I would be very interested to know how many of you are making an effort to buy locally produced goods, whether US-made or within a 100-mile radius. I know I am. We have great natural food stores in El Cerrito and I am a big fan of local farmers markets in the Bay Area and Upstate NY – though I make a beeline to the closest market anywhere I travel. [show photos of market in Cambodia] I love the colors and textures of the goods, the smells, the bustle and bargaining. It’s such a different experience to the sterility of grocery store shopping, where it seems the goal is to make you feel as disconnected as possible from the source of your food and the act of farming. I like knowing where my food comes from and that I’m investing in my community and values I hold dear, like sustainable land management and keeping small family farms in business.
However, the reality is that we are also products of globalization. Every day it’s clearer to me that we are citizens of Planet Earth. Instant communications connect us to family, friends and colleagues in almost every part of the world. For me, what remains constant are the values. As a company, we view ourselves as part of a global family, and want to be part of supporting sustainable agriculture and the preservation of ecosystems in parts of the world that most need our support as US consumers. Lotus Foods works closely with family farmers and farmer cooperatives to produce rice sustainably in some of the most important biozones of the world. Two of our products, our SRI rices grown sustainably in Madagascar and Cambodia, are in regions the WWF has specifically designated as bio hotspots. By giving a price premium for ecological rice production, Lotus Foods is helping to ensure that these zones are protected from industrialized agriculture and stay in community hands. In the absence of strong local markets, companies like Lotus Foods are an essential driver in contributing to vibrant rural economies. Our engagement is helping breathe momentum into fledgling organic movements in Cambodia, Indonesia and Madagascar.
From the viewpoint of environmental efficiency, the rices we sell probably have less impact than most conventionally grown rice in the US, even when one factors in the transportation. SRI-produced rice uses half the water of normal rice and of course all of our organic and SRI rices use no chemical fertilizers. And the labor is done by hand not by machine. That is something that cannot be said for the vast majority of rice produced in the United States, which involves extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides –all of which are derived from fossil fuels and use fossil-fuels in their production. Not to mention the use of planes and heavy machinery for crop seeding and harvesting. From a net resource perspective, the labor-heavy rather than capital-heavy methods of the developing world tend to be far less environmentally intensive and a better bet for a low-carbon diet.
While imported items typically do have a larger carbon footprint in terms of transportation when they are imported by airplane, boats are one of the most energy efficient methods of transportation out there. A colleague recently calculated that the carbon impact of our Forbidden Rice, just in terms of transportation, is less than a product moved 955 miles by truck from Portland to Los Angeles. We’re starting this month to work with a group of Berkeley students to help us get a better grip on this issue. Stay tuned. We’ll post the results on our website.
Nutty Indonesian Volcano Rice Pilaf
By Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, The Veggie Queen™
This rice is rich and nutty so the sweetness of the carrots and onion, along with the spices complement it, and the nuts highlight the flavor of the rice. The color of the carrots adds interest. You can add any other of your favorite vegetables, or add a cooked lean protein when serving the rice. It makes a great salad the next day.
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 4 cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 1 cup Indonesian volcano rice
- 1 ¾ cup vegetable broth or water
- ¼ cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Grating of fresh nutmeg
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrot and cardamom pods and sauté another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for a few minutes. Remove the cardamom pods, add salt and pepper. Fluff the rice by stirring quickly. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top of the rice and sprinkle with the almonds.
Serves 4 as a side dish