Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is vegan sugar?

My daughter asked me why we buy the two pound bag of organic vegan sugar that costs the same as a five pound bag of regular sugar. What makes sugar vegan?

She was too small to remember, but we took a vacation to Australia in 2003. On the shuttle through Queensland, we drove past many sugar cane fields. A blur of a fast-moving animal caught my eye as it crossed the road and ran into the sugar cane.

I asked the driver what kind of animal lives in the cane. He replied that quite a few animals live in the cane fields.

Then we passed some cane that had been cut by a mechanical harvester.

"What happens to the animals when the cane is cut?"

"They become animal by-catch."

I told him that I just went off sugar.

Then he said that there were more reasons to go off sugar. He told us about all the chemicals that are sprayed on the sugar cane. Then the cane is cut, crushed, and the juices collected--chemicals, animal by-catch and all*.

Vegan sugar is made from hand-cut sugar cane, which gives the animals a chance to get away.

We've been buying organic vegan sugar ever since. The cost is revenue-neutral because I was looking for an excuse to cut down on our family's sugar intake anyway.

* In theory, the animal blood and guts are removed in the sugar refining steps. Our family does not eat vegan, but we didn't like the idea of "regular" sugar after we learned how it is made.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Walk the farm to help Japanese farmers

Looking for another opportunity to help?

Farmer Glenn Tanaka is an active volunteer with the Orange Coast Optimist (youth) club.  The kids were deeply affected by the earthquake in Japan and the plight of farmers that lost their crops due to the tsunami and radioactive contamination (or the perception of contamination).

They wanted to raise money to help those farmers and they will be hosting a special Walk the Farm fundraiser on June 18, 2011 at Tanaka Farms. 
Your $20 donation to "Walk the Farm" includes:

- Scenic view as you "Walk the Farm"
- Bottled water
- Sampling of fruits and vegetables from around the farm
- Shaved ice
- Hot Dog/Hamburger lunch
- The knowledge that you are helping a community to rebuild their farms

- T-shirts are available for $10 and can be ordered when registering.
Normally, the cookout tour costs $24/20 (adults/kids).  On this occasion, the cost is a mere $20.  Moreover, it is 100% tax-deductible because 100% of the proceeds will go to the OCO club, a 503(c) non-profit organization, which will funnel the money to Japanese farmers.

Become a gleaner

Image of Jean Fran├žois Millet's painting, the Gleaners, courtesy of USC.

Gleaning is the practice of salvaging food after the commercial harvesters are done.  For instance, my high school biology class took a field trip to a vineyard to glean grapes left on the vine after the mechanical harvesting was done.  We used the grapes to ferment some wine for our microbiology unit.  In Millet's day, peasants used to glean to stave off starvation.

Today, farmer Glenn Tanaka donates his leftover harvest to the food banks fun by South County Outreach and Families Forward in Irvine.  Together, they provide fresh produce to up to 350 families in need.

Do you want to help farmer Glenn help hungry families?  Sign up to glean on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon this summer.  This is a great way to teach your kids where their food comes from, and to be mindful of others who may not otherwise have access to clean and healthy food.

Find out more about gleaning at Tanaka Farms.  Up to 25 helpers are needed for
  • Wednesday, June 1, 3:30 pm
  • Monday, June 6, 3:30 pm
  • Wednesday, June 8, 3:30 pm
  • Monday, June 13, 3:30 pm
  • Wednesday, June 15, 3:30 pm  
RSVP to Glenn@TanakaFarms.com