can we gardeners make a difference, each in our home communities?

6. On September 20, 2017 the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP), an international body of scientists, released its latest, updated warning about neonicotinoids, Severe Threats to Biodiversity from Neonicotinoid Pesticides Revealed in Latest Scientific Review.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! NEONICS I. Gardeners: neonic-coated seeds, the flowers in our gardens, lethal to pollinators & bees


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner and family to an ‘organic practices’ beekeeper

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


Dear fellow Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) Member-Owners, food co-op lovers, and gardeners,

Today, I’m initiating a series about neonicotinoids, insecticides which have been implicated in massive numbers of pollinator deaths, as well as honey bee die-offs, called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Since it is the fall planting season and many co-op families are busy planting, I’m leading off this series with a neonicotinoid-warning to gardeners.


“Homeowners are planting flowers in their yards thinking they’re helping bees and they’re basically planting poison plants…”

Erin MacGregor-Forbes, Maine Beekeeper

from The Case of The Vanishing Bees by Tom Turner
Posted on Earthjustice

A relatively new industrial agriculture (BIG Ag) practice is the coating of seeds with neonicotinoids (‘new nicotine-like insecticides’ or ‘neonics’), 1 an insecticide which damages the central nervous system of honey bees and pollinators and can cause paralysis and death. Neonics have been clearly implicated in colony collapse disorder (CCD) and massive honey and bumble bee die-offs across the country. 2

Since the mid-2000s, when this practice gained strong momentum, BIG Ag has been routinely coating the seeds of many mono-crops with these pesticides; corn – America’s no. 1 cash crop – soy, wheat, cotton, sunflowers, 3 potatoes, canola (oilseed rape), sugar beets, 4 many cereal grains and legumes, and some vegetables are only some examples of the mono-crops which are getting this seed treatment, both here in the US and throughout the world.

It was also in the mid-2000s that the United States – in a never-seen-like-this-before calamity! – began losing, on average, one third of its managed honey bees annually, as estimated by researchers; a horrific trend which has continued to this day and, in many states, has gotten even worse. 5

71 to nearly 100 percent of the corn seed used in the US today is treated with neonics; a majority of soybean seeds are, as well. Farmers report it is all but impossible to buy corn seed that has not been neonic treated. Seed companies have been steadily increasing the amount of this pesticide used per seed, to the point where some seeds are now routinely being coated with five times the original amounts used!

Neonics are the most widely-used insecticide in the world today. In the US, there are six neonics, called ‘active ingredients,’ registered by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for agricultural use: imidacloprid (the most widely-used, worldwide), acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam (nitenpyram, a seventh, is not registered for used in agriculture). They are being used extensively in (non-organic) agriculture as a foliar spray, in soil drenching, in tree trunk injections, and as a coating for seeds.

It is noteworthy that three neonics were banned in the EU in 2013 for two years, for use on bee-attractive, flowering crops (e.g. corn, sunflowers and canola), and their use was also restricted on ornamental crops (e.g. annuals and perennials). The EU is currently reviewing this ban with the possibility of making it permanent.

It was only very recently, that researchers began to investigate just how pervasive the use of neonic-coated seeds is in the US. As it turns out, the federal government wasn’t even gathering stats about the use of neonic-coated seeds because, under EPA guidelines, it is not considered a pesticide application! 6 This 2015 study, by Margaret R. Douglas and John F. Tooker from Penn State University, states:

“…We synthesized publicly available data to estimate and interpret trends in neonicotinoid use since their introduction in 1994, with a special focus on seed treatments, a major use not captured by the national pesticide-use survey …

… It is remarkable that almost the entire area of the most widely grown crop in the U.S. (i.e., maize) is now treated with an insecticide, yet we have no public survey data reflecting this trend… 7

Pesticide-coating of seeds represents a frightening paradigm shift in pesticide deployment; instead of using pesticides after pests become evident, BIG Ag now prophylactically treats all the seeds of particular crops, before they are even planted.

According to a 2016 Minnesota Department of Agriculture report, neonics in the US are being used primarily as seed treatments. Of those seed treatments, 80% consist of neonic pesticides.

According to this report, Pollinators and Pesticides, by the Center for Food Safety:

“From 2009-2011, over 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids were applied to roughly 127 million acres of agricultural crops annually across the United States.” 8

With 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids applied annually to US crops – covering an area which represents approximately one twelfth the area of the US, minus Hawaii and Alaska – how can it be that the EPA does not consider this seed-coating a pesticide application, when we are blanketing our farmland and ecosystem with a toxic load of neonics each and every year? (see 6)

The BIG Ag practice of coating seeds in neonic pesticides also extends to annuals – flowering, as well as vegetable & herb plants – perennials, bulbs, rhizomes, larger ornamentals (shrubs), and indoor potted plants.


Flowers are the primary source of honey bees’ food, from which they gather pollen & nectar. It takes the entire lifetime of each of ten, nectar-gathering field bees – each of whom live for six weeks during the summer – to make 1 teaspoon of honey. Notice the soft, fine hairs of this honey bee; her ‘fur’ collects and moves pollen from one flower to another.

Neonics are also being used extensively in other landscape applications, by both homeowners and landscape professionals, including as foliar sprays, soil drenching of turf and trees, and trunk injections.

That there is a pervasive BIG Ag, industry-wide practice of coating seeds with a toxic, systemic pesticide is a fact not well known by most people, let alone home gardeners.

Millions of American home gardeners are – every spring, every fall – transporting hundreds of thousands of flowering annuals and perennials to our homes and gardens – each of our front & backyards, porches, decks, sidewalks, mailboxes, bird feeders, window boxes, and railings decorated with a profusion of beautiful blooms and blossoms – with absolutely no idea that we are poisoning the honey bees and pollinators, for whom a flower is an essential source of food.



“I was asked yesterday by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Gunderson how long I thought we had before disaster struck. ‘How long?’ I answered. ‘It isn’t a question of how long any more, the disaster is here.'”

New York commercial beekeeper Jim Doan forced out of business by pesticide losses
Tom Theobald, Colorado beekeeper

Neonics are systemic, water-soluble pesticides, meaning the pesticide doesn’t simply remain on the surface of the plant. It, instead, travels through a plant’s vascular system, permanently poisoning the plant for the life of the plant: roots, stems, leaves, fruit, berries, flowers, nectar and pollen.

In pollinators, the poisoning by neonics is cumulative; each and every time a honey bee, for example, visits a stand of neonic-tainted clover blossoms in a day, her own neuro-toxicity increases.

Neonics are  – just like the systemic DDT about which Rachel Carson warned in her 1962 book, Silent Spring – very toxic to the living things in an ecosystem, enduring, and their use creates unintended & dire consequences.

However, the DDT Rachel Carson warned about pales in comparison to the toxicity of neonics. Some neonics are, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, “…at least 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT… .” 9 These pesticides are, therefore, highly toxic to honey bees and pollinators in tiny amounts.

Furthermore, when some neonics breakdown, these metabolites can be 10-16 times more toxic to pollinators!

The maximum annual usage of DDT in the US (which occurred in 1959) was 80 million pounds. Using the 2009 figure for US neonic usage (which he found was 3.4 million pounds), beekeeper Tom Theobald estimated (given that neonics are 5,000 – 10,000 times more toxic than DDT and he used the more conservative figure of 5,000) that, per year:

“We are now drenching American farmland with the equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT.” 10

These statistics alone should put to rest any question that neonicotinoid pesticides are causing great harm to bees - and pollinators - in the United States. Our environment is a frighteningly more poisonous and toxic place than Rachel Carson could ever have imagined.

“One of the most concerning aspects about neonicotinoid seed treatments is their propensity for contaminating the environment: when used as a coating on seeds, only 1.6-2.0% of the amount of the active chemical applied actually enters the crop itself, leaving the remainder of the chemical coating to pollute the environment.” 11

When neonic-coated seeds are first sown, a pesticide dust cloud is released into the wind, contaminating neighboring fields, flower-rich hedgerows (including, for example, nearby organic wildflower habitats 12) and pollinators, which can be harmed on both a contact and an oral basis by some neonics. This pesticide’s water solubility makes it especially dangerous as it very easily travels everywhere, ultimately contaminating our ground water, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands. That there is a ‘downstream’ effect to land and water invertebrates, as well as bats and insect-feeding woodland birds, is a given.

This neonic dust, by the way, can also include talc or graphite (used as seed lubricants with forced air seed planters). According to a 2012 Purdue University study in Indiana, this contaminated talc is “light“and “mobile” and “…the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides – up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee…” 13

The article continues:

” ‘Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment,’ Krupke said. ‘This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen. This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives.'” 14

Is anyone researching the damage which tons of airborne, (non-purified?) talc itself might be inflicting upon pollinators and the environment (and anyone in proximity to talc-contaminated air and fields), in addition to the neonics in the talc itself?

What is the impact of talc (and/or graphite), being brought back to the hive in the pollen which field bees collect? 15

[See these images, detailing the US increase in the use of seed treatments of just one neonic, imidacloprid, from 2000 –  2014.]

Neonics, doing double damage, degrade slowly as they continue to poisonand they are taken up by neighboring plants. In soil, neonics have a half-life of between 148 days to as long as nineteen years. These pesticides accumulate with each application, creating, of farmland – of your garden – year-by-year, an increasingly toxic environment for pollinators.

It was absolutely shocking to discover that one of the seeds available with a neonic-coating – used as a cover & rotational crop and to seed pasture is clover. Clover is a favorite flower of honey bees; how many millions of us of us enjoy our clover honey! Pasture sown with this seed will subject bees – who will return multiple times throughout the day – to longterm, low level (sublethal) exposure to toxic neonics, poisoning of the hive, and eventual, likely, colony collapse. 16

Gardeners, what kind of world are we allowing wherein a simple flower has become, to a bee, a poisonous bio-hazard?


Home gardeners, and their pollinators, may be exposed to much higher concentrations of neonics – in landscape ornamentals, annuals, perennials and through landscape contractor practices and homeowner application – than those allowed for in large-scale, commercial agricultural crops:

"Products [neonicotinoids] approved for home and garden use may be applied to ornamental and landscape plants, as well as turf, at significantly higher rates (potentially 120 times higher) than those approved for agricultural crops." 17
One report from 2014 revealed, "Amounts used on ornamentals lead to residues 12-16 times greater than found on crop plants." 18

You cannot wash, soak or scrub this pesticide off. It creates, of any new plant you bed into your garden, a neonic-producing factory, poisoning everything it produces – including the pollen and nectar – for the life of that plant (please read, here).

Your own backyard garden can become a source of this toxic poison, exposing the honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies and monarchs, moths, beetles, lady bugs, native pollinators, hummingbirds, birds, bats (and earthworms) which visit your garden to sublethal (enough to harm but not kill) or lethal doses of neonics.

To be blunt: the beautiful flowers in your own garden, which woo the pollinators, may be wooing them to their death. 19

BeesKnees (2)

The yellow sacs – ‘pollen baskets’ – on this bee are packed to the brim with pollen, gathered from flowers and stored for delivery to the hive, behind the bee’s knees – hence the term ‘The Bee’s Knees!’ Make sure you only purchase local, ‘certified organic’ plants so the pollen which visiting honey bees collect in your garden is free of neonicotinoids.

According to a recent UN report put out by its Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some pollinators – up to 40% in some locations! – are now facing extinction.

The IUCN stated in a 2014 report that 9% of all bees and almost 24% of bumblebees in Europe are now threatened with extinction.

On March 21, 2017 – just six month ago – the rusty patched bumble bee became the first bee in the continental United States to be federally-protected under the Endangered Species Act. This should be a day of mourning for all those who cherish bees and should serve as an urgent wake-up call: for with bees as an ‘indicator species,‘ alerting us as to the health (or illness) of an ecosystem, are we now in trouble?

[Right now, please watch this documentary, A Ghost in the Making Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, by Clay Bolt.]

“…even tiny doses
of a neonicotinoid pesticide
called imidacloprid reduce the amount
of pollen collected by bumblebee colonies by 57
percent, and … the effects last for at least
a month after exposure.” 20

To help you understand neonicotinoids and the poisoning of bees, birds and beneficial insects – from the perspective of an Integrative Pest Management (IPM) specialist – I cannot recommend this publication highly enough: the nonprofit Bio-Integral Resource Center’s April 2014 Special Edition Quarterly, entitled Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects. It’s short; please read it cover-to-cover.

“The major risk [to birds] is seed

treatments; one imidacloprid treated

corn seed, 3-4 cereal seeds,

or 4-5 canola seeds

can be lethal

to the

average bird.” 21

William Quarles, PhD, IPM Specialist, Executive Director of the Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC)



“A single corn plant grown from an imidacloprid-treated seed will have access to 1.34 milligrams (mg) of imidacloprid from the soil it is grown in. In contrast, the recommended label application rate for a perennial nursery plant in a three-gallon pot is 300 mg of imidacloprid, an amount that is 220 times more imidacloprid per plant.”

Gardeners Beware:Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly”
Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide

Friends of the Earth, 2013

Honey bees can travel up to three miles from their hive, however, they will tend to stay within a mile, or so, from home. Flowers are honey bees’ only source of food (with a few minor exceptions) and it may be in your garden where they are getting pollen (when fermented with nectar it becomes “bee bread,” their source of protein) and nectar (when fermented it becomes “honey,” their source of carbohydrate).

Your garden flowers are their kitchen larder!

It is not well-known that honey bees also store water in the hive. Have a source of fresh water for visiting honey bees and pollinators, especially during the hot days of summer. (Use a shallow container and place stones in it, so the honey bees have a place to land.)

A Friends of the Earth (FoE) pilot study, 22 released in 2013, Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide, reported that at major retailers across the country, 7 out of 13 flowering garden plants tested contained neonics. In 2014, Mother Earth News recommended only buying “certified organic transplants.” 23

A follow-up FoE study – Gardeners Beware 2014 – demonstrated the sheer, devilish perversity pervading the gardening industry: over half of the ‘bee-friendly plants’ tested, were, themselves poisoned with neonicotinoids, with no warning whatsoever provided to the consumer!

Bees, in particular, are extremely sensitive to, thus easily harmed by, neonicotinoids. These poisoned ‘bee-friendly’ plants, when transplanted to your garden, will harm or kill visiting bees…

…and you will never even know it happened.

In 2016, even though the new FoE report indicated there is progress, it was shocking to see favorite annuals like coreopsis, salvia and petunias as testing extremely high in neonic residues. This FoE report shows that most large retailers are implementing plans to eliminate neonics from their plant sales’, as well as labeling any which have neonics in them.

However, there are still many US consumer reports of plant retailers continuing to openly sell plants grown with neonics without labels, professing ignorance as to their plant products, or who are being out-and-out deceptive in their sales’ practices.

If you chose to buy these plants and plant them in your garden…

…you may be endangering the pollinators in your backyard with neonic pesticides.


One significant (and, as yet, unrecognized by the public) place where neonics are entering the plant supply chain is at the creation of a plug (seedlings, liners, starts). These are seedlings, raised from seed in individual cells and sold ready for transplanting. Many nurseries purchase flats of plugs / starts from seedling wholesalers and transplant them, to save on the time, space and warm conditions needed to germinate seeds. When they order trays of these plugs / starts, they can select – at the point of sale – the option to have seeds grown which are “coated.” (See this example of a plant catalogue, utilized by plant retailers, which sells coated plugs, pp. 61-70 and 112.)

So, it is with the very seed itself – or, rather, the toxic treatment of the seed – where both the danger to pollinators …as well as the silent poisoning of our gardens, begins.

Without neonic-warning labels on each and every plug and start (which will, themselves, each be moved and transplanted at least once) – it becomes impossible for the home gardener to know if the adult plant they are purchasing is 100% guaranteed-free of a neonic pesticide.

Retailers, themselves, may not even know if their plugs and starts were neonic-treated, or what other chemicals may be in them! For example, one company in the plug business since 1968, has two nurseries which produce ornamental plant plugs, in nurseries in China.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in its 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, states, “…to our knowledge, no measurements are available of pollen or nectar residues of ornamental plants after coated seeds are planted…24

Just as it was uncovered that no federal agency was tracking the annual tonnage of neonics being spread across millions of acres of farmland via seeds, it appears no one is tracking just how poisoned the flowering plants, herbs, vegetable seedlings, annuals, perennials and bulbs are, which millions of gardeners are bringing home.

In 2016, Maryland became the first state to regulate neonic use among consumers; a  major weakness, however, is the lack of a requirement to label plants, seeds or nursery stock treated with neonics. The law places no neonic restrictions upon industry: for example, seed and pesticide companies, farmers, veterinarians and the home repair industry.


Much harder to control is the lingering presence of pesticides that have been applied to plants months before they reach your garden. There have been reports of dead bees – both honey bees and bumble bees – around commercially grown hanging baskets…

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden
Jennifer Hopwood and Matthew Shepherd

CONSIDER THIS: How many families - in just your neighborhood - planted or displayed neonic-poisoned flowering plants this summer? What has that done to the food supply of pollinators?

This is happening to pollinators all across the United States, in every single neighborhood, in every single town, village and city.

We gardeners need to get the word out: please talk to your neighbors - one neighbor at a time - and educate them. Use this FoE document, Bee Bold Take a Stand Against Bee Killing Pesticides, to help you.

Neonic usage is pervasive in the ‘home & garden’ world. It is industry-wide practice to use neonics as a foliar spray. Soil drenching, in the treatment of turf, trees and ornamental shrubs is another common application method, as well as trunk injections; pesticide residues can remain for months or years. Check the chemicals of landscape contractors you hire and – before you purchase – make sure that any plants, bulbs, rhizomes, bare root plants, shrubs and trees have not had their roots or soil neonic-drenched.

Even the hanging baskets you buy, overflowing with gorgeous annual blossoms, are routinely soaked in a vat of neonics 25 and neonics are included in some “plant starter mixes” (soil)!

With December coming, some families had better prepare for this one: neonics (imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) are approved for use on Christmas trees! Does this include wreaths? Door swags? One would assume yes. This fact may alter many Christmas, Solstice and winter celebrations of those families which also seek to protect pollinators. 26

Many town & city arborists across the country are routinely treating public shrubs and trees with neonics; some are flowering. This has become standard procedure in arboriculture. 27 Turf treatment with neonics, on both public and private land, is epidemic.

Neonics have found their way into our public parks, gardens, golf courses, nature centers, and even our children’s ball fields and playgrounds!

Many common “garden care” products (used by both homeowners and landscape contractors) contain neonicotinoids. These neonic products (and see here, pp. 60-61, and here) are readily available at hardware stores, garden centers and Big Box stores. The variety of trademarked neonic products on the market is so vast, I was unable to locate a single comprehensive, up-to-date product list to point you to!

I found out why. Searching at the EPA website for the six registered and active neonic pesticides approved for use in agriculture, here, returned a staggering 1,688 individual neonic product names – with names like Venom, Maxforce, Assail, Malice, Dominion and Scorpion – all either for sale on store shelves directly to consumers or to seed companies, farmers, vets and others, licensed to use these products in industrial agriculture!

The EPA site was not at all consumer-helpful. Go, instead, to the Pesticide Research Institute’s (PRI) Pesticide Product Evaluator, where you can quickly search for the pesticide data you need. (PRI assisted in the writing of the FoE reports, cited above.) Use of this database requires a fee, however, they allow for a one-day free trial. (I am still searching for a free, searchable site for consumers.)

Neonics are also being used to control parasites in pets (fleas, ticks and worms: please check with your veterinarian for the neonic “Nitenpyram,” and have them also check their databases for the other six registered neonics); as well as indoor insects (e.g. ants, termites, bedbugs); and as a wood preservative treatment, in insulation and building supplies. Neonics are – in point of fact – registered with the EPA for multiple different uses impacting consumer homes and gardens.

Given that the seeds of cover crops, like clover, are available with a neonic-coating, the next logical question is: What about grass seed? Is that, too, available with a neonic coating? A New Zealand writer, Jodie Bruning, asks: What’s all that coloured stuff on our grass seeds? This document confirms it is neonics.

This Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates, again, neonics are being used on grass seed. (I have not yet confirmed usage in the US. A quick call to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), should get me the name of the right person to ask about neonic-coated grass seed here in NYS, as a start.)

The ramifications, not only to our soil and pollinators, but to earthworms, beetles and the birds which eat earthworms and beetles – if neonic-coated grass seed is indeed on the market and being sold to US homeowners – is frightening.

Home owners and gardeners  have – unknowingly and without their permission – become the vector for a poison  – at doses allowed to be much, much higher than those used in food crop agriculture – which is endangering our pollinators and polluting not only our backyards, but – because we have not demanded public policy changes at the village, town and city levels – also our neighborhoods, parks, public spaces, and playgrounds.

One need only remember the fate of the rusty patched bumble bee to recognize we families must take action at the local level to protect our pollinators.


Since the FoE reports documented that some plant retailers are being deceptive and, given that plant neonic treatments are totally invisible, the warning, caveat emptor!  – buyer beware! – applies.

One of the FoE’s recommendations to retailers in its report, Gardener’s Beware 2016, is that retailers offer, for sale to the public, “third-party certified organic starts and plants.” 28

However, be warned that 36.2% of the respondents in the Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State of the Industry White Paper, a trade publication, stated they will continue to use neonics in production.

You, the consumer,

NEED to complain. When

enough consumers show – with their

wallets – that they won’t buy these

poisoned plants and they will

buy ‘certified organic’

plants – they’ll get

the message.

Your voice matters! Complain! Be upset! Post your neonic concerns with plant sellers! Call the plant managers! Because this FoE 2015 report demonstrates that consumer pressure can be leveraged to create change in the garden industry: Growing Bee-Friendly Garden Plants: Profiles In Innovation.

And, because forewarned is forearmed, here are some of the answers with which plant retailers are being prepped, by industry, for those times when we savvy consumers come along and start asking really uncomfortable and pointed questions about neonics in their plants.


Changing you gardening behaviors and habits is critical and it really matters.

Friends of the Earth makes it clear that we gardeners and homeowners are now part of the problem:

"Unfortunately for bees, other pollinators and for all of us, the now common cosmetic use of neonicotinoid pesticides in gardens, lawns and landscapes is an important factor in declining health of managed and wild pollinators." 29

If you are using neonics in your garden or grass or allowing landscape contractors to use these chemicals in your garden, on your grass, on your shrubs and trees, or anywhere on your property, STOP! Figure out a different strategy. Please consider going organic!

As gardeners, one of the safest courses for our honey bees and pollinators is to only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants which are labeled as such. Only buy from reputable, well-known plant sellers, who publicly advertise that they do not allow neonics (and pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) use at any stage of plant production.

A reputable nursery should be more than willing to verify this for you; nurseries, unlike ‘Big Box’ stores, are in the business of growing and selling plants and they value the relationships with longtime, repeat customers.

Be assertive; if you are not satisfied with the answers you get, walk away from that plant retailer and do not go back.

The safest course for home gardeners (and least expensive, for you thrifty green thumbs!), in my opinion? Propagate your own seeds in organic soil medium from ‘certified organic’ heirloom seeds and seeds which you saved yourself and initiate the time-honored practice of seed and plant exchanges between fellow (organic) gardeners.

For it is you, on behalf of the pollinators which grace your backyard, who are 100% in charge of which flowering plants end up in your garden. Plant wisely.


A beekeeper who uses organic practices in hive management, inspecting a Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH), shaped like a hollow log (a preferred wild honey bee habitat). This hive allows for easy inspection without unnecessarily disturbing the bees. He uses no gloves – to allow for sensitivity in inspection – and (often) no smoke, due to his familiarity with the rhythm of the hives.



Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) does not have a written, publicized neonic policy. I, therefore, am including the non-organic plants, seeds and gardening products (like straw, hay and soil) for sale at HWFC in this warning. Only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants and gardening products from HWFC. Its policy should state that HWFC will only purchase regionally-grown, ‘certified organic’ 30 indoor and outdoor plants, seeds, cut flowers, wreaths, door swags & evergreen products, and garden supplies. Period.

The policy needs to require written contracts with all plant & garden vendors, in which the vendor explicitly states that it does not use neonicotinoids (and any pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) at any stage of plant production, including in plugs & starts, soil mediums, foliar sprays, and elsewhere on the farm. Each plant needs to have a clear label.

With the gardening industry the way it is today – the industry-wide use of neonic-treated plugs & starts, the use of neonics in planting mediums, the greenhouse foliar spraying with neonics – it is simply not good enough to strive to not carry plants which are neonic-treated. HWFC must NOT carry any neonic-treated plants and supplies.

For “striving” will not keep our pollinators out of harm’s way.

This sample letter and questionnaire to a ‘valued grower’ from FoE (pp. 49-52) is a well-thought out way to insure that all the seeds, plants, and plant supplies HWFC sells are safe for pollinators; FoE highly recommends ‘certified organic’ as being the safest.

FoE also published a report and scorecard, Swarming the Aisles Rating Top Retailers on Bee-Friendly and Organic Food, which should be reviewed by our co-op for the ‘pollinator protection policies’ being implemented at top US food stores.


Before you buy those mum plants,

those unlabeled crocus bulbs,

that Christmas tree or wreath,


to make sure they have a label

that says they’re neonic-free


better, that they’re ‘certified organic.’

If not,

put them right back…

…and walk away.

We are very fortunate that, in addition to non-organic plants, HWFC includes ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds in its plant selections; many local nurseries do not. (Lots more about The Farm at Miller’s Crossing – a Hudson Valley farm selling certified organic vegetables, grass fed beef and maple syrup, and whose certified organic flower, vegetable and herb plants HWFC has sold for years – in a special, upcoming post.)

It is crystal clear to me – who has a family member who is a longtime ‘organic-practices’ beekeeper – that, until the plant-growing industry cleans up its act, our co-op needs to adopt the above policy and aggressively implement and publicize it.

We at HWFC cannot wait another season, for Christmas trees and wreaths will be coming in, probably loaded with neonics… …and without labels alerting us not to buy them.

Many other large corporations, like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Whole Foods have already adopted plans to get rid of neonics. Our co-op needs to proclaim its commitment to our pollinators and be proud of its stand against the sale of neonics and pesticides in any and all of the seeds, cut flowers, bulbs, holiday wreaths, plants and plant products which it offers for sale to the public.



Since we’re on the subject of seeds, let me highlight the two regional seed companies whose seeds HWFC sells. 31 Both offer ‘certified organic’ selections:

Take the time to read this wonderful interview with Fedco Seeds‘ founder, CR Lawn. Fedco, a Maine-based business founded in 1978, is a co-operative; HWFC has been a member for decades, maybe almost since Fedco’s founding! Approximately 30% of its seeds are ‘certified organic’ and Fedco sells neither coated nor genetically-modified seeds. They are quite knowledgeable about all the recent BIG Ag trends in seed production. Each February, HWFC Member-Owners look forward to the delivery of the simple, black & white newsprint Fedco seed catalogue, and we families, collectively, place an order with Fedco – all scrambling to meet their deadline! – and receiving a nice discount. Fedco seeds are sold at the store throughout the growing season, as well. 32

HWFC also sells seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Company, which, since May 2013, has been both “a Certified Organic Farm and a Certified Organic Handler.” Their website states: “We offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for vegetable, flower, and herb varieties. Many of these seeds we produce on our own small farm; the rest we source from other local farmers, farmers in other regions, and from trustworthy wholesale seed houses that are not owned by or affiliated with multi-national biotech companies.” In addition, they “have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, and … adhere to Vandana Shiva’s Declaration [on] Seed Freedom.

This company is quite a treasure for us here in the Hudson Valley! Their ‘Art Packs’ (this is the ‘coating’ your seeds come in!) are designed by artists, many from the northeast and many who are, themselves, gardeners. This is an incredible, added bonus to your seed purchase!

Fall Bulbs

Fedco appears low on fall bulb stock, please browse; Hudson Valley Seed Company has plenty in stock and “All bulbs are neonicotinoid-free, as well as systemic fungicide and systemic pesticide-free.”

Before you purchase your fall bulbs, please listen to this The Organic View radio show, Hidden Dangers of Systemic Pesticides on Tulips & Bulbs, with host June Stoyer, as she interviews Jeroen Koeman, President & Co-Founder of EcoTulips LLC.



“In the past we didn’t designed gardens that play a critical ecological role in the landscape, but we must do so in the future … As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, and the need to do so has never been so great.” 33

Douglas W. Tallamy

It’s not enough to purchase ‘certified organic’ annuals and perennials, if your intent is to feed local pollinators. You will want to bed in a variety of native flowering plants which are suited to your climate and soil and which span the growing season, so as to produce a variety of flowers, all season long. Be sure to plant late-bloomers for autumn pollinator needs.

If you just can’t part with certain beloved perennials, stick with the old-fashioned & heirloom varieties, something my Dad, a gardener, always recommended. They are ‘tried and true’ and they offer a better shot at providing good sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators than common, hybrid cultivars.

For, what you may not know, is that many of the annuals and perennials which you buy at ‘Big Box’ stores, grocery stores and most garden centers & nurseries are hybrids, bred specifically for the beauty and size of their blooms: their ‘curb appeal’ to humans. They are not bred for the flowers’ ability to produce high-quality, nutritious pollen and nectar.

Therefore, you need to become familiar with the wonderful world of native plants. Oh, joy, a new adventure in gardening to begin!

Here are three good resources to begin learning about native, pollinator-friendly plants for your garden: Friends of the Earth’s Bee & Bee Create Your Own Bed and Breakfast for Bumblebees, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s Pollinator Plants Northeast Region and Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.


In its second year, this HoneyBee Fest in the tiny NY hamlet of Narrowsburg, offered local honey, bee-related crafts, honey ice cream, music, bee workshops, and even a modest Bee Parade! Narrowsburg has officially “adopted” the honey bee; other Sullivan County towns have each “adopted” a different pollinator.

Kim Eierman, an Environmental Horticulturist and a presenter this weekend at the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, and with whom I met, highly recommended the works of Dr. Doug Tallamy, Sara Bonnett Stein, (who has sadly passed away) and her book Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards and, of course all of Rachel Carson’s books, including Silent Spring. Here is her own list of resources and her list of bee-friendly native perennials and late-blooming native perrenials. I am simply floored at the wealth of valuable information available on her website!


 This stand of native flowers in a suburban, upstate NY garden provides a better source of food for pollinators than the non-native cultivars and hybrid perrenials offered at most nurseries and ‘Big Box’ stores.

Ms. Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial, who cautioned me to remember “right plant, right place,” when selecting native plants, is a “Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science … an Accredited Organic Landcare Professional, a Steering Committee member of The Native Plant Center, and a member of The Ecological Landscape Alliance and the Garden Writers Association … She teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center in NY, Rutgers Home Gardeners School and several other institutions.

She recommended these two regional native plant nurseries, the Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY and Earth Tones Native Plants in Woodbury, CT, as being reputable, knowledgeable and happy to work with you in planning your pollinator garden.

Remember, in addition to honey bees, there are many other pollinators; native bees, bumblebees, butterflies, native wasps, moths and hummingbirds are just a few of the many different kinds of pollinators which might live in or fly through a backyard garden, seeking food and drink. Make sure your native plantings provide food for them, too. Study Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens and his new book, with co-author Rick Darke, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, and peruse the wonderful, (free!) information at EcoBeneficial.



Do not support BIG Ag and the gardening industry’s harmful, destructive and toxic practice of growing plants from neonic-coated seeds or the spraying & dousing of plants with neonic pesticides.

  • Do not share your family’s ‘garden budget’ with any retailer which is not selling ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds, (see 30) which are labeled as such.
  • Do not allow plants treated with neonics or pesticides onto your property. (Be sure to review your lawn & garden contractors’ chemicals, and your own, as well. Go organic.)
  • Do support ‘certified organic’ seed and plant growers & retailers.
  • Do support regional, native plant nurseries, which specialize in understanding how plants and pollinators help each other.
  • Do begin planting for pollinators even if you know nothing about it. Read! Learn! Begin! One plant at a time, create a pollinator habitat in your own backyard.
  • Do take the first step, and switch to organic gardening, if you have not yet done so.

Take the time to just sit and watch the pollinators in your backyard. That’s it, just observe. Let them teach you.

For our pollinators’ and our honey bees’ lives depend upon your wise plant purchases and your organic land stewardship.

And please remember, Grassroots Action is Powerful! We gardeners can, one-by-one, in our backyards, towns & villages & counties, help effect the change pollinators need, together.


This sign, in the front yard of Christ Lutheran Church in Woodstock, NY, which we passed on the way home from the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, says it all:
If you plant it, they will come.”


Future topics I will be exploring relating to neonics and our honey bees and pollinators include:

  • Neonicotinoids: a public policy nightmare. Get involved to help NY’s pollinators!
  • Are neonic-coated seeds even allowed in NYS?
  • Whatever happened to that NYS Pollinator Task Force, formed in 2015, which seems to be missing-in-action …a case of “Task Force Collapse Disorder” right here in NY’s capital? (Let our own local author, Tracy Frisch, introduce you to that topic in Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees.)
  • How to invest your town, village, county or city in supporting pollinators.
  • The pervasive & frightening use of neonics in our food supply.
  • “Greenwashing” initiatives in which BIG Food and BIG Organic are investing BIG Sums, to lure you – the consumer – into believing they are doing everything possible to protect pollinators. (They’re not.)
  • The beekeeper’s perspective, from those natural beekeepers who specifically use organic principles in hive management.
  • The large, commercial ‘migratory beekeepers’ – who truck thousands of beehives all across the country following seasonal crops  – and whose apiaries are among those being threatened – and disappearing – because of BIG Ag mono-cropping practices and neonic-poisoned crops.

GiveBeesAChanceDo you think ‘John Lennon would approve of this message?’


If you liked this post, learned something from it or have a question, please leave me a note, below. Feedback is welcomed!

In true grassroots’ fashion, pass this information on to other pollinator & plant lovers, organic food lovers, and your friends and family, of course.

You can also sign up to receive automatic GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! updates in your email box. When you scroll upward, an icon, ‘follow,’ will appear in the lower right hand corner of your screen. Click on that and follow!


This series of posts about the dangers of neonicotinoids – and the dangers to our seeds – is dedicated to Mom and Dad: Dad, who was a greenhouse man and the head gardener on a Hudson River estate, where we lived in the gardener’s cottage (learn about Dad’s battle with ‘THAT woodchuck,’ here), and Mom, who was a florist, by his side, and a lifelong backyard gardener. Mom and Dad taught my brother and me to love the land, plants, birds, bees and animals which are the grace, wonder & beauty, in our everyday life. I cannot even imagine having a gardening conversation with them, in which the words butterflies or hummingbirds appeared in the same sentence as the word ‘extinct.’

Dad warned my brother and me when we were kids, sitting together in the back of the greenhouse on a warm, autumn day, watching him as he prepped some seeds for saving, “Kids, now I want you to remember this. Listen to me. Pay attention! Always save your seeds.” These words of my Dad, the gardener, resonate as I bear witness – fifty years later, ever the gardener’s daughter – to the assault upon our pollinators and upon our seeds.

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran



1. Please read the books:
2010: The systemic insecticides: a disaster in the making by Dutch toxicologist Henk Tenneke
2008: A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker.

The Center for Food Safety maintains a list of peer-reviewed, scientific studies documenting the adverse impacts of neonicotinoids, here.

2. Where you get your news from is critical. There is the ‘real‘ news about CCD, honey bee and pollinator die-offs and pollinator extinction threats – as expressed by organizations I have cited in this blogpost, such as Earthjustice (here and here); Center for Food Safety (here, here, here, here, here); The Pesticide Action Network of North America (here, here, here, here, here, here;); Beyond Pesticides (here, here, here); Friends of the Earth (here); Pesticide Research Institute (here); The Neonicotinoid View on June Stoyer’s The Organic View Radio Show (here and here); The Pollinator Stewardship Council (here and here);  The American Bird Conservancy (here and here), and others.

Individual beekeepers who have been defending honey bees and pollinators include Jeff Anderson, Lucas Criswell, Gail Fuller, David Hackenberg. In addition, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL); beekeepers who won one battle.

And then there is the ‘fake news’ being pumped out by standard media outlets like, for example, Bloomberg (Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder) and some public radio outlets (Are Bees Making A Comeback From Colony Collapse Disorder?).

US Right to Know warns against the Genetic Literacy Project in its July 18, 2017 article Jon Entine and Genetic Literacy Project Spin Chemical Industry PR.

3. Due to sunflowers being one of BIG Ag’s mono-crops which utilizes neonic-coated seeds, birders are cautioned to only purchase organic sunflower seeds for the wild birds they feed.

4. Beekeepers who supply fondant (a “fudge” made of sugar and water) during the winter months, need to be aware that close to 50 percent of the white, table sugar in our country is manufactured from sugar beets. Not only are sugar beet seeds routinely neonic-coated but, as of 2009, 90 – 95 percent of US sugar beet production was reported as using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® GM sugar beet seeds; the decision to do so was made in 2005. See: One Man’s Battle Against GM Sugar Beets by Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

For your fondant, source white sugar which is made from cane not sugar beets and, if possible, organic.

5. For example, in 2015-2016, NY was among the states which had the highest rates of (managed) honey bee die-offs, with 54.1 percent losses! National averages for the same time period were 44 percent. Some NYS commercial beekeepers have recently experienced 70 percent losses!

Annual losses of thirty percent had become the new national average, since 2006 – 2007. Prior to this, 5 – 10 percent in annual loss was the national norm among US managed honey beekeepers.

The USDA considers annual losses of 18.7 percent to be unsustainable.

This is a crisis.

6. Please read this 2016 article, Beekeeper Who Sounded Alarm on Colony Collapse Disorder Loses 90 Percent of His Hives, by Maryam Henein, the director of the award-winning documentary film, Vanishing of the Beesto understand how the US EPA is able to continue allowing neonic-coated seeds to be utilized in agriculture.

See the April 26, 2017 Citizen Petition to Regulate Coated Seeds under FIFRA.

In a partial victory, on May 8, 2017, a federal court ruled on a four-year old case, that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved 59 neonicotinoid pesticide registrations, including uses for landscaping and ornamental plants. Tom Theobald, the beekeeper cited above, was one of the plaintiffs, which also included beekeepers Steve Ellis, Jim Doan, and Bill Rhodes; Center for Food Safety (CFS); Beyond Pesticides; Sierra Club; and Center for Environmental Health. It remains to be seen how this decision will help pollinators.

7. Douglas, Margaret R. and John F. Tooker. “Large-Scale Deployment of Seed Treatments Has Driven Rapid Increase in Use of Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Preemptive Pest Management in U.S. Field Crops.” Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University. Environmental Science & Technology: 2015, 49 (8), pp. 5,088–5,097: pp. 5,088, 5,093. Web. 15 September 2017.

See the article by Nathan Collins, Bee-Harming Pesticides Are More Common Than Anyone Thought and this article, First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams, which both referenced the above study.

8. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 4. Web. 21 September 2017.

9. Conclusions of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. “Harm.” Worldwide Integrated Assessment, January 2015. Web. 20 September 2017.

See the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides’ chart comparing the toxicity, in honey bees, of DDT to neonicotinoids, here, in, Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates by L.W. Pisa

The IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – initiated by a group of European scientists – formed the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA). WIA “has made a synthesis of 1,121 published peer-reviewed studies spanning the last five years, including industry-sponsored ones. It is the single most comprehensive study of neonics ever undertaken, is peer reviewed, and published as open access so that the findings and the source material can be thoroughly examined by others.

10. Stoyer, June, host and Tom Theobald, special guest co-host. “The Big Picture on Neonicotinoids.” The Organic View Radio Show. The Neonicotinoid View, 8 September 2014. Web. 20 September 2017.

Please also see Tom Theobald, Are neonicotinoids the new DDT?

11. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 5. Web. 21 September 2017.

Dr. William Quarles states, “About 2-20% of a seed treatment is absorbed by the plant.” See: “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 3. Web. 25 September 2017.

12. USDA whistleblower, former USDA employee, and agro-ecologist and entomologist Dr. Jonathan Lundgren started a research initiative, Blue Dasher Farm, and has already begun producing data; this research demonstrates that simply growing a bunch of wildflowers (‘hedgerows‘) around fields which are continuing to be actively contaminated with neonics & windblown neonic seed dust will not protect pollinators from ongoing contamination by toxic neonics. (Consumer alert: funding ‘hedgerow‘ projects  – to the tune of millions of donated, corporate dollars to worthy nonprofits – is becoming the popular means for BIG Food and BIG Organic to [try and] demonstrate they are protecting our pollinators: ‘greenwashing‘ aimed directly at the consumer, assisted, in some cases, by happy, cartoon honey bees and colorful wildflowers on food product packages.)

This 2014 Center for Food Safety report, Heavy Costs  Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture, was peer-reviewed by Dr. Lundgren, in his role as a Research Entomologist, US Department of Agriculture.

13. Wallheimer, Brian. “Researchers: Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure.” Purdue University. Purdue University News Service: 11 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

The study referred to is: Krupke, Christian H., Greg J. Hunt, Brian D. Eitzer,  Gladys Andino, Krispn Given.” Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields.” PLOS ONE. 03 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

14. Ibid.

15. How many tons of talc are poisoning our farmlands each year? Is the talc which is being utilized purified and cosmetic-grade or not? Please see the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s document, Talc. (Talc is a substance implicated in ovarian cancer deaths among women.)

16. This is an Australian source.

This Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates neonics are being used on clover seeds in Canada. I am still researching the use of neonic-coated clover seeds in the US.

17. Hopwood, Jennifer, Mace Vaughan, Matthew Shepherd, David Biddinger, Eric Mader, Scott Hoffman Black, and Celeste Mazzacano. “Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees, with Recommendations for Action.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012: pp. v-vi. Web. 13 Sept. 2017. or

18. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 5. Web. 25 September 2017.

See the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, for the case study, Comparison Between Agricultural and Backyard Products, pp. 50-53.

As an aside, cut flowers are toxic with many different pesticides! This article by Dr. Mercola will help you locate organically-grown cut flowers.

19. This The Guardian article by Karl Mathiesen, Bees may become addicted to nicotine-like pesticides, reviews the 2015 study, Sébastien C. Kessler,, Bees prefer foods containing neonicotiniod pesticides.

20. News Editor. “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Harm Bees’ Foodgathering Ability.” Environment News Service, 29 January 2014. Web. 02 September 2017.

21. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 8. Web. 25 September 2017.

Also see this January 2015 WIA document, Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: “Overall, at concentrations relevant to field exposure scenarios in fields sown with coated seeds, imidacloprid and clothianidin pose risks to small birds, and ingestion of even a few treated seeds could cause mortality or reproductive impairment to sensitive bird species.

22. Please see these organizations’ pollinator resource pages: Friends of the Earth, here, and Pesticide Research Institutehere.

23. This is the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) publication, Guidance Seeds, Annual Seedlings, and Planting Stock in Organic Crop Production (NOP 5029).

24. Hopwood, Jennifer, Aimee Code, Mace Vaughan, David Biddinger, Matthew Shepherd, Scott Hoffman Black, Eric Lee-Mäder and Celeste Mazzacano. “How Neonicotinoids Can  Kill Bees The Science Behind the Role These Insecticides
Play in Harming Bees.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2016: p. 45. Web. 23 Sept. 2017.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council, here, the Pesticide Action Network of North America, here, the Center for Food Safety, here and here and Earthjustice, here, are all, like the Xerces Society, doing critical work for pollinators and the threats posed to them by neonicotinoids.

25. Once the season is over, where is the soil from these poisoned hanging baskets going? Are ever-thrifty gardeners dumping it into their gardens? Placing it in the compost pile? Saving it for re-use with which to re-pot an indoor plant? Using it to pot up a treasured perennial to gift to another gardener?

How much neonic-poisoned soil and dead plant matter has entered the ecosystem of our individual backyards, gardens and neighborhoods (and public parks, gardens, nature centers, and playgrounds), year-after-year, over the last 10-12 years, just from neonic-coated seeds, neonic spraying and soil dousing of ornamental plants alone, plant treatments about which we gardeners knew nothing?!

Gardening organically now appears to be the only safe option.

26. Honey bees make propolis (“bee glue”), a sticky, antifungal, antibacterial substance used to seal cracks in the hive, from, among other things, the resin from conifers. With the Christmas tree industry now using neonics on its December products, it opens up yet another avenue for contamination of the honey bee hive by neonics.

27. Read about the June, 2013 killing of 50,000 bumble bees in Oregon after foliar spraying of trees with a neonic: Scientists Call for an End to Cosmetic Insecticide Use After the Largest Bumble Bee Poisoning on Record.

28. Kegley, Susan, PhD, Tiffany Finck-Haynes and Lisa Archer. “Gardeners Beware 2016 Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Across the U.S..” Friends of the Earth U.S. Friends of the Earth, August 2016: p. 17. Web. 10 September 2017.

29. Ibid, p. 17.

30. NOFA-NY: I am currently looking into the meaning of ‘certified organic’ plants  & seeds, as defined by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and, additionally, if there are any NYS regs. which may apply to the labeling and sale of ‘organic’ plants and seeds sold in NYS. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is the place to go to for questions like this. (And please consider joining!)

Here is, by the way, NOFA-NY’s 2014 Policy Resolution on Neonicotinoids.

New York farmers may also join the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge program. “The Farmer’s Pledge™, [is] a separate and distinct program from USDA Certified Organic … A Farmer’s Pledge certificate displayed at a farm market stand shows customers a farmer’s commitment to responsible growing and a willingness to be transparent to their community. It shows that a farmer takes an environmentally responsible, ecologically sound, holistic approach to farming. This is a wonderful program for farms transitioning to certified organic, small start up farms, and farms that are already certified organic.

Certified Naturally Grown: Would purchasing ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ (CNG) seedlings and plants provide a 100% guarantee that pollinators won’t be harmed from neonics? I don’t know. It needs looking into.

More and more small family farms, which value organic principles but which can’t afford the time and expense of USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certification, are choosing ‘CNG‘ as an option. Here is CNG’s FAQ.

You should read the Cornucopia Institute’s NOP exposé, to understand the threats to small farms: The Organic Watergate—White Paper Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program.

How does the USDA NOSB ‘certified organic‘ differ from the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge™ differ from Certified Naturally Organic (CNG)? We have now reached the point of absolute confusion for your average consumer and gardener in NYS, including me. I cannot clarify this for you, because it appears very murky. Until I understand the difference, I am sticking to purchasing plants and seeds which are ‘certified organic.’

31. Before there was (almost) anybody, there was Johnny’s Selected Seeds; many of us relied upon Johnny’s! There are, thankfully!, many more companies selling organic, non-GMO seeds. As I uncover reputablecertified organic‘ seed company lists, I will post them here:

Here is NOFA-NY’s list of sources for organic seed.

Here is Beyond Pesticide’s list of Companies That Grow and Distribute Organic Seeds, cited at the Friends of the Earth website.

Here is The Skinny on Seeds and Seedlings from Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).

The Pollinator Stewardship Council has wildflower seeds for sale here as well as pollinator “houses”.

Here are two seed company recommendations from the Xerces Society: Ernst Conservation Seed Company. “Ernst is one of the largest native grass and wildflower seed producers in eastern North America…” and Pollinator Conservation Seed Mixes.

I love this SmallFootprintFamily’s The Ten best Seed Companies for Heirloom and Non-GMO Seeds. For example, this blogpost alerts us that, “Seeds of Change was acquired by the Mars company…” (Be sure to scan the comments!)

For your information, Dr. Phil Howard at Michigan State University, has been keeping track of seed industry structure and the consolidations which have occurred between 1996-2013. Please view his other Info Graphics, as well, especially his “Organic [Food] Industry Structure” Info Graphic.

32. Co-op Member-Owners, please read Fedco Seeds’ founder CR Lawn’s Fall 2003 article, Where Have All the Co-ops Gone?, about the demise of US consumer co-operative food distributors (wholesalers) and consolidations with United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI). 14 years later, where have all the (retail) co-ops gone?

33. Tallamy, Douglas W. “Gardening for Life.” Web. 24 September 2017.


This blogpost is referenced at EcoBeneficial!

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! “GMOS REVEALED” video series: free viewing this weekend!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


UPDATE September 16, 2017: Visit the Albany County, NY Hilltowns on a self-guided Farms & Artisan Tour, Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17. Support our local farm families, many of whom are organic or on their way to organic!

Dear fellow HWFC Member-Owners, fellow US food co-op Member-Owners, and those who value and cherish organic food for your family!

Longtime since I posted: life… …and the gardening season… …drew my energy elsewhere! That said, here is really, really important  information for your family.

Please watch the nine-part video series “GMOS REVEALED,” spearheaded by the team of Dr. Patrick Gentempo, Dr. Beau Pierce, and film-maker Jeff Hays (Bought, Doctored, Undoctored). The series has already run once – FOR FREE – starting on 08/22/17. It was announced on the LIVE Q&A Session, two nights ago, that GMOS REVEALED will be running again – FOR FREE – starting this weekend (09/09/17). It has already had more than 1 million views worldwide. Please go here, GMOS REVEALED, provide your email, and you should get updates re. the next FREE viewing dates/time.

The GMOS REVEALED team decided to repeat the free viewing, given that so many families in Texas were unable to watch it, due to the hurricane.

This FREE viewing is time limited; it will end on Sunday, September 10th at midnight EST. Again, go to:


Please do an internet search on the term “GMOS REVEALED” to read reviews about the series.

The GMOs REVEALED website states:

“What are they not telling us?

FACT: Glyphosate, the chemical originally developed to de-scale 
pipes, boilers and metals, is now used to KILL plants. What’s 
more, it is found in 75% of processed foods.

Global Leaders in the fields of medicine, law, agriculture and 
politics share their unique expertise as they explain the 
complex relationship between bacteria, soil, and your body.

GMOs ARE POISON. People and animals that eat genetically modified 
food crops are consuming high levels of toxic glyphosate 
herbicide. There is an unholy marriage of toxic Glyphosate 
herbicide and foods genetically engineered to tolerate 
large doses of it. It’s silently poisoning our land, food, and US!

FACT: The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy 
estimates that 85% of U.S. corn is genetically modified. Other 
widely modified crops include canola oil, alfalfa and sugar beets.

FACT: GMOs are banned in 27 countries. Also, in 61 countries 
foods must be labeled as being genetically modified - but not in 
the U.S.

Discover how Big Agriculture and companies like Monsanto have 
drastically influenced agriculture in America, leading to 
corrupt, inhumane and toxic farming practices.”

American Families Need to Stop Buying Foods Produced with GMOS and the Toxic Chemicals Glyphosate, Roundup, and the Class of Pesticides Known as Neonicotinoids

This series (~23 hours) was so phenomenally informative – with explosive new information – to my own family’s understanding of our food supply, hidden GMOs (and “genetic splicing,” “gene editing,” and “genetic silencing”), Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, neonicotinoids (neonics) and the active and ongoing threat to US honey bees and all pollinators from those neonics – that I am going to formally ask HWFC to buy a copy of the series for viewing by any and all HWFC Member-Owners.

I encourage you to ask your local library to also purchase a copy of GMOS REVEALED. We need to get this info out to more families in our own area.

  • Be sure to listen to the interview with Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute, which provides “economic justice for family scale farming.” The Cornucopia Institute is, specifically, an organic industry watchdog organization; I learned a lot from this interview.

We, as food co-op Member-Owners, cannot remain ignorant of the facts presented in this series, given that our business is food …and that we present ourselves as a locally-owned food co-op which actively supports local, organic, bio-dynamic, and sustainable farmers and farm products, and that our policies, as of the January 29, 2017 Membership Meeting, address the GMO issue in our Food and Product Manual, which says, in part:

HWFC shall require that our suppliers, including distributors, be required to disclose any information that they know about the GMO content for the product we are purchasing.”

After viewing this series, you need to find out which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling:

  • are genetically-modified?
  • have Roundup or Glypohosate in them?
  • include wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans, or sunflowers: which, in the US, are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant? Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant?
  • have neonicotinoids (neonics) in them: neonics are now being used to coat many of the the seeds which farmers buy
  • are not labeled as being genetically-modified and/or as having Roundup, Glyphosate and/or neonics in them?
  • include ingredients or “sub-ingredients” which themselves likely (or do) contain GMOs, Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, and/or neonics.
    • There are many, many, many “ingredients” or “sub-ingredients” which may be toxic; please take the time to do your homework.
  • leave you thinking – at checkout – that your purchases are safe from Roundup, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics – due to the lack of disclosure on the label?

Which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling are:

  • 100% organic, a label which provides the only means we consumers have right now to be (pretty) sure the food & plants we are buying are free of Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics?

I cannot answer these questions, but each and every one of us Member-Owners needs to ask these questions, quantify the answers for our families, and take a good, hard look at our co-op’s wholesale food supply, especially the inner aisles with their large percentage of processed, packaged, non-organic, “natural” foods.

While We’re on the Subject: What Is “Organic?”

Did you  know there is not one but four separate categories of organic labeling, as authorized by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)? Yes, four! It’s not enough to just “buy organic!”

You had better learn the differences right now! The USDA NOSB made buying organic food unnecessarily complex and burdensome, especially for busy families:

1. “100 percent organic”

"'100 percent organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and 
water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed 
farm products can be designated '100 percent organic.' 
Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added 
ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can 
also be labeled '100 percent organic.'"

2.  “Organic”

"'Organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the 
ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products 
that are not commercially available as organic and/or 
nonagricultural products that are on the National 

3. “Made with Organic ______”

"'Made with Organic ______' can be used to label a product that 
contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed 
constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the 
nonorganic portion."

4. "Specific Ingredient Listings"

"The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient 
statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic 
contents—for example, 'Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic 
tomatoes, salt.'”

We do know now – from the above definitions – that “nonorganic ingredients’ are allowed in foods labeled as “organic.” Exactly which “nonorganic” ingredients are allowed in foods with the three label designations, which are not “100 percent organic?

At the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service NOSB website, I drilled down to the regulations governing “processed products,” which is what you and I would find on the shelves of our food co-op, and which would end up in our shopping cart. (I did not review the regulations governing synthetic and nonsynthetic substances allowed/prohibited in organic crop and/or livestock production.)

Here is the USDA NOSB’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which gives you the information about “processed products.” There are two regulations which govern “processed products:”

Here is §205.605, which governs “Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic’ or ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).'”

Here is §205.606, which governs “Nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic.'”

There are a whole lot of ingredients allowed in organic foods which are suspect and which I would not chose to eat!

To my mind, there is so much wiggle room here – which could allow for Roundup Ready, genetically modified organisms in organic food – that I am not going to comment until I contact the Cornucopia Institute, US Right to Know, the Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, and others, for clarification.

However, begin your own research. See the Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project report: Glyphosate: Unsafe On Any Plate Food Testing Results and Scientific Reasons for Concern. Perhaps this report will provide data on GMO/Glyphosate levels being found in organic foods. (In fact, it does, to a limited degree.)

My bottom line: buy “100 percent organic,” 100% of the time, and buy locally-made; support our local, organic farmers! It seems to offer the consumer the safest protection from GMOs, Roundup and Glyphosate.

The “Dark Act” Is In Play: We Have Been Denied The Right To Know

The passage of The Dark Act (“Deny Americans the Right to Know”) or the Roberts-Stabenow Compromise last summer (2016), has given the food industry virtual carte blanche in including Roundup Ready GMOs and GMOs in our (non-organic) food supply and they do not have to disclose that fact on food labels. This is in effect right now; if you are buying non-organic foods, that food could have Roundup Ready GMOs in it…

…and you would not even know it.

The label, on which we are accustomed to reading the “List of Ingredients” to help us make wise food purchase decisions, has been hijacked…


…and, in part, silenced.

Imagine that: a label which does not tell you what’s in the product! Isn’t that the purpose of a list of ingredients on a label: to tell you what’s in it?

Secret, unknown ingredients – Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate – are now being included in our food and we have no way of finding out which foods they are in!

Please go to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) website to update yourself on this travesty which is now harming American families: Tell Congress: Repeal the DARK Act! According to this OCA article:

How did corporations convince Congress to ignore the will of more than 90 percent of Americans? The Big Food companies that both sell a lot of GMOs but also have bought up influential organic brands, convinced leaders of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to do their bidding.

The leaders of this coup were Smuckers, Danone, UNFI, General Mills, and Organic Valley.

Smuckers and UNFI have long held seats on the OTA board, while Danone is represented by recent acquisitions Earthbound Farm and WhiteWave. It’s easy to see why Danone, General Mills, Smuckers and UNFI would oppose labels, given how many GMOs they sell. But why did Organic Valley play along? Because of its business relationships with Danone and General Mills.”

UNFI, or United Natural Foods, Inc., is the primary wholesaler for Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon). It is also the primary wholesaler for HWFC, and many other large, independently-owned, US food co-ops, through their contracts with National Co+op Grocers (NCG).


The information in GMOS REVEALED is crucial to your family’s health. Take the time and listen to the well-known physicians & researchers this weekend!!

Do you know, positively, that the food, plants, and water which you buy for your family are all free of Glyphosate, Roundup, Roundup Ready GMOs, and neonicotinoids?

Do you know what these chemicals do to your own health? The health of your children?

Better find out.


  • 4% of the entire US population had chronic diseases in the 1960s. In 2017, 46% of just US children (pediatrics) now have a chronic disease by the age of 12.
  • 1 in 40 children in the US today have been diagnosed with autism. That stat, in the 1960s, was 1 in 10,000 children.
  • Did that statistic sink in? 1 child in 40 in the US today today is diagnosed with autism. Estimates are – if nothing is done – by approximately 2040 1 in 2 US children will have autism.
  • A doctor has positively correlated the rise in certain auto-immune diseases in the U.S. (diabetes is one example, autism and ADHD are others) with the introduction of genetically-modified foods into the food supply in 1996.
  • Doctors revealed that glyphosate bio-accumulates in your own body, every single time you ingest it. This poison also – at the same time – harms your own body’s ability to detox it out.
  • US wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans and sunflowers are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant. Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant.
    • This use of Glyphosate as a dessicant has nothing to do with – and is a separate issue from – the use of Glyphosate or Roundup in GMOs.
  • There is NO REQUIREMENT for the food, agri-business and agri-chemical industries to disclose the presence of Glyphosate / Roundup / Roundup Ready GMOs / neonics in any non-organic food your family eats. Organic foods are not supposed to have these chemicals in them, per USDA NOSB regulations.
  • LABELS DO NOT TELL YOU if Roundup, Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, GMO ingredients and/or neonics are present in that food. The lack of this data on the food label DOES NOT MEAN THE FOOD IS FREE OF THESE SUBSTANCES.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL sugar beets grown in the US today are treated with neonicotinoids (“neonics,” which are implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and killing honey bees) and are GM, Roundup Ready. White sugar is just one of the products made from sugar beets; 54% of domestically-produced white sugar comes from sugar beets.
    • MSG / processed free glutamic acid is often produced by growing GM bacteria on a sugar beet medium.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy seed in the US today is treated with neonics.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy grown in the US today is also GM, Roundup Ready.
  • Corn products or derivatives are pervasive in our food supply (see here, here, and especially here and here) and other common household products, as well (see here.) Go and check the labels of the processed, packaged food you buy, to confirm this!
    • Examples of just some of the food products made from corn are: high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, some ascorbic acids (vitamin C) and some vitamin Es, vitamin fillers, cellulose, baking powder, citrate, citric acid, Xylitol, Sorbitol, corn meal, Maltrodextrin, Dextrose, Ethanol, HVP, flavoring, Malic Acid, Malt, Malt flavoring, modified food starch, MSG/processed free glutamic acid, Xanthan Gum.
  • Corn and soy are among the top feed used for livestock. The chemicals they ingest – the Roundup Ready GMOS, Glyphosate and neonics in (non-organic) corn and soy feed- are ingested by you in the eggs, chicken, turkey, beef and pork, and so on, which you eat.
  • Scientists are now asking the question: does Genetically-Modified, Roundup Ready food alter the genetic make-up of humans and our diverse gut bacteria? Do you even understand the ramifications of that possibility? You’re not alone, most of us don’t either. It is very, very serious.

Please go to GMOS REVEALED, and plan to give as much time as you can this weekend to viewing it. Your family, our honey bees and pollinators – and our food co-op – deserve it!

And please support local, organic farm families with your food dollars. They are protecting our soil, water, food and pollinators.

I will do my part and ask HWFC to purchase this series, for use by any and all HWFC Member-Owner families.


© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!: Hidden ‘excitotoxin’ MSG aka ‘processed free glutamic acid.’


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


ACTION ITEM REMINDER: There is a Board meeting tomorrow night, March 21, 2017 at HWFC beginning at 6:30pm, not the customary 6:00pm. See you there!

Happy Spring!!


Today, I have time for – uncharacteristic for GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!a brief post.

Yesterday, the Co-op Voice published another article of mine entitled, MSG and Deceptive Labeling: The Hidden Toxic Chemical in Your Family’s Food-Part 1. Please hop over and read it – it’s carefully researched – and all the other informative, useful and interesting articles from our own co-op community contained in the March edition of our co-op’s Voice. Part 2 will be published by the Co-op Voice in April, and Part 3 in May, so you’ll have to ‘hold yer horses’ on the information about MSG being used both in and on organically-labeled foods. (!!)

You can also see my September 15, 2016 blogpost about MSG: GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx. In this post, I rolled out my brand new series They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude! and in it you’ll get a serious introduction to MSG – a hidden ‘flavor enhancer’ being added to processed foods – which many scientists, doctors and family food advocates feel is extremely harmful to our health – and a company named Senomyx, and its ever-expanding line of artificial flavors.

…just doin’ my small part to get and keep our organic food supply healthy, safe, nutrient-dense, delicious and local!

In a somewhat related story, Mike Adams, the ‘Health Ranger’ of Natural News, has been following the recently-announced ‘partnership’ of Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who are working together to promote vaccine safety and reform. Yesterday, Natural News posted its story, ACTION: “National Call-In Day” announced for vaccine safety and reform: March 30th, asking families to call in to their elected representatives and the President on March 30, 2017, in a national push to raise awareness and promote vaccine safety and reform.

Robert De Niro made public last year that he has an adult son with autism and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has edited a book about vaccines, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury–a Known Neurotoxin–from Vaccines. Kennedy, a Democrat, was recently appointed by Republican President Donald Trump to chair a brand new vaccination safety commission.

More on this extremely interesting and important story in an upcoming post.

Truth in Labeling Campaign (the truth, the whole truth  and nothing but the truth about MSG) co-founder, Jack Samuels, wrote a June 2002 article entitled The Danger of MSG and How It Is Hidden In Vaccines. Sadly, Jack Samuels passed away in 2012 but his wife Adrienne continues the couple’s work at the non-profit Truth in Labeling Campaign. His article outlines some of the facts relating to the (hidden and often not-disclosed) MSG used in vaccines.

I saw no mention of MSG in any of the (notably scarce) national media articles and video clips about this particular vaccine issue and partnership. It will be interesting to see if MSG – that is, monosodium glutamate or ‘processed free glutamic acid’ – enters the national debate as being one of a number of chemicals used in vaccines of which families are unaware and about which they continue to remain in the dark.

Parents are being urged to do their own research into this issue and stay fully informed as advocates for their children. I would heartily agree …and the same goes for any and all adults, as well!

This post is dedicated to a person dear to my life, “C,” who has an adult son with autism.

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


GRASSROOTS ACTION: “My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there!” No. 2: Who Owns Organic


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


REMINDER: Our HWFC quarterly Membership Meeting is tomorrow, Sunday, January 29, 2017 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany (FUUSA), 405 Washington Avenue, in Albany, NY:

5:30-6:00 pm Dessert Potluck, 6:00-8:00 pm meeting.

From 5:00-6:00 pm, music will be provided by Albany’s own, awesome duo Alan Thomson on piano, and me, Laura Hagen, on the family of recorders! Please come enjoy some live music with your dessert! Guaranteed some 17th-18th c. English Country Dance tune hits (see here if you want to actually dance these elegant dances – to live music – right here, once a month, at FUUSA!) …and other 21st c. musical surprises, as well!

Here is the HWFC Membership Meeting Notice.

We will be voting upon our proposed Food & Product Manual (and please see here for the current Food & Product Manual).


our proposed new Member-Owner Manual.

See you tomorrow night!


       Before I commence this blogpost, let me let you know that I have an article published in the December, 2016 HWFC Co-op Voice entitled Indiana Food Co-op Closes Storefronts: Cooperative Movement, Take Notice! This article, about Bloomingfoods Food Co-op in Bloomington, Indiana, [1] uncovers a process being used to systematically remove and eliminate the legal power & control held by the Member-Owners of a US independently-owned, community food co-operative. It is dedicated to indy author and fellow food co-op Member-Owner Mimi Yahn. [2]

And, BTW, welcome new readers who came over here to GRASSROOTS ACTION! by way of the Co-op Voice! Please feel free to leave a comment or question, below!


       Holy-moly it’s been three months since I last posted! My new responsibilities as co-chair of an HWFC Committee …Halloween …getting the garden ready for winter …national elections …Thanksgiving …Solstice …Chanukah …Christmas—

—(with a lovely Frasier fir which we cut and a concert with the new Mountain Snow and Mistletoe Orchestra (boy, do we miss Chris Shaw & Bridget Ball and their annual Mountain Snow and Mistletoe Concert, but love the new band, too! I mean what’s not to love about John Kirk, Kevin McKrell and Brian Melick? Listen here!)—

—a nasty sinus infection—

—(ok, long story short(er): I discovered a way to get rid of my sinus infection without the neti pot, eucalyptus steaming, tons of fluids & vitamin C, lots of moaning, and the inevitable and dreaded antibiotics.

It’s called kimchi.

Turns out there are a few intrepid researchers out there researching the “good” bacteria we are supposed to have in our sinuses; they are busy developing a nasal spray with the needed beneficial bacteria. Just like many of us are missing bunches of “good” bacteria in our guts, those of us who get sinus infections are missing certain “good” bacteria in our sinus cavities/biomes (Did you even know you had a sinus biome? Well, you do!)

By the way, let me interject here: any information you read in these blogposts is intended as consumer information only and not meant to take the place of consultation with or advice from your doctors or health care practicioners.

I was led to kimchi by the work of a fellow blogger, Mara Silgailis over at Lacto Bacto  Health, Microbes and More. Turns out we are missing Lactobacillus sakei (L. sakei) – the same bacteria used to ferment sake, BTW… …and also present in kimchi – and if you introduce this missing bacteria into your “sinus biome,” you may get relief. Go ahead, google L. sakei, sinusitus and kimchi. Up pops Ms. Silgailis’s website and her family’s sinusitis story. (See this article about the original 2012 UCSF study and the original study. See also here, here, and listen here, too.)

So, I had dear husband run over to our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op – at 9:30pm, what a saint – and purchase one of the recommended kimchis. I began my own, personal n=1 experiment. (And just to be crystal clear: I am not suggesting that you should actually go out and try this experiment on yourself.)

After delicate insertion of some of the live, fermented kimchi liquid (which I had placed in a separate, small bowl) into each nostril (using a Q-tip) (I’m so sorry, but those of you who suffer with cranky sinuses understand and, no, simply eating kimchi does NOT work!), I had relief within three hours. Three hours later my sinuses were crystal clear!!!


All because I am missing L. sakei in the sinuses?

Repeating the process 2-3 times a day for a week or so took care of the problem. Good-bye sinusitis forever!

How does this work?

According to all the research, scientific and anecdotal reports I read, by introducing L. sakei into the sinus microbiome, you are restoring order and balance. “Bad” bacteria, which had proliferated and become dominant, are not killed off, but their numbers are reduced and they go back to being just “part of the symbiotic crowd” of the microbiome community.

As a woodwind player and musician, understand that I need my breathing system functioning at top notch, especially when holiday performances approach. For me, this is a miracle! Mara Silgailis, my family here at GRASSROOTS ACTION! thanks your family at Lacto Bacto! And, thank you for blogging your family’s story so that other families may benefit.

Go have fun! Learn. Research. Read-up over at Lacto Bacto  Health, Microbes and More (article updated as of December 2016; and, I highly recommend reading all Reader Comments at Lacto Bacto, as well). The absolute wonders of healthy microbiomes, good bacteria, scobys, ferments, probiotics, nasal biome researchers, and a little ol’ bacterium called L. sakei! (Please go read about another little ol’ bacterium: H. pylori. Stomach ulcers are becoming a thing of the past; sinusitis may join those ranks. See [3].)

However, please, proceed at your own risk and run this by your own doctor, first!

I agree with Dr. Chris Kresser, who states in his article, Chronic Sinus Problems: Another Role for Probiotics?:

Of course I can’t recommend or endorse these procedures, because they haven’t been tested for safety or efficacy. It would seem that the risk is relatively low, but it’s at least possible that some of the other microbes in kimchi or other oral probiotics may not be beneficial for the sinus microbiome. We’re really just starting to scratch the surface in this area of research, and there’s still a lot that we don’t understand. So if you decide to perform these experiments at home, proceed at your own risk!)—

—New Year’s (what fun at Saratoga’s First Night) and First Night dinner with family and friends at a Saratoga pub—

—(Ladies, I saw Richard Gere in Saratoga last year, eating dinner, I kid you not!!!

Hey, just how ever did we get from Christmas music, pub fare, and sinus infections…

…to the stunning Richard Gere?

Well, he was voted the world’s sexiest man alive in 1999 by People Magazine and just how often do you get to say you were in the same room with one of the world’s most sexy men???

He graduated from North Syracuse Central High School and he owns a B&B, the Bedford Post Inn down in Westchester, so I guess Saratoga’s not too much of a leap, just upriver a ways from his B&B.

Richard Gere simply radiates charm and stunning good looks and, I confess, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him… …except when I glanced at dear husband, and my family and friends sitting around me, which brought me back to my very happy, contented, and loved reality. Hollywood’s a world I am very glad to not be a part of; give me my upstate NY community of family, friends, musicians and food co-op families, colleagues, buddies & neighbors any day…

…but – just for your information – he passed right by our table on his way out, and he looked down and smiled! What a smile!

And, of course, there is a musician to thank in this story: thank you forever, Roy Orbison!)—

—and a brand new year with brand new hopes and dreams and promises and great things yet to come!


For me, this will be the year for discovering more about gut bacteria, biomes, “good” bacteria, and making your own ferments. I’ll share with you as I learn! What a journey this will prove to be!

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:

My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there! No. 2: Who Owns Organic

       Today, I want to introduce you to a fantastic tool for figuring out which companies own which organic food brands. The tool is an Infographic called Who Owns Organic. It has been designed by Dr. Philip H. Howard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, who teaches about the US food system and sustainability. Here is Dr. Howard’s homepage.

Remember, I first introduced you to the Cornucopia Institute in the very first blog in this brand new series, started in June 2016, called GRASSROOTS ACTION: “My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there!” No. 1: The Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute “Promotes Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming.” [4]

Dr. Howard’s Infographic, “Who Owns Organic”, available at the Cornucopoia Institute’s website, will help you figure out which BIG Food and/or BIG Organic companies own which (natural and/or) organic food [5] products you are buying. Who Owns Organic tracks sales, distribution and mergers within the US (natural and) organic [5] processing / wholesale network.

A regularly-updated version of “Who Owns Organic” aka Organic Processing Industry: Acquisitions & Alliances, Top 100 Food Processors in North America, is also available directly on Dr. Howard’s homepage, updated as of November, 2016. (Here is a printable PDF.) [6]

He also quantifies which organic processors / brands have remained independent (as of January 2011: you will have to do further research to update through 2017): see Organic Industry Structure: Major Independents and Their Subsidiary Brands (scroll down).

Dr. Howard also has data (through 2008) of mergers and acquisitions among the US wholesale co-operative distribution network: see: Organic Industry Structure: Cooperative Distributors, 1982-2008.

Urgent info for us food co-op Member-Owners, no? It will answer your questions as to which co-operative companies are wholesaling (natural and) organic [5] food to US food co-operatives, like HWFC.

Dr. Howard has provided information about the major corporate, wholesale distributors of (natural and) organic [5] foodstuffs to grocery stores, including US food co-ops: see Organic Industry Structure: Major Organic/Natural Foods Distributors, 2008.

He has quantified information (as of 2007) about the organic “Private Label Brands”, which are increasingly being produced for large supermarkets, wholesale clubs & grocery stores. For example, “Field Day” is a Private Label Brand produced by United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) and provided to US small natural food stores and food co-ops.

Want to know about (organic & non-organic) bread in the US? Dr. Howard has information about Wheat and Bread in North American. There are only three bread firms in North America, which own all the well-known bread brands: Bimbo Bakeries, Flowers Food and Campbell Soup Co.!

(I leave for another blogpost, a discussion about Dr. Howard’s Infographic Global Seed Industry Structure. You will instantly notice the frightening fact that chemical companies, worldwide, are buying up seed companies. His infographic, Cross-licensing Agreements for Genetically Engineered Seed Traits, should instantly send a shock wave through you: “The ‘Big 6’ have entered into a number of agreements to share patented, genetically engineered seed traits with each other, such as herbicide tolerance and expression of insecticidal toxins.”)


       Dr. Howard alerts us:

The development of the USDA National Organic Standard in place of differing state/regional standards [first draft released in 1997] was widely predicted to accelerate trends of increasing consolidation in this sector.”

His warning appears to hold true:

  • Find out how many wholesale co-operatives are left in the US out of the 28 there were in 1982:
    • The reduction in numbers will stun you; there is only one (1) left.
  • What is the name of the one remaining organic co-operative wholesaler?
  • Find out who the main US wholesalers/distributors of processed (natural and) organic [5] foods are:
    • As of 2008, there were only four distributors listed:
      • Haddon House
      • Tree of Life
      • KEHE
      • United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI).
    • How many are left today, nine years later in 2017?
    • Is this beginning to look to you like monopoly-like behavior?
  • Find out which BIG Food corporations own and distribute your favorite organic foods which you buy at Honest Weight Food Co-op or your own local food co-op.
  • Did you realize just how many of your favorite organic products are produced by BIG Food corporations?
  • Did your realize how many of your favorite small, independent or family-owned organic brands are no longer independent or family-owned?
  • Just what are all these giant organic mergers and acquisitions doing to small, local, family-owned organic farms and organic producers?
  • Begin to assess just how many processed organic foods your family may be consuming:
    • Do you really want to place your food budget dollars with all of these processed organic food products?
    • Do you really want to support BIG Food corporations and their organic lines… …or, rather, support local & regional organic farm families and organic producers – who are our neighbors – and who are dedicating their lives to providing us with truly organic, truly healthy, sustainable organic foods?


       Yes, if you haven’t already figured it out, many of those well-known “organic” brands you see on the shelves of our food co-op are owned by one or another BIG Food corporation. Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic infographic makes that crystal clear.

Some of the more well-known BIG Food corporations (how many are transnational food conglomerates?) referenced on Who Owns Organic are:

  • Coco-Cola
  • Pepsi
  • ConAgra
  • Tyson
  • Campbell Soup, Co.
  • General Mills
  • Kellogg
  • M & M Mars
  • Hershey Foods
  • J.M. Smucker
  • Danone (Dannon)
  • Nestlé
  • Miller-Coors
  • Hormel

The organic products which BIG Food corporations produce do not – as an industry-wide practice – state the name of the parent corporation on the processed organic foods’ labels; that information is kept hidden. You’ll need Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic in order to figure that out.

My September 15, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx includes a story about Muir Glen Organic Pasta Sauce and its deceptive labeling, here. Turns out, General Mills owns and markets Muir Glen, one of its “organic” lines. That fact is not stated on the label; however, I quickly found it out by using Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic.

In addition, organic industry wholesale processors & distributors utilize a very clever PR & Marketing ploy: they pair the terms natural and organic. They hope to pull the wool over our eyes and convince us that “natural” = “organic.”

Investigative reporter Jon Rappoport, in his March 13, 2013 blogpost Can You Trust Whole Foods?, alerted us to this scam being used by Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) and United Natural Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI). UNFI is the same wholesaler used by many US independent, Member-Owned food co-ops, through their membership in National Co-op Grocers or NCG).

Quoting from a January 27, 2011 article by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?, he writes:

“ ‘Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed ‘natural’ foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a ‘natural’ supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)…

…Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to ‘natural’ imposters…'”

It is for this very reason, in this blogpost, I will not willingly pair the terms (natural and) organic. (See [5].) [7]

Many of these same BIG Food corporations supported the passage of the Dark Act: see this Organic Consumers Association article, Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act, here and the Health Ranger’s Natural News article, Organic Food Industry Divided After Organic Trade Association BETRAYS Labeling Movement By Signing Off on Sham GMO-labeling Bill, here.

The BIG Food industry giants have each created their own niche product lines of (natural and) organic [5] foods. Created, that is, or simply bought out – “acquired” – many of the independent “organic” brands, we used to know and love.

Well, we may still know and love them… …but do we know that some new, BIG Food corporation now owns them and they sure aren’t “independent” or “family-owned” anymore?

Over the years, many, many independent organic brands have been bought out. They may retain the same name, same label, similar marketing. But, there is a different corporate owner …and, perhaps, new & different ingredients? (Hadn’t you better go and check ingredient labels? Right now? Go read this post, GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx, here, in its entirety.)

(Natural and) organic: [5] that’s where the money is, and BIG Food knows we’ll pay more for it. So, they have all developed their own (natural and) organic [5] product lines/subsidiaries and have all developed cool, colorful, catchy-sounding, catch-your-eye packaging & labels, so as to catch more of our families’ food dollars.

Dr. Howard’s infographic, Who Owns Organic, as well as his other cutting-edge data & graphics, will instantly give you answers to some of your questions about the corporate ownership of US foods labeled as organic.


       The serious questions which bear reflection by US food co-op Member-Owners are these: have our US food co-op aisles been silently, quietly & quite colorfully infiltrated and “co-opted” by BIG Food and BIG Organic, with their (natural and) organic [5] product lines?

Are we comfortable supporting these BIG Food and BIG Organic corporations, some of which heavily supported the passage of the Dark Act as members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and/or the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)?

Is there a way to, instead, throw more of our support and food budget dollars to local & regional organic farmers, farm families and organic food producers & distributors?

Please study Dr. Howard’s Organic Industry Structure: Cooperative Distributors, 1982-2008. Can you determine exactly how, between 1982 – 2008, 27 wholesale food co-operatives disappeared?

Buy-outs? Mergers? Acquisitions? Out-of business? Hostile corporate take-overs?

This article, Food Co-ops, Food Hubs, and Food Democracy: An Interview with John Curl, may help answer that question: see part I and part II.

What took the place of these 27 US wholesale food co-operatives? This July 7, 2009 Organic Consumers Association article, The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of “Natural” Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement, will help answer that question. And, this February 27, 2013 Truthout article, Our Food Is Being Hijacked by Monopolizing Corporations, will clarify the trend in monopolies in the (natural and) organic [5] food industry.

As an aside: doesn’t it trouble you that (natural and) organic [5] foods are now routinely referred to as an “industry?” What happened to “co-operative self-reliant,” “small is beautiful,” family farms, and regional distribution of regional foodstuffs? You are encouraged to read the October 5, 2016 – New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?

This May 18, 2012 article by The Cornucopia Institute, The Organic Watergate: Advocates Condemn Corruption and USDA’s Cozy Relationship with Corporate Agribusinesses in Organics, highlights a White Paper by Cornucopia entitled,  The Organic Watergate — White Paper Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program. The Report details how “…the USDA’s blatant disregard for the requirements laid out in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), and the intent of Congress, is illegal and has inappropriately favored corporate agribusiness over the interests of ethical businesses, farmers and consumers.” (pp. 2-3).

Finally, given that Dr. Howard’s data shows that the number of US wholesale food co-operative distributors fell from 28 to 1 (as of 2008), and (as of 2008) there were only 4 national wholesale distributors of (natural and) organic [5] foods, is it possible that the same reduction/buy-out/takeover process is underway at US independently-owned, retail food co-operatives?

Given the threats which Member-Owners at many, many US, community retail food co-ops are experiencing (see Mimi Yahn’s two articles and a Letter to the Editor [Losing our Principles, Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op, and Still Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op]; Indiana Food Co-Op Closes Storefronts: Cooperative Movement, Take Notice! and previous posts on this GRASSROOTS ACTION! blog; and Take Back the Co-op and National Stories at Take Back the Co-op), is there a possibility that our US independently-owned, community, retail food co-operatives could be the target of a systematic (and stealth) takeover? Is that as far-fetched as it seems?

Are US community, independently-owned, Member & Family-Owned and operated retail food co-ops – like wholesale food co-ops – going the way of the dodo bird?

Or (what seems more likely, given the billions of dollars and market share retail food co-ops represent), rather than facing extinction:

  • just like the merger & acquisition of 27 wholesale food co-operatives;
  • just like BIG Food’s acquisition of many of the “independent” and “family-owned” (natural and) organic [5] product brands we know and love;

could many US retail food co-operatives have:

  • retained the same names;
  • retained the same types of (natural and) organic [5] foodstuffs on the shelves;
  • maintained the same kind of marketing…

…but (silently) acquired a different corporate structure?

…a corporate structure which has eliminated the legal power & control of the Member-Owners & local families and, thereby, the local community, and leaves behind the shell of a community food co-op…

…that is, a community food co-op in name only.

Are US food co-ops… …being co-opted?

Are the truly authentic, US community food co-ops – owned and run by community families, co-opertively – the target of a systematic (stealth) takeover?


       In the October 5, 2016 New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?, a term coined, I believe, by Michael Pollan in his article, Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take on Corporate Agriculture?, caught my attention. He uses the term “Little Food;” something we independently-owned, community food co-ops know a little something about!

Pollan’s definition of BIG Food: “If you leave us alone and pay no attention to how we do it, we can produce vast amounts of acceptable food incredibly cheaply.

Little Food, on the other hand, is explained by Pollan as such: “That vulnerability [of BIG Food] is the conscience of the American eater, who in the past decade or so has taken a keen interest in the question of where our food comes from, how it is produced and the impact of our everyday food choices on the land, on the hands that feed us, on the animals we eat and, increasingly, on the climate. Though still a minority, the eaters who care about these questions have come to distrust Big Food and reject what it is selling. Looking for options better aligned with their values, they have created, purchase by purchase, a $50 billion alternative food economy, comprising organic food, local food and artisanal food. Call it Little Food. And while it is still tiny in comparison with Big Food, it is nevertheless the fastest-growing sector of the food economy.” [emphasis added]

A most interesting question for me – as a Member-Owner of a food co-op – is: what percentage of our yearly sales comes from Little Food: that is, “organic food, local food and artisanal food?” I would further want to tease out what percentage is minimally-processed and comes specifically from local (defined as within 250 miles) organic farmers & organic artisanal food producers.

In my opinion, a food co-op’s five-year Strategic Plan should have, as its number one goal, a plan to dramatically increase the percentage of Little Food which it buys & sells.

For example, browsing the awesome collection of local, regional & artisanal cheeses our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, sells, is enough to convince me that this is why community-owned food co-ops need to exist and need to continue to thrive in our hometowns! There is a clear two-way street in full operation here, between organic customers (us) and the local & regional organic farmers and families who produce these cheeses!

Michael Pollan’s Little Food, is one of the sources of the strength & power of local, community-owned, Member-Owned and run food co-ops. We should be shouting this from the rooftops!

Dr. Howard’s New Book: Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We EAT?

       Published in February, 2016, Dr. Howard has a new book out called Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? London: Bloomsbury Academic (February 25, 2016). This book is well worth the purchase!

If you read Dr. Howard’s new book, report back here at GRASSROOTS ACTION and tell us what you have learned! I am poised to read it, myself.

It will be interesting to see if his book covers US independently-owned, local food co-operatives.

Thank goodness there are dedicated professors like Dr. Howard researching & quantifying this data and making it clear and easily understandable, so we can track just what is going on with (natural and) organic [5] foods here in the US. Please make Dr. Howard’s website a part of your favorite websites and archive his Infographic, Who Owns Organic on your Smartphone, to use as you shop the aisles of your favorite US food co-op.

Dr. Howard has provided us with data so that we can pierce the corporate ownership & marketing veils and find out exactly who is selling (natural and) organic [5] foods to us. We then have a better chance of finding out what, exactly, is really in the food we eat. We can then make the rational & decided choice to place our family food dollars with those BIG Food corporations… …or not.

Dr. Howard is helping us to work at keeping our organic food supply truly local, truly sustainable, and truly healthy for our families. His work will help strengthen the ties between US food co-op families and the local & regional organic farm families & organic producers who dedicate their lives to providing us with truly organic food.

Every food dollar you place in an organic farm family’s pocket – through purchases at your local food co-op – goes towards strengthening our connection to healthy, high-quality, regional food: a critical need for any family! Spend wisely.

Dr. Howard’s data may convince you, too, of the vital need to keep our food local. Thank you Dr. Howard! His Infographic, Who Owns Organic was sure an eye-opener for me. I think it will be for you, too.


[1] This Co-op Voice article is a condensed version of my June 14, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION: Indiana Food Co-op Closes Storefronts. HWFC Forewarned-Reducing Overhead Critical. The December article, however, has some updated information which you will want to read.

[2] Please see Ms. Yahn’s two articles and a Letter to the Editor: Losing our Principles, Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op, and Still Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op. Ms. Yahn reveals disturbing threats to her food co-op’s democratic principles and its bylaws, and a wider pattern of “corporatization” at many other American, local, independently-owned food co-ops.

Please note that there are brand new Letters to the Editor and/or Comments concerning Ms. Yahn’s articles, posted more than 1 1/2 years after these articles were first published! There has been so much new action that The Commons Online added a brand new sidebar to direct the reader to the new Letters and/or Comments!

I urge you to go and read them.

See, in particular, the September 21, 2016 Letter to the Editor, “We help co-ops, not weaken them,” in the VT Digger, from the co-founder of CDS Consulting Co-op, Marilyn Scholl, in response to Ms. Yahn’s February, 11 2015 Letter, and the lively commentary, below Ms. Yahn’s February 4, 2015 article, provided in response to CDSCC Marilyn Scholl’s September, 2016 Comment, by co-op Member-Owner KJ Jacobson, at The Commons Online, here (scroll down, below the article to “Leave a Reply.”)

BTW, the Comments by KJ Jacobson were posted just 28 days ago.

One wonders: what prompted CDSCC’s co-founder, Marilyn Scholl, to respond – in September, 2016 – to articles Ms. Yahn had published almost two years previous?

It is, perhaps, noteworthy that on October 5th and 6th, 2016, two weeks after the publishing of her Letter in the VT Digger, CDS Consulting Co-op’s Marilyn Scholl shared the podium with National Co-op Grocers’ (NCG) C.E. Pugh – at two Town Meetings held by La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, NM; please see my October 6, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION and La Montañita Member-Owners ARE POWERFUL! La Montañita  Member-Owners have been waging a battle to gain back Member-Owner control of their food co-op; see their website, Take Back the Co-op. According to accounts on the Take Back the Co-op website, CDS Consulting Co-op has also had a significant presence at La Montañita for at least the last three years.

While you are over at Take Back the Co-op, read the Letter which Mimi Yahn sent to the Member-Owners of La Montañitahere and the Letter which the Board of the Honest Weight Food Co-op sent, as well, here.

[3] It’s of great scientific interest to note that one of the two Australian scientists who discovered that Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori, a bacterium) plays a role in the development of gastritis and peptic ulcers, Dr. Marshall, intentionally infected himself with the bacterium to prove the scientists’ hypothesis:

In 1985, for example, Marshall underwent gastric biopsy to prove he didn’t carry the bacterium, then deliberately infected himself to show that it caused acute gastric illness. (See the October 3, 2005 article in The Scientist, H. pylori researchers win Nobel by Stephen Pincock.)

Drs. Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005 for their research and discovery.

Read the April 8, 2010 interview with Dr. Warren by Pamela Weintraub entitled, The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery.

[4]  One of the Cornucopia Institute’s Board members, Kevin Engelbert, owns Engelbert Farms (here is their FB page), the first certified organic dairy farm in the US, certified in 1984. Engelbert Farms produces organic milk, veal, beef, pork, pasture, hay, corn, soybeans, and vegetables and is located in our own state, in Nichols, NY, just west of Binghamton.

[5] I will not willingly pair the words “natural” and “organic.” This is a marketing trick of BIG Food and BIG Organic; by pairing these two words, we, ourselves, are seduced into believing that they are equivalent. They are not. In the US, foods allowed to be labeled as “organic” have a specific statutory and regulatory meaning; that is, we have certain, guaranteed consumer protections. The term “natural” on a label, however, is virtually meaningless, offering none of the consumer protections afforded by the term “organic.”

By cleverly pairing these two terms in their marketing, BIG Food and BIG Organic corporations hope to pull the wool over our eyes and convince us that “natural” = “organic.” This is, however, a very clever and deliberate PR & Marketing ploy.

“Natural” does not = “organic.” Caveat emptor.

[6] The reader is encouraged to also view this infographic in a July 14, 2014 article by Michael Snyder entitled Big Corporations Have An OVERWHELMING Amount Of Power Over Our Food Supply, located at The Economic Collapse Blog.

[7] See Jon Rappoport’s other articles about Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) and/or United Natural Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI):

March 11, 2013: What’s behind Whole Foods’ Decision to Label GMOs in their Stores?

October 14, 2013: Co-exist with Monsanto or Destroy it? Follow the Organic Money

February 25, 2014: Top shareholders in Whole Foods and Monsanto: Identical

December 23, 2014: Whole Foods Sued for False Non-GMO Labeling

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

GRASSROOTS ACTION, election results & HWFC Letter of Support to La Montañita Member-Owners


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


       The HWFC Board of Directors has shared the results of yesterday’s GRC elections, as well as the vote tallies for the amendments to our Bylaws and the change to our Articles of Incorporation.

All three candidates who ran for the GRC were elected; the change to our Articles of Incorporation was approved and ALL of the 15 individual votes to amend our Bylaws were approved. To view the exact vote tallies, please see the HWFC Inside Scoop from this morning, October 24, 2016, here.

Welcome to Judith Brink, Chris Gockley and Tom Spargo, the newest members of our Governance Review Council (GRC)! They will be joining Jeff Marden and Chair Sandy McKay, which gives us a full complement of GRC members.

Wonderful potluck desserts, (as usual!), great conversations before and after the meeting, and interesting Q & A with the three GRC candidates. Congratulations to Board secretary Rebekah Rice for successfully moderating the section of the meeting relating to the Bylaws’ votes; a difficult subject which was rendered simple and intelligible and allowed for swift passage of all Bylaws’ amendments.

Thank you, thank you to all the members of the Membership Committee who prepared the meeting space, handled check-in, and cleaned up afterwards! Thank you to our Nominations Committee for successfully handling the election, and the GRC for its back-up support, and providing us with vote results which we trust and which are verifiable; a paper ballot system – with no proxy voting, no absentee ballots, no electronic, internet, paperless, non-verifiable voting – and with paper ballots counted and verified immediately afterwards.

In the past, I have had League of Women Voters members share with me, that this system is still considered the best, most secure, transparent, and safest ways to conduct elections. Let’s keep this gold standard as part of our democratic system at HWFC.

Special thank yous to Carol Ostrow and the Members of the Communications Committee who brought our HWFC 2015-2016 Annual Report to completion! We received our copies last night and Carol and the Committee members did a splendid job; a document we can all be proud of! The AR is not online yet, but here is where you can find  it, when it is.

Thank you for a job well done, Carol! It is beautiful and a work to be proud of!

Thank you to each and every member of our Board of Directors who contributed to this very successful quarterly meeting. We appreciate your continuing hard work on our behalf!

Special thanks to ALL the HWFC Member-Owners who participated in our Bylaws’ revision process: the eight members of the Bylaws Panel; the Members of the Corporate Compliance Committee; the members of the Membership & Personnel Committees; staff Member-Owner Janet Sorell; and all the Member-Owner staff and staff members who continue to participate on Board committees, offering invaluable advice on Bylaws’ issues.

As you know, we will continue this process and have a second round of Bylaws’ revisions presented at the January, 2017 Membership meeting.

Inch-by-inch, row-by-row [1] …step-by-step …one careful decision at a time, we are strengthening our Member-Owned and locally-owned and operated food co-operative and are one step closer to strengthening our connections to local organic farms, farmers, food producers and their families.

Finally, congratulations to the 145 Member-Owners and 8 Shareholders who attended our Quarterly Meeting last night. We were all part of the “participatory democracy” which keeps our locally-owned and locally-operated food co-operative strong, vibrant, healthy and robust.

Congrats to all of us for a job well done! Boy, have we come a long way in 365 days!

(If I have forgotten to thank anyone or any Committee, the error rests solely with me. Please, my “eternally vigilant” readers, let me know and I will amend the error post haste…)


       At our last Board meeting, the Board approved the sending of a Letter of Support to the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op who are Taking Back Their Co-op. Chris Colarusso is also gathering the signatures of HWFC Member-Owners (see Thomas Paine, here. She’s at it again, gathering up signatures!!) who wish to sign on to this letter.

So here, on the one-year anniversary of the date upon which the Member-Owners of the Honest Weight Food Co-op presented the (former) acting President of the Board a petition to call for an emergency Special Membership Meeting – October 24, 2015 – is our Letter of Support to fellow Member-Owners at La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As of October 18, 2016, the Member-Owners of La Montañita have surpassed their goal of 1,700 (1-7-0-0, seventeen hundred!!!) signatures needed on their petition to call for a Special Membership Meeting! That is amazing work!

Our Letter of Support has been received by the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op and has been posted on their website, Take Back the Co-op, under “New York,” here.

October 5, 2016

 Greetings to Member-Owners of La Montañita Co-op, New Mexico, from the Member-Owners and Board Members of the Honest Weight Food Co-op, Albany, New York. 

 We celebrate your bold effort to take back your co-op, and we applaud your many efforts to reach out to other food co-ops nationwide to inform and support their struggles.  We know you can succeed in taking back your co-op, because we took ours back.

 Just a year ago our co-op found itself in what seemed like an impossible situation.  A series of decisions had been made that a majority of our Membership could not support and that were not supportive of our Membership.  In particular, these decisions would have caused our Membership to lose our decision making authority.  We found ourselves petitioning for a Special Membership Meeting to recall the Board.

We had our Special Membership Meeting! We voted to recommend a change in our management structure.  We approved a recommendation to evaluate and remedy concerns about our leadership team.  We seated new members on our Board of Directors.  At that time we did not fully understand our financial status, which we have learned also needed a turnaround.

 Fortunately, we were successful in creating change. We have implemented a new leadership structure and hired new managers.  Our Member-Owners have started an independent online newsletter, the Co-op Voice, which gives us back the direct voice we lost several years ago.  We have had three strong financial quarters, and our financial picture is improving.

 The Member-Owners and Board Members of Honest Weight Food Co-op respect you and the quality of the groundwork you have done.  May your Special Membership Meeting be well attended, be peaceful, and above all, be successful in creating the changes that you will need to fully regain decision authority.

 To honor our past, for the promise of our future, and true to our Mission Statement, we took action to exercise our rights and responsibilities as Member-Owners of Honest Weight Food Coop.  We wish you great success.


The Honest Weight Board of Directors

Carolynn Presser, President
Tim Corrigan, Vice President
Rebekah Rice, Secretary
Kate Doyle, Treasurer
Ned Depew
Rick Donegan
Nate Horwitz
Daniel Morrissey
Saul Rigberg

© Laura Hagen

[1] The Garden Song, recorded by the likes of Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Arlo honors Pete (Arlo: “I know everybody likes singing with Pete… He sings the song twice at the same time … once in front of the song and then once with everybody…”), John Denver and the Muppets, Peter, Paul & Mary and Makem & Clancy, was written by Dave Mallett, who can be heard singing it here. Called by some the “Homesteader’s Hymn” or just “Inch by Inch,” this song is a reminder to us food co-op families to thank all the local organic farmers, food producers and their families – and all of us who are gardeners – who honor & bless the earth and her bounty: we who “temper them with prayer and song...”

And thank goodness for YouTube …and musicians!


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


GRASSROOTS ACTION and (oops) Sunday’s Meeting begins at 4:30pm with MEET THE GRC CANDIDATES!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


CORRECTION ALERT: The HWFC Membership Meeting on Sunday, 10/23/16 begins at 4:30pm with a Meet the GRC Candidates’ Session; 5:30pm is the Dessert Potluck; Meeting begins at 6:00pm at St. Sophia’s Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY.

Please see the rest of today’s blogpost here.


THANK YOU to a bunch of “eternally vigilant” readers for the HWFC meeting time correction!

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


GRASSROOTS ACTION and Membership Meetings on 10/23/16 ARE POWERFUL!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


ALERT: Here is the new HWFC October, 2016 Coop Voice!

CORRECTION: The HWFC Membership Meeting on Sunday, 10/23/16 begins at 4:30pm with a Meet the GRC Candidates’ Session; 5:30pm is the Dessert Potluck; Meeting begins at 6:00pm at St. Sophia’s Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY.

       This Sunday, October 23, 2016  – 4:30pm Meet the GRC Candidates; 5:30pm dessert potluck; 6:00pm Meeting at St. Sophia’s is our quarterly Membership Meeting of the Honest Weight Food Co-op. Come! Show up! Be present! Vote! (See below for the message from our Board. Member-Owners see here for meeting details and agenda.)

It is critical to our participatory democracy at Honest Weight Food Co-op that you attend the Membership Meetings …not only for the great potluck desserts and for the community camaraderie, but also to be there to make your decisions, cast your votes, and be part of all of us deciding the future of our co-op, all at once, together.

We are voting on:

-critical Bylaws’ changes (see here)
-an important change to our Articles of Incorporation (see here, Meeting Announcement)
-three new Governance Review Council (GRC) Members (see here)

This is one of the places in your life where YOUR VOTE REALLY COUNTS and you get to COUNT THE VOTE if you wish to volunteer! This means: we are all in charge of the casting of our individual, paper ballots and we can participates in the legal vote counting or observing of the vote counting. We have got a democratic, fair, accurate and verifiable voting process going on here at HWFC.

I feel very secure about our vote counting process: paper ballots, cast and counted by all of us together in real-time (no absentee ballots, no proxy voting, no electronic, online, computer, paperless, NON-VERIFIABLE, hackable voting) in the same room, at the same time together. (See this story of another US food co-op which did not guard their democracy: “voting” just occurred last night, here.)

Our Membership Meetings, with voting, are held in the best tradition of the old time New England Town Meetings we’ve all studied in American history. The community meets …debates …and decides.

With all the shenanigans still predicted to occur in the upcoming federal elections (go see the latest the computer scientists have to say over at Verified Voting) it is safe to say that we can rely upon the elections at HWFC!

Thank you to our HWFC Nominating Committee (new proposed name: Elections and Nominations Committee) team for organizing and overseeing the process!


       Now, in case you have forgotten, Saturday, October 24, 2015 was the day in our history when WE MADE HISTORY! On that Saturday, Member-Owner Chris Colarusso passed around for signature a now-famous petition to call for an emergency Special Membership Meeting (eSMM), to confront a crisis at our food co-op. 720 people showed up to that meeting: our largest Membership Meeting ever in our 40-year history, held on November 30, 2015!

The rest, as they say, is history. And we changed our history! Let us all thank Chris for taking the appropriate, right action at the right moment in time, so save our food co-op. Now Chris would be the first person to say there were many, many, many, many other people who helped out – and that is true! – but let’s honor she who is the Thomas Paine among us. Who was Thomas Paine?

…an English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and he inspired the rebels in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. [1]

Chris (with help!) authored a “pamphlet” which altered the course and future of our co-op for the better. Let us not forget the power of pamphlets, petitions, signatures, democracy …and our own food co-operative history!


Thomas Paine (with a pamphlet?) …not unlike our HWFC eSMM petition
dated Saturday, October 24, 2015
and Handed To The Board of Directors On That Same Day, Duly Ratified.


       And, on that note, it’s time for a song. As a musician who is also an HWFC Member-Owner, I’m hauling out – again, and with pleasure – the wonderful, singable The Ant Song, sung by Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, which I first introduced right after the election results from our emergency Special Membership Meeting. Sing your hearts out!

High Hopes aka The Ant Song

Just what makes that little old ant,
Think he’ll move a big rubber plant?
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant!

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes,
He’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes!
So anytime you’re feeling low
‘Stead of letting go
Just remember that ant…

Whoops there goes another rubber tree,
Whoops there goes another rubber tree
Whoops there goes another rubber tree plant!…

So, fellow ants, get yourselves to the meeting on Sunday! Together, move a rubber tree plant or two!

Here is part of a message from our Board of Directors about our meeting on Sunday, from the Inside Scoop:

Democracy in Action–Your Attendance Essential!
Our next General Membership Meeting will be Sunday, October 23, at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY, starting with a dessert potluck at 5:30, with the meeting starting at 6:00.  We look forward to seeing as many member-owners as possible attend because we will be voting on changes to two documents critical to our governance as a co-op:  our Bylaws and our Articles of Incorporation.
For the past several months, a group of hard-working member-owners have been meeting regularly as the Bylaws Panel, diligently reviewing and examining and suggesting critical corrections, modifications and additions to our Bylaws.
The Bylaws Panel will be holding several more information sessions on the proposed changes so that everyone can ask questions and be informed before they vote.  We encourage you to attend one or two or as many information sessions as you can in order to understand the proposed changes and how they matter and affect YOUR co-op. Check out the Bylaws web page at . Download the proposed changes from the links at the bottom of the web page.

See ya Sunday!

© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


[1] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Entry: Thomas Paine. Accessed October 20, 2016. See here.

[2] Picture of Thomas Paine. Photo via Wikipedia Commons. See February 9, 1737: Thoma Paine is Born by Richard Kreitner and The Almanac. Accessed October 20, 2016.

[3] High Hopes also known as The Ant Song, written by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. “It was nominated for a Grammy and won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards [April 4, 1960].” See Wikipedia, here. Accessed October 20, 2016.

GRASSROOTS ACTION and La Montañita Member-Owners ARE POWERFUL!


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS STORY, Thursday, October 6, 2016: Tonight in Sante Fe, NM at 5:30pm La Montañita Food Co-op is the sponsor of a Town Meeting for “questions, answers, and productive dialogue.” The invited guests are: Marilyn Scholl, the co-founder and current Director of CDS Consulting Co-op (CDSCC) and C.E. Pugh, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for National Co+op Grocers (NCG).

A similar event occurred last night at the La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, NM. There are no updates as of yet.

It is noteworthy that this co-op is the very same co-op which has a very large group of Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op  and who are, right now, community-organizing an emergency Special Membership Meeting.

La Montañita Member-Owners, go here to sign the petition to legally call for a Special Membership Meeting of the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op.

In a very surprising move, these two separate “.coop” corporations, National Co+op Grocers and CDS Consulting Co-op, are appearing together on the same stage at these two Town Hall meetings, to “focus on discussing what’s been going on recently at La Montañita:” special guests of the Board of La Montañita.

From La Montañita’s website:

There are some member-owners who strongly disagree with some of our retail business initiatives and decisions, and a campaign has been started, which calls for a special meeting to replace the current member-owner elected Board of Directors and remove our general manager, Dennis Hanley.

The La Montañita Co-op Team is here to ensure member-owners, customers and the community-at-large that it has not forgotten its mission/vision: La Montañita believes in the shared benefits of healthy food, sound environmental practices and a strong local economy. And in the markets we serve, La Montañita provides increased access to, and purchase of, healthy food options for our diverse customer base.

On the website of the Member-Owners of La Montañita, under the heading Follow the Money, we find a different perspective:

In truth, our Co-op’s net income was very strong until 2013—an average of $649K in profit per year. We were not in financial trouble until we expanded three years ago. Guided by CDS Consulting, our board decided to open a new store on Albuquerque’s Westside, located in a strip mall near a Walmart.

That store loses ~$500,000 per year. Overall, it appears that La Montañita has lost between $2 million and $5 million due to an expansion that CDS Consulting, NCG, and UNFI profited from. So why are the GM, board, and senior staff blaming La Montañita’s financial challenges on something other than the real cause?

A National Takeover…One Co-op At a Time
Across the country and at La Montañita, co-ops are changing their policies, products, and personnel. Over and over again, those decisions can be traced back to the influence of CDS Consulting and NCG…

In a September 21, 2016 Press Release from National Co+op Grocers, NCG Responds to Santa Fe-Based “Take Back the Co-op” Campaign Claims, issued two weeks before this NCG/CDSCC visit to Albuquerque, C.E. Pugh states:

Iowa City, IA — National Co+op Grocers (NCG) — a business services co-op for 150 independent, community-owned and locally-governed co-ops nationwide — today is responding to claims from the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based “Take Back the Co-op” campaign.

“We believe strongly in the cooperative principles and respect the rights of co-op owners everywhere to voice their hopes and concerns for the future of their co-op,” said C.E. Pugh, Chief Operating Officer, NCG. “However, we feel this campaign grossly mischaracterizes NCG, its purpose and its relationship with its member and associate co-ops, as well as the benefits offered by CDS Consulting Co-op and UNFI. We take issue with these false claims and want to provide clarity…”

It is noteworthy that NCG’s PR people felt it necessary to to issue a national press statement to the media about one of its member co-op’s Member-Owners grassroots’ fight to maintain control & ownership of their co-op. Have Member-Owner issues at U.S. independently-owned food co-ops become that much of a concern to this .coop corporation, founded in 1999 and “..represent[ing] 143 natural food co-ops operating 196 stores in 38 states, with combined annual sales of $1.8 billion…”? [1]

Interesting that an NCG corporate Press Release found it necessary to defend not only its own corporation, but two others, as well: that of CDS Consulting Co-op and – a brand new corporate player to this particular New Mexico “Town Meeting” food co-op story – United Natural Foods, Inc, UNFI.

NCG’s primary distributor is United Natural Foods, Inc., (Nasdaq: UNFI), founded in 1976, with whom it signed a primary distribution agreement in 2015, good through at least July 2021. NCG and UNFI have had a contractual relationship for ten years, since 2006. [2]

UNFI’s net sales for fiscal year 2015 were $8.18 billion. [3]UNFI is the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S….” [4]

A 2009 Organic Consumers Association article characterizes UNFI as a “near-monopoly wholesaler.” [5] Four years later, in 2013, Wenonah Hauter, the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, in an interview about her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, stated, “(UNFI) now controls the distribution of organic and natural products. Publicly traded, the company has a contract with Whole Foods and it is the major source of these products for the remaining independent natural food stores…” [6] This includes U.S. Member-Owned, independently-owned & operated, community food co-ops. [7]

Perhaps it is no coincidence that La Montañita, a member of NCG and the second largest food co-op in the entire United States, and its “La Montañita Co-op Team” – its Board and Management – are receiving immediate corporate support from NCG…

…and La Montañita’s rightfully-angry, grassroots OWNERS are, instead, the recipients of their very own NCG corporate headquarters Press Release. [8]

Corporations don’t send two of their top people – one,  a co-founder and the current Director of the entire corporation, and the other, the Chief Operating Officer – to a couple of simple “Town Meetings.” It’s clear that NCG and CDSCC are there to address the uprising of the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op: the Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op.

Why did both of these U.S. .coop corporations find it necessary to fly their people out to New Mexico and – together – take to the co-op podiums in Albuquerque and Santa Fe? This certainly confirms rumors we have heard from multiple U.S. co-ops in attendance, that La Montañita was on the lips of NCG Board members at the NCG Annual Meeting last week in Minneapolis.

But just what does CDS Consulting Co-op have to do with rumblings on the NCG Board? What’s the connection between these two separate .coop corporations?

Any why are they confronting this Member-Owner uprising …together?

The website of the Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op poses an answer in an article entitled A National Takeover…One Co-op at a Time:

‘NCG will provide the vision, leadership and systems to catapult a virtual chain of food co-ops to a position of prominence in the natural foods industry.’
– NCG Mission Statement

But how do you create a chain when you’re dealing with unique, autonomous member-owned co-ops? Some group would have to go to those co-ops and install the same bylaws, board policies, and the same kind of GMs. They’d have to promote the same produce, standardize all cereal aisles, and most importantly: disenfranchise the actual owners. They’d enforce uniformity, but convince co-ops it was their choice to do so.

A ten-year contractual relationship between NCG and UNFI is a matter of public record; not, perhaps, surprising that NCG would defend its primary distributor and industry-giant UNFI in its Press Release. However, it does raise the question: Is there also a contractual relationship between NCG and the eight-year old CDS Consulting Co-op, of which the public is unaware? [9]


       It’ll be very, very interesting to hear reports about these two “Town Meetings” from the grassroots, OWNERS of La Montañita themselves.

If you go visit NCG’s website, La Montañita (Nob Hill) is currently one of the featured co-ops on their homepage: see here and here.

ALERT: Bloomingfoods Member-Owners, in Bloomington, Indiana, this same article, on the website of the Member-Owners of La Montañita, A National Takeover…One Co-op at a Time, has a section about your co-op, Bloomingfoods.

Please, everybody, send your Member-Owner good energy and powerful grassroots’ vibes to fellow Member-Owners in Albuquerque & Sante Fe who are now “the dragon being poked” at this US food co-op!

For “dragon” reference, please see this November 5, 2015 Albany, NY Times Union article, Honest Weight Food Co-Op Reverses Decision on Member Workers, by Tim O’Brien, containing the words of HWFC Member-Owner Jules Harrell (she, the heroine of the NYS DOL FOIL coup campaign):

Harrell said the [Board’s] actions [reversing a decision to stop members from working in the store to gain discounts], while welcome, may not undo the damaged confidence members have in the leadership.

“They have already poked the dragon,” she said.

How appropriate that foils and a fire-breathing dragon (“snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed” ) appear in this U.S. food co-op epic tale and saga …yet again. [10] This is the stuff of folk legend …yet it is real life for the families & Member-OWNERS, invested in saving American independently-owned, locally-operated, community food co-ops. Grendel, Grendel’s mother and that dragon, antagonists of the hero Beowulf from the epic tale, Beowulf (Nowell Codex, ca. ~ 1000 A.D.), have nothin’ on us and our (organic carrot) spears!


© Laura Hagen


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran


[1] See this NCG document, National Co+op Grocers
Partnership Opportunities January – June 2016

[2] See the August 20, 2015 The Shelby Report.

[3] See this form 10-K report from the September 30, 2015 UNFI SEC filings.

[4] See this January 31, 2013 article, Domestic Fair Trade: A Plea to UNFI and Whole Foods for Justice by Ronnie Cummins, founder and International Director of the Organic Consumers Association, and Dave Murphy, founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!

[5] Cummins Ronnie. The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of “Natural” Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement. Organic Consumers Association, July 8, 2009. See here.

[6] Karlin, Mark. Our Food Is Being Hijacked by Monopolizing Corporations. Truthout, February 27, 2013. See here.

[7] Though not directly on topic, you are encouraged to read yesterday’s – the October 5, 2016 – New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?, and the article by Michael Pollan, called Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take on Corporate Agriculture? Note Mr. Pollan’s references to “Little Food;” something we independently-owned, community food co-ops know a little something about!

[8] This corporate Press Release flew to Albuquerque and did its job. See these two media hits, both involving Albuquerque local reporter, Dennis Domrzalski, who – clearly – utilized this NCG Press Release and who – clearly, twice – expressed his bias against the La Montañita Member-Owners and their issues; particularly shocking for a reporter operating in the Indy Media field.

This same reporter also got significant facts wrong. Cooperative Development Services ( of St. Paul, MN and Madison, WI, is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985. “CDS consists of two organizations exempt under Internal Revenue Codes Sections  The activities of Cooperative Development Services, Inc. are classified as exempt under Section 501c6 and the activities of Cooperative Development Fund of CDS are classified as exempt under Section 501c3  The 501c3 organization is classified as a public charity…” See here: the 2012 IRS Form 990 for Cooperative Development Services, Inc. and here: the 2014 IRS Form 990 for the Cooperative Development Fund of CDS. Both organizations list the same corporate address in Madison, WI.

CDS Consulting Co-op, of Putney, VT  (, a .coop corporation, was founded on July 20, 2008.

The predecessor of CDSCC, according to co-founder Marilyn Scholl, is CDS: see here and here, (go to 6′ 56″). On CDSCC’s website: “Like many organizations in its infancy, CDS Consulting Co-op started with one consultant working in collaboration with Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul, Minn. … CDS Consulting Co-op became a cooperative in 2008 after a mutually beneficial 21 year affiliation with Cooperative Development Services.

[9] CDS Consulting Co-op and National Co+op Grocers have a working relationship, the full extent of which remains unknown to the public.

A large number of NCG member and associate co-ops are also found listed as clients of CDSCC.

CDSCC names NCG as an affiliate on its webpage footer (along with CoMetrics, Cooperative Grocer Magazine, the Food Co-op Initiative and, possibly (it is not clear), the International Cooperative Alliance.

Both .coop corporations, CDSCC and NCG, sponsor the Cooperative Grocer Network  (formerly know as Co-operative Grocers’ Information Network, CGIN), along with the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) (see page footer). The Cooperative Grocer Network publishes the Cooperative Grocer Magazine.

CGIN is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(6) trade association, chartered in 1998. The CGIN website states: “In 2007, CGIN contracted with National Cooperative Grocers Association to assume responsibility for the management of CGIN.NCG, a “business services co-operative”, managed CGIN until 2011, when the contract was moved to Triangle Park Creative, which also published the Cooperative Grocer Magazine for NCG. The Cooperative Grocer Magazine, still published by “Triangle,” has been, since 2012, a publication of CGIN, now re-named the Co-operative Grocer Network. See CGN history here and membership information here.

A March 11, 2015 article in the international Cooperative News, entitled US Co-op Grocers are Sharing Data for Mutual Benefit, interviewing NCG Chief Executive Robynn Shrader and acting Chief Executive Tim Ferguson of CoMetrics (another partner with NCG, offering a shared data platform for NCG member co-ops) states, “The NCG has partnered with Cooperative Development Services [sic] and the National Co-operative Bank [and the NCB Development Corporation] for Food Co-op 500, an initiative to start-up new food stores.” [emphases added]

The Food Co-op 500 “a program to increase the number of retail grocery cooperatives from the current 300 to 500 in 10 years” and which was founded in 2005, led to the formation of a new 501(c)(3) not-for-profit in 2010, the Food Co-op Initiative, with the subheading, New co-ops start here.

Founding partners of the Food Coop Initiative include National Co+op Grocers, CDS Consulting Co-op, Cooperative Development Services, National Coop Bank, National Coop Bank capital impact, USDA Rural Development and the Blooming Prairie Foundation.

[10] Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel, ed. Christopher Tolkien. Beowulf  A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell. London: Harper Collins, 2014. The quote is taken from the publisher’s Book Overview on its U.K. webpage. Please see here, here and here.

May this American Indy food co-op saga eventually include the honest, generous and pleased Hrothgar bestowing gifts…

…or not. Participatory democracy has no room for kings, be they despotic …or benevolent.