THE WHOLESOME TRUTH – WELCOME TO MY BLOG

Proprietor Sally Hayes

Hello, I'm Sally Hayes and I run Tod Almighty.  I've started this blog because I want to offer some back-story on why we sell what we do, why we think some of our suppliers are brilliant, and ideas for living more sustainably.  I hope you enjoy reading it.  You can reply to any of the posts below (but replies are moderated to avoid spam) – I look forward to hearing from you!

Sally


Posts tagged 'Food production'...


Oato photo
Oato photo

Oato Floato

Another blog post from our young Georges:

It is suspicious, isn’t it, the recycling logo on a Tetra Pak carton. How does this bizarre assemblage of densely layered paper, plastic and aluminium, once smeared with some beverage, get cleaned and reassembled into a new version of itself? Well, it doesn’t. Tetra Paks are usually disassembled into pulp and additives for roofing tiles in a highly resource and water-intensive process. Better than nothing, but still not great given the quantities of milk substitute required by the tea-drinking public.

The alternative? Disregarding the highly muslin- and drudgery-intensive process of making your own, it seems that the solution has been staring us in the face the whole time: the humble milk float. Not only a pioneer of electric four-wheeled locomotion, milkmen also provided a sustainable system of collection and recycling of the glass bottles containing the milk. Fresh milk to your door, no need for UHT, not a mote of plastic in sight, and fully recyclable; it couldn’t last, it was too perfect for this new world of supermarkets and cars. And yet here are doorstep milk deliveries making a resurgence. Intermittent house arrest, coupled with an anxiety about the ever-expanding market power of supermarkets, seems to have people yearning for a familiar face bearing goods to the door once more.




And vegans aren’t excluded from the fun. Oato is a Lancashire company who take sustainable British grown oats and make into a really good creamy barrista milk that’s great in tea and coffee and is also enhanced with calcium and vitamins. Then they improve upon the inherent planetary benefits of plant-based milk alternatives by having them delivered to your door in a recyclable glass bottle. That they have signed a deal with a variety of regional dairies to have their oat milk delivered alongside cow’s milk by established, local family businesses is an impressively win-win situation. Milk delivery companies gain by future-proofing themselves against the potential shocks of a booming plant-based sector, and Oato gain by, as well as expanding delivery options, normalising their product by offering it alongside more traditional options, thereby enticing potentially reticent customers. Doorstep milk delivery carries with it a degree of cultural romanticism – familiarity for the old and retro-value for the young. For a bit of that normalising magic to rub off on oat milk can only be a good thing for vegan consumers seeking fresher, cheaper, greener, more convenient milk, as well as for cows hoping to give their teats a rest.

Oato-on-a-floato also represents an interesting development for the intergenerational environmental mudslinging which goes on in newspapers and local Facebook groups (potentially face-to-face conversations as well – I wouldn’t know as it’s been quite a while). You know how it goes, millennial blames older generation for the climate crisis, eliciting the rejoinder:

 “Well in my day we didn’t have all this plastic – we gave our glass bottles back to the milkman or took our pop bottles back to the shop for a penny but you can’t do that any more.”

How does the conversation change now that you can do that again? Hopefully it ends in people making a mental note (or phone note, for younger people who have outsourced their notetaking faculties) to get some revolutionary ethical fresh creamy goodness delivered by a harbinger of the old ways.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get the shops’ pop bottle recycling infrastructure back, too. It works pretty well in Germany. By the way, we sell Oato in the glass bottles from the chillers in the shop (for £1.25 per pint) – just bring us back your empties for reuse. Or you can get it straight from your own milkman.

 




Solar Foods – food from thin air

‘Food from thin air.’ Sounds very exciting doesn’t it? Like we’re living in some kind of Star Trek wonderland where everything’s powered by glowing blue cubes and public transport is functional. But here it is: Solar Foods’ Soylein. Originally invented by NASA and the Soviets to keep astronauts ticking along up there, and now brought to market by some clever Finns. Makes the whole ‘Spaceship Earth’ thing a whole lot more tangible. And it couldn’t have come at a better time: at the precise moment the mothership's air conditioning systems are being destroyed at record speed by loggers and cattle ranchers, some heroic scientists show up just in time to sever the sobering connection between population growth and land use. It's possible, guys! We can eat spaceman food and rewild the planet! Maybe?

Well, first of all: what is it? Soylein is a microbe found in nature, which can be fed on hydrogen, oxygen, CO2 and a few other chemical additives like ammonia to create a protein-rich, neutral-tasting foodstuff similar to soy. The great thing is that the hydrogen and oxygen particles can be created using electrolysis, leaving us with the power to effectively turn electricity into food. The environmental prospects look rosy. A recent study into the feasibility of creating Soylein using solar power found that its production uses a tenth of the land needed for the soy bean to provide the same amount of protein, and half the land needed by rice paddies to offer the same amount of calories. As these technologies improve, who knows how efficient food production could become?




But will people buy it? The fact that Soylein comes from a microbe rather than a plant might put some people off. Although people have been eating yoghurt cultures for a long time, kimchi and kombucha are gaining in popularity, and anyone who's had a bluish-green smoothie from a supermarket has probably ingested spirulina, so the normalisation of edible bacteria is well underway. And the taste? "Neutral, with a hint of umami." A blank canvas, then. And judging by the success of the Impossible Burger, This Isn't Bacon and Quorn Chicken Nuggets, the technology of turning miscellaneous protein mush into convincing meat substitutes is advancing rapidly and it probably won't be long until they can wrangle Soylein into something delicious and juicy. The only problems I can foretell are the reactionary forces of cultural meat-obsession (I can hear Jeremy Clarkson sneering at consumers of this newfangled space slime already) and the name (surely they could have picked something that doesn't sound like Soylent Green). Oh, and it won't fulfil our vitamin and micronutrient requirements, for which we'll have to keep around those boring old organic vegetable farms. Other than that... "Replicator, make me a ham sandwich!"

Of course, the law of unintended consequences is unavoidable. A lot of this cheap new protein might just be fed to more and more cows, leading to more methane production and hastening the antibiotic apocalypse. But that's where we come in, ethical consumers buying the innovative protein thing before it can find its way into a cow's mouth.

 



Insectageddon

Following on from reading young Georges’ post on organic growing, I found myself embarking on a riff about insects, which if you want you can read, below. Organic growing of course is ‘sustainable’ in that it doesn’t damage or take out more from the natural world than it puts in. So the use of toxic indiscriminate insecticides are banned, for example.

For many years I was an organic veg grower and over that time I developed quite a ‘professional’ interest in insects. I put them in three camps – ones to encourage (ladybirds, bees, lacewings, hover flies), ones to tolerate (all butterflies other than cabbage white, moths, grasshoppers, most beetles, wasps etc) and ones to exterminate as soon as I saw them (aphids, slugs, snails, cabbage white caterpillars, sawfly on gooseberries, fleabeetle on brassicas etc).




That was all very well when I am just head down in my own little veg patch and don’t look up to what’s happening in the wider world. But recently I’ve become aware of the terrifying prospect of the mass extinction of the vast majority of insect life that looks like it is actually happening right here and now, out there in natural world. You may have noticed yourselves that there are far fewer insects around nowadays – rarely see a bee, the clouds of insects that used to be over a flowering meadow reduced to a handful, no insects splatted on your car windscreen at night, – I remember hearing flies ‘murmering’ in trees when I was younger, in their untold thousands.  With no insects to eat, we will watch over the disappearance of robins, blue tits, blackbirds, thrushes, swallows, most of the song birds you hear now in the woods, small mammals such as field mice, dormice, voles, and then following up the food chain to the raptors like kestrel, barn owls, sparrowhawk, all the way up to golden eagle.

And of course so many of the insects, not just bees but very importantly them, act as pollinators for the fruit and vegetables that we grow and eat. Scientists don’t seem very certain what is fuelling this mass extinction, but they suspect pollutants such as insecticides and artificial fertilisers. So, with no food, it won’t only be ‘them’ – insects, birds, animals – that are affected... it will also be ‘us’. I now look at a cloud of midges dancing over water and instead of reaching for the insect repellent I feel glad that the swallows have something to eat after their long journey from Africa. Quite a change!

 



Organic veg
Organic veg

Organic Food – you know it makes sense

I’ve been growing and then selling organic fruit and veg for a long time, and I’m really pleased it’s getting more popular. I hope you enjoy the following blog post, it’s written by a young man called Georges Almond who has a passion for organic growing.

Apples in Southeast Asia are so coated in pesticides, that if you eat the skin you will become very sick. Sometimes it's good to look at extreme examples to better contextualise moderation. The poison may be in the dose, but how carefully are we moderating our dosage of pesticides? The amount of pesticides used has halved in weight since 1990, but land coverage and toxicity have increased considerably. Modern neonicotinoids, bane of bee and human alike, are ten thousand times more toxic than DDT. If it poisons the bugs, it’s probably poisoning us, too.




But with organic veg, you can dine with peace of mind. To earn the organic label, farmers are restricted to spraying their crops with nothing stronger than the likes of citronella and clove oil. In organic agriculture, a greater emphasis is placed on the introduction of predatory insects (ladybirds to hunt aphids) and the tactical placement and rotation of crops in order to reduce the effects of weeds and pesky critters nibbling at your lettuce, whilst accepting that any attempt to completely eradicate them is foolish and unnecessarily destructive.

As a result of being kinder to the ecosystem, organic produce is also kinder to your body. Soil depletion due to over-intensive chemical agriculture means the average non-organic carrot is much less nutritious nowadays than it would have been just decades ago, with significantly reduced levels of magnesium, zinc and vitamin E. Organic farmers rehabilitate their environment by switching out chemical fertilisers for compost (among other measures). Healthier soil means healthier customers.

Much has been made of claims that organic agriculture would, if scaled up to meet the needs of every household in the UK, produce more CO2 than the current system. The current system of chemical-intensive agriculture can, admittedly, produce more food to a more predictable schedule, increasing energy-efficiency and making us less dependent on overseas imports. But this is only one small part of the -food- doesnt-deserve-such-bad-press/" target="_blank">whole story. The aforementioned study worked off a prediction of a 100% shift to organic, catering to current demand for vegetables. Cultural trends towards eating seasonally available produce and reducing waste are only just beginning, and as organic market share increases, improvements to efficiency are inevitable. Added to this, a highly efficient agricultural system which depletes the nutrients of the soil is only going to lead to soil degradation and desertification faster than a less efficient one. If we are headed over a cliff-edge, why would we want to go faster?

Finally, the cultural and psychological benefits of a strong organic food industry are immeasurable. Chemical-intensive agriculture is borne of a reductive and mechanistic mindset which reduces the relationship of humanity to nature to one of extraction and domination. Organic agriculture is a positive step towards understanding the complexity of nature and working with its already existing systems to create a more harmonious co-existence and ensure the continued thriving of both parties. I think that’s worth supporting.

 



Fair Trade and rainbows

We try to get in as much Fair Trade stock as we can in the shop, so we have quite a lot of the teas, coffees and chocolate that are fairly traded. Plus a few other things like pineapple chunks, rubber gloves and peanut butter. What is Fair Trade? Well, as the Fair Trade Foundation says... "Fairtrade means fairer pay and more power in the hands of farmers, so that they can create change for us all, from investing in climate friendly farming techniques and clean water for their community, to nurturing women leaders and making sure children get an education. When you choose Fairtrade, you’re choosing the world you want to see."

It’s the classic thing of the pound in your pocket having the potential to profoundly affect people’s lives, as well as the environment. It’s also 'fair' in that you are paying the price you should for a sustainable product, rather than paying less than it is worth and kicking the cost of the environmental implications down the road for future generations. So, we think it is a JOLLY GOOD THING and there should be more of it all the time there is a need for it. Which there certainly is at the moment, unfortunately.




Which is why I was tempted to try some rather nice 'non food' items of stock for a change. Shared Earth is a company that is dedicated to fair trade and with a mission to 'To improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people in developing countries, benefiting local community projects and keeping alive traditional skills that would otherwise be lost.' (read more about them here: https://www.sharedearth.co.uk/). And they do a lot of rainbow stuff, and I have been obsessed with rainbows for years and finally everybody else seems to be joining me in my little multi-coloured arching happy space!

So I’ve taken the plunge and now you can buy all sorts of stuff, from rainbow teapots to jute shopping bags to rag rugs, plus loads of other new stock like incense sticks, essential oil defusers, glass suncatchers, hand carved wooden trivets and coasters, colourful mosaic mirrors, and loads more (see elsewhere on this website) – all made from sustainable or recycled materials and all ideal for a useful and cheering present either to yourself or for some other lucky person.

We all need to keep cheerful!

 



Clare, Graham, Krista and Sally (waving) outside the new shop.
Clare, Graham, Krista and Sally (waving) outside the new shop.

Welcome to the Tod Almighty blog!

Hi there, and welcome to Tod Almighty's new blog! We are delighted to have our own blog at last and many thanks to my brother John Hayes of Webmaker.UK for doing such a fantastic job with setting it up. Here we're hoping to give our customers a bit more background information about our shop, our ethics, the stories behind our suppliers and stock, and about how you can reduce your plastic waste and your impact on the environment. As well as other things, like recipes etc.

Let me introduce ourselves. I'm Sally – the one with grey hair in the photo above, and I've been involved in sustainability and organic food, both as a grower,a producer, a parent and a shopkeeper for rather a long time. I work with some fantastic people in the shop – Clare, Graham, Krista, Rowan, Sayaka, and the other Clair – and in fact we are just recruiting, so if you are looking for work you could get in touch.




Our aim in the shop is to enable our customers to reduce their plastic waste by buying refills, eat a healthy vegan diet with as many organic choices as possible, to support other local businesses, and to behave responsibility and respectfully to the earth, its animals, its people and the environment. We're also keen to do our bit towards tackling climate change, which will probably be the biggest challenge we have ever had to deal with in our history. Phew!

But here on the blog we aim to be interesting – hopefully – and to have some fun!

Lots of refill cannisters for customers to fill their own containers
Lots of refill cannisters for customers to fill their own containers

We also bag-up the bulk wholefoods into compostable cellophane bags
We also bag-up the bulk wholefoods into compostable cellophane bags
 



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