The New Farmers: Young, Idealistic, Organic

Retirement is a quaint concept for many farmers. While some cannot afford to retire, many stay on the land because it is what they love, and also what they want to pass along to their children. Perhaps the most inspiring example of lifelong devotion to this noble craft is One Degree farmer Arnold Schmidt, who at age 86 likes to joke that “life is just now beginning to get interesting.”

Although Arnold is in many ways a remarkable outlier, he is part of a broader statistical trend in North America. “The average age of U.S. farmers has been climbing for decades and is now 58,” reports the Associated Press. “A large concern is that the number of farmers past typical retirement age is growing faster than those under age 35, meaning the pipeline could be emptying faster than it’s filling up.”

The AP noticed another trend: For those young people who do become farmers, many are motivated by such core values as sustainability and environmental consciousness. And they also tend to be more likely to embrace organic methods. “Organic farmers tend to be younger — 53 years old in the latest agricultural census,” says the AP.

“‘They tend to be very interested in local, they tend to be very interested in organic as the future path they want to travel on,’ said Kathleen Merrigan, who traveled extensively when she was deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ‘They tend to be college graduates, and from a whole lot of different disciplines.’

“Merrigan, who now runs the sustainability program at George Washington University, said while there are many young people who want to get into farming, the hard part for many of them is being able to stay in business, given steep costs of land and equipment.

“Organic farms can actually provide a quicker route to profits because farmers can fetch higher prices. Premiums paid to organic farmers can range 29 to 32 percent above conventional prices, according to a study published this summer by Washington State University researchers. That means an organic farmer can make a living on fewer acres. …

“The back-to-the-land philosophy of organic agriculture also fits in with millennials’ well-documented interest in healthy food.”

As farmer Nate Lewis, 32, told the AP: “I think there’s an element of it being hip and cool … and it’s an alternative. So it’s not run of the mill. It’s about the earth.” And 25-year-old farmer Leanna Mulvihill noted: “You’re not going into farming when you’re a young person now if you’re not idealistic.”

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Recipe: Sprouted Red Fife Rosemary Skillet Bread

There are few smells as good as homemade bread baking. We love how easy this skillet bread is to make quickly, and our sprouted Red Fife flour gives it a wonderful flavor. A piece enjoyed warm and dipped in a little olive oil is absolute perfection.

Sprouted Red Fife Rosemary Skillet Bread

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1 teaspoon organic sugar

2 cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/3 cup One Degree Organics Red Fife Flour

1 2/3 cups organic all-purpose flour

Olive oil

Coarse salt

Rosemary leaves



Oil a 10” or 12” cast iron skillet; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water; set aside until frothy.

Using a wooden spoon, add the chopped rosemary leaves, salt and flour 1 cup at a time. Mix until completely incorporated.

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

After the rise, do not punch down the dough, but with lightly oiled hands gently remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a round disk and transfer to the prepared skillet.

Loosely cover with a towel and let rise for an additional 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and a few rosemary leaves.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown.

One Degree Film Premiere: On Golden Prairie

For Jean Hediger, matriarch of Colorado’s Golden Prairie, family is the secret to successful farming, and also its greatest reward. Three generations of Hedigers now live on the family’s land, 3,400 acres of rich organic fields outside Fort Collins.

The story of this extraordinary family is the focus of an inspiring new One Degree film. These video farm documentaries, accompanied by feature articles and photos, are where transparency comes alive for our brand, as well as for our customers.

“Farming isn’t a business, it’s a lifestyle, especially organic farming,” Jean told us as we toured fields planted with millet, a hearty ancient grain. “It’s a total immersion and commitment to a process, to our planet and to food consumers. We consider ourselves to be extremely lucky to be able to farm high quality organic foods. We’re the lucky ones to do a job we love.”

Millet is a rare sight among North America’s waves of monoculture grains. Golden Prairie’s high elevation, cool nights and warm summer days make it the perfect location for cultivating an abundant harvest. In turn, millet is perfect for health-conscious customers: The farm’s signature grain is rich in nutrients, including zinc, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, niacin, B vitamins, riboflavin, folate, magnesium and essential amino acids. It’s high in protein and fiber, certified gluten-free, and great for anyone with wheat sensitivities.

As you’ll notice in our film, Jean warmed quickly to One Degree’s concept of total transparency. “We care about who we work with,” she says. “I’m blessed to say I don’t have to work with everybody who wants to work with us, there’s such a demand for our product. I love working with great companies. We’re all lucky to have each other. I’m ecstatic to be working with a company that really cares about where their food comes from.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m really interested in being associated with One Degree. Transparency in agriculture and in all parts of life is essential. We think helping consumers see where their food comes from and the process is essential, to understand. Any company that’s interested in going this far to educate the consumer — it’s a bravo from us.”

We invite you to spend some time on the Colorado plains savoring the hospitality of the Hediger family. Begin your visit with our film premiere below. Or enjoy the video along with photos and an essay on our Web site:

Recipe: Chia Maple Granola with Sprouted Brown Rice Crisps

It is so important to start the day off with a good breakfast, and with a bowl full of this granola topped with fresh berries, sliced bananas or simply with a splash of almond milk you’ll be ready for whatever the day brings your way.


3 cups One Degree Organics Quick Oats

1 cup One Degree Organics Sprouted Brown Rice Crisps

1 cup pecans

4 tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine the first 6 ingredients and mix well. Add the liquid ingredients and stir until well combined.

Spread granola out evenly on to a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour until lightly golden.


EDC Pesticides Tied to Diabetes, Obesity

Scientists analyzing recent studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals have found new evidence of serious public health impacts. Adding to an already long list of hazards, EDCs have now been linked to increased risks of diabetes and obesity in human populations.

Broad categories of pesticides are classified as endocrine disruptors. The substances interfere with normal cell development by imitating or blocking the hormones the body relies upon to send chemical messages to key organs and systems.

University of Texas professor Andrea Gore chaired the group of Endocrine Society scientists who presented a statement on EDC dangers at the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Geneva last month. She told the Medical Xpress news service: “The evidence is more definitive than ever before — EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health. Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in humans, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals.”

Greater risks for obesity and diabetes start early in the life cycle. “The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed to EDCs,” notes Medical Xpress. “Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of EDCs during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life. Similarly, animal studies found that some EDCs directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body — risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. …

“The [Endocrine Society’s] Scientific Statement also examines evidence linking EDCs to reproductive health problems, hormone-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer, prostate conditions, thyroid disorders and neurodevelopmental issues. Although many of these conditions were linked to EDCs by earlier research, the number of corroborating studies continues to mount. …

“Known EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts, phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides. The chemicals are so common that nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more.”

A 2011 study appearing in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlighted the major role conventional agriculture plays in spreading these toxins: “Many chemicals that have been identified as endocrine disruptors are pesticides. About 105 substances can be listed. … Of these, 46% are insecticides, 21% herbicides and 31% fungicides; some of them were withdrawn from general use many years ago but are still found in the environment.”

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New Film: Paraguay’s Alquimia Farmers

Our ingredient expedition through Paraguay this past spring was a voyage of discovery. At every turn, we found stories of hope, sacrifice and joy.

The newest One Degree film provides a panoramic view of these travels, tracing a path through small towns like Naranjito and Choré, where farmers labor on 10-hectare plots to feed their families and keep pace with the boundless dreams of their children.

Beyond the frame of each farmer portrait is a larger picture, the story of the man who created a business that helps sustain many of these farmers. Two decades ago, Dr. Sergio Demp came from Argentina to set up a rural clinic, and ended up as founder of an agricultural coop that would become a great modernizing force in the lives of the people.

His patients were poor, but paid him with what was dear to them — pure harvests of beans, chia and ancient grains — and this bounty soon filled many warehouses. And so Alquimia was born, a company that today is a partner to so many Paraguayan farmers, supplying seeds, marketing crops, advising in the fields, and lifting communities.

“For the delivery of a baby, sometimes the doctor would receive a little piglet, or several kilos of beans, even chicken eggs,” Alquimia operations manager Pedro Linares recounts with a smile.

“[Today] we train the people to do organic production, but we also have to provide them with collateral services,” he explains. “We give them tractors to use, special implements to move the land, hoes and harvesters. We provide those; they can’t afford that. When we see that a farmer is going to be ready for harvesting say on Monday, we’ll send that machine, and as soon as he is finished using it we pass it to his neighbor. We own four tractors for that purpose, and we have four motorized units farmers can use to clean the crops before they are sent to our plant for processing.”

“The father of the company would always tell us, if you want to help in Paraguay it’s not to give money, it’s to give work to the people,” adds Alquimia commercial manager Tamara Pfeiffer, articulating the coop’s guiding philosophy. “If you give seeds and work to the people, the people in Paraguay love to garden and farm, and are so proud to grow crops that customers around the world want to buy.”

We invite you to spend some time sharing the inspiring stories of these hardworking family farmers. Begin your visit with our film premiere below. Or enjoy the video along with photos and an essay on our Web site:


American Garden: Ketchup and Fries

In a land blessed with a natural agricultural inheritance of rich diversity, the average consumer prefers to choose from a narrow, nutrient-poor menu of mealtime choices.

“Nearly 50 percent of vegetables and legumes available in the U.S. in 2013 were either tomatoes or potatoes,” writes Tracie McMillan, author of the book The American Way of Eating. “Lettuce came in third as the most available vegetable.”

Notably, many of these potatoes have been sheared into french fries, and the tomatoes are likely to have been layered onto pizza slices or squeezed into plastic condiment containers. To create this flattened food pyramid, the modern American hunter-gatherer forages close to home, returning with paper-wrapped feasts captured at the end of spirited pursuits down the drive-thru lane.

“The federal dietary guidelines do not recommend relying primarily on potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce for most of our vegetable needs,” McMillan notes. “They prescribe a varied mix that includes dark leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, and beans — along with those potatoes and tomatoes. And they want us to eat them because they help reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers as well as help keep us at a healthy weight.

“So the vegetables that are available don’t really match what we’re supposed to be eating. What about what we are actually eating?

“Some 87 percent of adults failed to meet the vegetable intake recommendations during 2007-2010, according to recent survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Most people are likely to be eating tomatoes and potatoes, but as the USDA has noted, we often get them in the not-so-nutritious forms of french fries and pizza. About one-third of potatoes, and two-thirds of tomatoes, were bound for processing — think chips, sweetened pizza sauce and ketchup.”

The data seem to lead inescapably to that classic quandary: Which came first, the McChicken or the McGriddle With Egg? Or as the author more soberly frames it: “All these numbers beg some questions: Do our lopsided habits mean that Americans are merely eating what’s on offer, a kind of supply-side theory of diet? Or are all those potatoes and tomatoes crowding out spinach and Brussels sprouts because they’re what consumers demand?”

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Heirlooms Harvest the Past, Sow the Future

Heirloom fruits, vegetables and grains do more than awaken extraordinary flavors. They rekindle memories, evoking special places and times. They tell vivid stories, and challenge every listener to imagine a world without them.

Such a bland and dreary world is just one planting season away for many heirloom varieties. In her new book, Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes & Other Forgotten Foods, sociologist Jennifer Jordan travels through fields and orchards to reclaim an almost lost heritage of biodiversity. Along the way, she discovers the secret to these plants’ incredible emotional appeal — roots that reach deep into culture, traditions and treasured genealogies.

“There are many motivations for seeking out heirloom varieties,” she writes. “[N]ot only for flavor, novelty, resilience, and the preservation of biodiversity, but because of childhood memories of eating particular fruits and vegetables, or shared stories of a specific seed, tuber, or graft. Many seed savers see themselves as stewards, not only of their own family memories but of the shared stories and genetic codes contained within these plants. This kind of recollection works against collective forgetting and the widespread disappearance of so many agricultural plants. … Old localized, traditional varieties of plants and animals fell (or were pushed) out of everyday use as agriculture became increasingly large scale, industrialized, and standardized, relying on ever fewer varieties in order to achieve the high levels of uniformity and predictability expected not only by stockholders but also by grocery store shoppers. The loss of biodiversity also means a broader form of forgetting. These genes connect many people to the past, to the ways people gardened [and] farmed … in their own families or in far-off places. …

“Large old apple trees are just one example. Orchards full of standard apple trees (as opposed to dwarf and semi-dwarf) that grow to twenty-five feet once containing tremendous biodiversity were felled by the thousands as developers subdivided farms and orchards, built houses, and carved roads and freeways into the changing landscape. Apple production became more standardized and centralized, shifting from tall trees in backyards and farms and small orchards to short trees in large orchards growing only a few varieties.”

In her travels, the author did find reason for hope, as myriad individuals and communities now embrace the moral mission of preserving heirloom plants for the future: “One of the last trips I took before finishing the final draft of this book was to the Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout in Decorah, Iowa. In one of the show gardens, seeds are grown out that have been sent in by members across the country, with little signs that recount their particular stories. These plants thus contribute to both a thriving seed bank and a garden full of visitors learning about varieties of edible plants once doomed to either obscurity or extinction. The seeds themselves then also become available through the Seed Savers Exchange catalog and website, filling gardens across the country and even around the world.”

Discover more here:

Sprouted Spelt Plum Cardamon Galette

This flavorful, juicy plum tart with a light and flaky spelt crust is a favorite dessert of ours and is easy to assemble quickly.




1 1/2 cups One Degree Organics Sprouted Spelt Flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

8 tablespoons coconut oil, cold or room temperature


15-18 Italian plums

1/4 cup + 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar, divided

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder

1/8 teaspoon cardamon



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

To make the crust:

Whisk together the Sprouted Spelt Flour and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add in the coconut oil and mix until the dough resembles a coarse meal. Add the water and, using your hands, gently mix together. Be careful not to over mix. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.


To make the filling:

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the coconut palm sugar, cornstarch, vanilla powder and cardamon. Set aside.

Remove the pits from the plums and slice into wedges.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and carefully roll out in to an oval shape on the prepared baking sheet.

Spread the coconut palm sugar filling mixture evenly onto the crust to within 2 inches of the edge. Arrange the plum wedges on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar. Fold the edge of the dough up over the plums to create a 2-inch border. If the dough feels cold and firm, wait a few minutes until it softens to prevent it from cracking.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Let cool slightly before slicing.


Gene Drive: Biotech at Warp Speed

In a few short years, the technology that led to the creation of GMO plants — and a worldwide disruption of agricultural systems — may seem as quaint as a pale plastic Macintosh, or as ponderous as a magnetic-tape UNIVAC.

“Gene drive,” a new laboratory technique emerging on biotech’s far frontier, is changing the way scientists understand and engineer inheritance. Its ability to transform life’s code at the cellular level has been compared to a viral infection or nuclear chain reaction. If all works according to theory, the changes to an organism targeted for gene-drive modification would be rapid, permanent and alarmingly unpredictable. Advocates for the technology promise weeds that lower defenses to profitable herbicides, mosquitoes that avoid family picnics like the plague, and even young rodents unwilling to carry on the family business of dispensing a plague. Critics imagine a dystopia of genetic terrorism, virulent pandemics and immense ecological devastation.

“Geneticists have tried using genome-editing tools to build custom gene drives, but the process was laborious and expensive,” Tim De Chant and Eleanor Nelsen explain in PBS’ popular NOVA documentary series. “With the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome editing tool in 2012, though, that barrier evaporated. CRISPR is an ancient bacterial immune system which identifies the DNA of invading viruses and sends in an endonuclease, like Cas9, to chew it up. Researchers quickly realized that Cas9 could easily be reprogrammed to recognize nearly any sequence of DNA. …

“Gene drives and Cas9 are each powerful on their own, but together they could significantly change biology. CRISRP-Cas9 allows researchers to edit genomes with unprecedented speed, and gene drives allow engineered genes to cheat the system, even if the altered gene weakens the organism. Simply by being coupled to a gene drive, an engineered gene can race throughout a population before it is weeded out.”

Britain’s Independent newspaper notes that gene drive technology will allow laboratory-designed mutations “to be amplified within a breeding population of insects or other animals without any further intervention once the trait has been initially introduced. This is the case even if the trait is non-beneficial to the organism. Laboratory experiments on fruit flies have shown that a modified gene introduced into one individual fly can take just a few generations to ‘infect’ practically every other fly in the breeding population, in defiance of the normal rules of genetics which dictate a far slower spread.”

“Researchers once spent months, even years, attempting to rewrite an organism’s DNA. Now they spend days,” observe the PBS authors. “With gene drives — so named because they drive a gene through a population — researchers just have to slip a new gene into a drive system and let nature take care of the rest. Subsequent generations of whatever species we choose to modify — frogs, weeds, mosquitoes — will have more and more individuals with that gene until, eventually, it’s everywhere.”

One prominent gene drive researcher captured the promise and peril of this brave new world. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Kevin Esvelt told the Independent: “If we’re right about this, it’s a powerful advance that could make the world a much better place. But only if we use it wisely.”

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