Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic

All of this content comes to us from a comment on a previous post. Tom Hedrick (his farm) said it perfectly and so no need for my commentary.

Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic

Another topic I think lots of us would be interested in is the significant difference between “Certified Naturally Grown” and “Organic”. Organic certification is really a barrier to entry for most small farmers. From the Wikipedia article, “To be Certified Organic (as opposed to Certified Naturally Grown) in the US, a grower must keep detailed records of planting, cultivation, fertilization, harvest, and storage, and must pay for both organization membership and periodic inspection. This process works well for large-scale commercial growers, but becomes onerous for small mixed-agriculture farms. Since only certified seeds may be used, the varieties available to be grown are limited, and sustainable practices such as seed-saving is not permitted, unless the farmer also applies to be certified as a seed supplier.

Certified Naturally Grown farmers follow the USDA standards of the National Organic Program, but the record keeping and inspection process is tailored to accommodate the needs of small-scale mixed-agriculture farmers, and are not normally permitted to use the word “organic”. Farmers commit to act as inspectors. Farmer-Inspectors are uniquely qualified to observe and note whether their neighbors are sticking to the standards, and are encouraged to provide helpful feedback, which helps foster a sense of community and sharing. Inspection forms are posted on the Internet for anytime public access, and all farms are subject to random pesticide residue testing. All in all, the CNG procedure requires significantly less paperwork, yet arguably results in more transparency and fostering of better farming practices, than the Certified Organic process, which primarily depends on farmer declarations backed by copious paperwork, and which inspects the paperwork rather than the farm.”

Support biodiversity, encourage the use of open pollinated seeds for seed saving and sharing. Remember nothing tastes better or is better for you than an heirloom fruit or vegetable!


On CSA’s – Community Supported Agriculture

Regarding getting ultra-fresh food, there is one thing that I haven’t seen you mention and that is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It alleviates much of the very valid concerns that Kelcy brought up. For instance, when you go to the local farmer’s market, you have no idea how their produce is grown. Do they use herbicides and pesticides and tons of water soluble fertilizers? Did they raise their livestock on free range grasses chock full of Omega-3’s or was it just a small-scale version of the high production farms? Were those animals slaughtered in a humane manner? CSA’s give the consumer an opportunity to truly develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown; annual or even more frequent farm visits are encouraged. Check out this link, plug in your zip and find a CSA near you:

Local Harvest

Another great read is the late John Seymour’s book, A Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It.

It doesn’t get any fresher than if you grow it yourself. Doesn’t even require much space and you can put that compost to great use even if it is just a container garden on a city balcony.

Also there was a question above of what to eat in the winter when local farms are not producing. Community farmers throughout the US even in northernmost states are noticing a great return on minimum investment by using High Tunnels (cheap plastic cold frames that greatly extend the growing season).

High Tunnels

keep up the good work


Cravings Don’t Make You Fat

2968102780_7ca4f9bec7Cravings don’t make you fat. Being inactive doesn’t make you fat. On the flip side working out will not stop you from being fat. Diets won’t help either.

It’s all about the food.

It’s the food you put into your body. Every bite and every morsel.

It’s very simple. Put food, real food, into your body and you will lose weight.

The complex part is determining what real food is. Nobody really knows anymore. Most of us know more about the “recommended daily nutritional intake” than we do about ripe fruit. Our minds are inundated with marketing slogans. They come upon us so fast that we have become accustomed to new products and new “needs”, like new non-fat cookies.

If you separate yourself from the swhirl of science, diets, and nutrition, it’s actually very easy. Somewhere out there exists real food. Take a trip to the farmers markets and you will see it. It’s not in a bag and its not in a box. Its just sitting there in a pile after being picked from the ground, tree, or bush.

You can buy and eat an apple and feel good. You could also buy a can of chopped apples and not feel good. The reason why this is so is simple too.

The fresher your food the better it is. If it was picked yesterday and you ate it today then it was the best for you. It also helps to have it picked during its peak maturity and not when its to young. Almost nothing in your local supermarket is fresh. All of it is picked too early or arriving weeks later. Often items in cans and boxes are months older (some don’t even go bad).

And, the older food is the worse it is for you. The impact it will have on you decreases over time. I have no research, yet, to give you real numbers, but I will posit that one fresh apple does as much for you as ten canned apples. If this is true, we can eat much less food, orders of magnitude less.

This could mean less money spent on food and less time cooking. It could mean a natural way to lose weight. It could mean no more diets, no more overeating, and no more cravings. It just could mean that.

A theoretical example. A craving hits for some vitamin C. Pop a vitamin C pill and you’re still hungry. Eat brocolli that is picked before its ready and a week old. The amount of vitamin C in that piece is probably very small, so you’re still craving some vitamin C. Okay, then pop the vitamin C pill and then eat 3x as much brocolli. Now you might feel satiated. Chances are you’re not. There are not many people I know who get full, stop eating, and go about their day. Most eat, feel tired, and start thinking about their next meal.

Now just imagine eating a piece of fresh brocolli. You get a powerful dose of vitamin C as well as a powerful dose of many other nutrients. Craving is satiated. You’re full. Energy abounds, mind activates, and you go about your day.

Again, it could be possible.

Now, I leave you with these thoughts. They are radical yet natural. The science is not there, but sometimes science can be corrupted. Try this fresh food for yourself. I have and so have many of my friends and family. There is no mistaking the impact it has had on us. Perhaps you can join us and experience the same liberating healthy food that we have.

Summer Celebration At Eastwinds

Summer Party at Eastwinds

We are throwing a party!

Come on over to Eastwinds for some food, friends, music, and good times. This event is going to be an exciting fun filled evening with music, door prizes, raffle giveaways and more. It’s the perfect way to spend your Sunday evening.

This is a charity event with a donation of $25. Your donation is tax deductible and gets free food, door prizes, and wine. The food will be some of the most popular dishes in Orange County created by Ned Sheng owner of EastWinds:

  • Twin Season Shrimp
  • Avocado Wontons
  • Mongolian Beef
  • Egg Foo Young

Ned will also be offering drink specials on some of his best drinks like the

  • Pink Geisha
  • Plum Sake
  • East Winds Iced Tea
  • Hawaiian Sake Punch
  • Chocolate Buttercup
  • Sake Sling


The party will be at Eastwinds Asian Cuisine in Huntington Beach on Sunday July 12 from 5-8pm. Reservations are required.


  • 7114 Edinger Avenue – Huntington Beach, CA 92647 (google maps)
  • From LA: take the 405 to exit 18 for Golden W St/Bolsa Ave – go 2 blocks – turn left just past Edinger
  • From SD: take the 405 – exit onto Beach Blvd/CA-39 – turn right on Edinger – go two blocks – turn into the shopping center


  • Door Prizes/Raffle
  • Local Recycled Art on Display
  • Free Asian Fusion Food
  • Amazing Drink Specials
  • Friends, Family and Good Times!


To reserve your spot please RSVP using PayPal below. The charity event is $25 per person. This includes food, drink specials, door prizes, and a tax deductible donation.


We are looking for sponsors for our event to contribute at the Green ($100) and Super Green ($250) levels. To donate please contact us at (steve@acleanlife.org) (202-683-8675).

Guest List & Sponsors

  1. Ned ShengTitleHeader
  2. Scott McKimmey
  3. Jessica Liston
  4. Ian Hornstein
  5. Matt Johnston
  6. Steven J. Mandzik
  7. Shawn MandzikPicture 1
  8. Steven A. Mandzik
  9. Eric Zuercher
  10. Amy Senger
  11. Krystal Burnett
  12. Elliott Ho
  13. Daniel Morgan
  14. Sarah Ward
  15. Daniel Queiroz
  16. Nick Calvert
  17. Melissa Calvert
  18. Erica Liston
  19. Scott Freyman
  20. Nicky Lundstrom
  21. Chris Powell
  22. Spencer Mandzik
  23. Susan Mandzik

Fresh Food is Not Expensive!

My baby girl challenged me to post my spending habits. Below are all of my purchases for as far back as I can grab. It reflects money spent on only fresh local food since June 1, 2009. Before that it is a mix of grocery stores, whole foods, 7 Eleven, and others.

The point of this is to show that fresh local food is not expensive. I even find it less expensive!

Should you want to try this too remember, like anything in life, it is a process. It’s taken me years to get to this point and become comfortable with the new lifestyle. But, what an amazing lifestyle it is.

After one month completely on the fresh food diet I am tempted to call it the Perfect Diet. My cravings are gone, I don’t think about food anymore, I workout less, I’m losing more weight, and frankly I’m in the best shape of my life. Further, I have shown this lifestyle to other folks ranging from girls, guys, seniors, 20 somethings and all are raving about it.

*These purchases are mostly for 1-2 people, though I do cook for lots of people, so its more of a mix.

DeMystifying the Costs of Fresh Food

July 2009

  • Farmers Markets – $16.00

June 2009

  • Whole Foods – $134.41
  • Other Grocery Stores – $9.06

May 2009

  • Whole Foods – $100.17
  • 7 Eleven – $8.23
  • Other grocery stores – $21.84

April 2009

  • Whole Foods – $114.64

March 2009

  • Whole Foods – $219.64
  • 7 Eleven – $10.99
  • Other grocery stores – $19.73

February 2009

  • Whole Foods – $170.00

January 2009

  • Whole Foods – $242.44
  • Safeway – $64.54

A Victory Garden for Zero Waste

I Shall Fight to Stay Alive by Hamed Saber on Flickr
I Shall Fight to Stay Alive by Hamed Saber on Flickr

Sometimes you just have to walk the walk. I say I’m about zero waste and local food, but really I’m a city boy and I know just a little about farming. So this city boy is hitting the dirt.

Yesterday at dusk I started planting my garden and didn’t stop until my back hurt. I really had no idea what I was doing. But, I did have two aces in the hole. The first was a quick iPhone google search to learn how far apart to space the plants (I just ignored the other sun/water advice). The second was a Saturday morning spent volunteering with the Laguna Canyon Foundation. We worked in the Aliso Viejo Wildnerness Park clearing up space for some butterflies. My job was to plant some bushes for those butterflies and I had a whole range of folks giving me tips (UC Irvine Professor, Park Ranger, Retired Park Volunteer who knew everyone/everything).

The biggest tip they gave me was to dig a hole and then pour some water in it. Let it settle a bit and then plant the little guy. In our arid climate the land is always dry so its best to help the plants out.

With that knowledge in hand I began digging. The sun was going down but soon my parents joined me and began working in the backyard too. I had podcasts playing in the background (Marketplace and Buzz Out Loud) and the dogs were circling. Not exactly a farmer’s life but it was still very serene.

my victory garden (tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce)
my victory garden (tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce)

Room was made for two types of tomatoes, Early Bird and Sweet 100. Next was my purple ‘ruffle’ basil which my iPhone told me was great to place in between tomatoe plants. Then came a sweet banana pepper and finally two rows of lettuce (3×3) (see pic for final placement).

These plants were actually really cheap. We went to a local gardening shop too, even though Home Depot was closer. I think the total price for all the mentioned above was $7 with the four vegetable plants at $1.29 each and the herb at $1.59. I still can’t believe they were so cheap!

With them all planted I watered them “light but thoroughly” as recommended by the top gardener at the shop. Then, just for luck, I had my mom and pups sit down and say a little prayer/blessing for my new little babies. If that luck cashes in I will soon have a bountiful harvest and some tasty treats to devour!

Food Inc

Food is in trouble.

You know I really struggled with writing this piece. I wanted to just present the facts with brutal honesty. To scare anyone who reads this into the movie theater to see Food Inc. Then I wrote a piece from a neutral point of view, to ease everyone into the story. I deleted both pieces.

On the suggestion of my Mom, maybe I’ll just provide the trailer:

I cannot escape what is happening here. I cried a little during the movie. I read the book it is based on, Omnivore’s Dilemma. The book changed my life. It set me upon a path toward this blog and this non-profit (A Clean Life) and this passion to make change.

I now call the book my ‘bible’ for what I do.

The movie didn’t touch me as deeply as the book did, but only because I had already known all the problems we have with food. It did bring a parallel to mind though, a similar book that is now legendary. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

An angry lion standing on a steer skeleton.
notice the angry lion standing on the steer head

Written around the turn of the century (20th) when the industrial revolution was in its infancy but going full steam ahead. Our government and personal policy was to let the best survive. Unfortunately, as Sinclair discovered, capitalism does not understand health and morality. The companies who could produce the cheapest food were doing so in filthy, nasty, and unhealthy ways.

The most famous example of this are the hot dog factories in Chicago at the time. Imagine a giant meat grinder that gets nearly anything thrown into it (horses, pigs, bones, dirt) and then served as hot dogs. As the book rose in prominence so did American consciousness. The results were new regulations about food safety and much safer and healthier factories for workers and food for us.

This is a great parallel because we are at the same crossroads. Food is again unhealthy as we are an obese society. It is again nasty in that it is ruining our environment and our waistlines. It is again filthy in that we are debasing animals and workers down into horrible circumstances.

The movie touches on all these points and more. There is so much to say. I dare not go into growth hormones, antibiotics, and the torture that we allow. Instead I want to tell you about the nature of power of money.

food-inc-posterThe nature of capitalism is to get more efficient as you make products. This naturally leads to consolidation and factories. Well what happens when our food is controlled by a just a few gigantic but private companies? What happens when we take gardens, farms, and animals and instead put them into factories?

The answers are in the movie or the book. They are also all around us. Our environment is being destroyed, our bodies the same, and we have lost one of our most basic connections to the earth through food.

That is the most direct way to state my feelings after watching this movie. There is so much wrong with food in this country that the movie almost felt action packed. Everyone is involved in this too, three times a day. We all eat and we all pay for food.

More is better?

You might find this strange but the most friction I encounter in my work with A Clean Life is through food. Folks are okay with trash and recycling. Many even entertain composting. But when it comes to food we are in scary territory.

Imagine that…more people are okay with sorting their trash than with learning about food.

I am lost on this one, but I do have a little clue. That is to question one of our basic assumptions, more is better.

I mean if you go to the market and their is a sale, that is good. You can get more food for less money. At first glance this is very simple and logical. Food is expensive, we work very hard for money, obviously we don’t want to overpay for food.

At second glance, this is not so good. And this second glance is where I zing most people. Nearly everyone can challenge organic, green, expensive food, etc, but no one and I mean no one can answer our obesity problem.

We are an overweight society. The basic assumption ‘more is better‘ is starting to haunt me. I hate seeing children, active children, that are overweight. I cannot imagine what their psyche is like (I’m very active, I’m following the rule more is better, yet I’m fat).

If childhood obesity doesn’t bother you, then maybe healthcare does. You just might live a shorter life because of obesity. You just might have to help pay the healthcare of others (through taxes) who have health problems due to obesity.

Finally, if you care at all about the environment then you should know that ‘more is better‘ is definitely bad for the environment. Honestly, if all of this extra food solved world hunger I wouldn’t make this argument. But, it does not and it will not. Solving world hunger is not about chesseburgers for 99 cents. It is about something entirely different.

You should also know that to produce so much food means we go to great lengths to exploit nature. This includes growing pigs in factories (pic), chickens in 6 inch coops (pic), and cows in manure pens. Our food is washed over with fertilizer (that is oil based) and pesticide.

The waste from fertilizer and pesticide goes into our rivers, streams, and waterways. It ruins beaches, bays, and entire ecosystems. Our factory animals are ridden with disease (so we shoot them up with antibiotics), or better yet we just fatten them up earlier in life and then turn them into food before their bodies fail (about 18 months for cows).

As with most things in life more is not always better. We are ruining our own land, fattening ourselves up, and burdening our society (taxes, healthcare, children).

So, I challenge everyone to re-think ‘more is better’. Come up with a better rule for yourself. May it be ‘less is more’ or ‘better not more’, whatever works. Perhaps, person by person we can start to transform ourselves into a fit people and through that improve our food system and our environment.

P.S. – For those of you interested in learning more from an expert. Here is a talk from Michael Pollan titled “Where does your food come from?”

Springtime at the Dupont Farmers Market


The Dupont Farmers Market is the premier market in Washington D.C.

It is open “year round, rain or shine” and it has 2 rows of stalls, around 10-20 hawkers (depending on the season). Also depending on the season are the goods available. With each visit you can find the same reliable farmers and a rotating sprinkling of others, each bringing you the latest seasonal fare.

And there is nothing like rain or shine, especially in DC. This city is swampland and pretty murky stuff at that (the HBO mini-series John Adams, part 6, shows the city being un-swamped). Meaning that we can have all sorts of great and horrible weather. It is fantastic to have a market open all year round and available through the conditions.

Today was a perfect spring day so I ventured down to the market with Fuzzles in tow. The location is very convenient for peds/bikers since it is right next to Dupont Circle (20th between Mass and Q) and the Dupont metro. Drivers can find parking but you will have to head a few blocks away to the residentials (try 21st and O).

Man was the place packed. Everything had a line and there were even street singers and a jewelry vendor. I had forgotten what spring/summer was like at the market. For the past 6 months it was just us locavores and crunchies.

Street View of Dupont Market
Street View of Dupont Market

The regulars were there. My favorite Keswick Creamery where I bought my cheese and yogurt. The mushroom lady, seafood and fish toughins, the two bread shops, and a few seasonal vegetable farmers.

However, being Spring and good weather, about 10 new shops had popped in. The seasonal fare this early in Spring were a lot of greens and kale, apples, and beets. There was also a strong showing of dairy products, which I love.

Even the Fresh Farm folks were there (organizers of the market) making mini salads for anyone who came by.

A few things the market could add to make it a primo destination are a fun place to park the animals and a compost bin. Right now most pups are tied up behind the stalls or to a tree. It would be nice to have a friendly dog zone, where we could leash our pups and let them socialize whilst we vegetate.

The compost bin should be standard. I’m sure dealing with all the trash produced at the market is a problem, so why not use a compost bin to help the load (I sent on an inquiry to the Fresh Farms folks to see if I can take this one on).

Well to end it all, I brought home some swedish greens, lesher and cheddar cheese, fresh milk, and some yogurt.

Pups and I hoofed it home a little tired after some good walking. Where I prepared a salad with the greens, cheese, herbs, and chile’s. Then sat down with some iced coffee (using the fresh milk) to write this post.

my take at the market
my take at the market
my salad and coffee from the market
...turned into salad and coffee

Shop More, Buy Less, Eat Healthier

One of the most important features of a start-up is its founders. As my friends and I go down this journey to the trashatorium I think its crucial that we “walk the walk”.

This will mean something different to each of us and I hope we can each share our journey.

Here is one of my most basic but fundamental lifestyles:

Shop More, Buy Less, and Eat Healthier.

Grocery Shopping

I started down this path several years ago but only recently went “extreme”. By extreme I mean completely changing my grocery shopping routine. I wanted to spend less and eat better.

No more soggy sandwiches or trailing leftovers. I wanted to bring back a little European zeal, you know the vegetable stand on the way home. Or, the locally produces delicacies.

So, here is a quick wrap-up of how I changed my grocery routine.

Shop More

Sounds counter intuitive, I know. But, if you want fresh food you have to hit the store more. I wanted to have a regular amount of fruits and vegetables in my kitchen. Then I wanted to keep on hand fresh breads and cheeses (and chocolates!).

Of course, these natural items decay and ‘go bad’ real fast. This meant that if I wanted to keep around the good stuff in life, I needed to go more often.

Buy Less

Of course, I’m a frugal (extremely cheap) guy. I could not stand to double my food bill. I wanted to decrease that bill, all  while shopping more.

More opposite thinking.

It worked, though. I got into the habit of only buying what I needed for the next few days. There was an intense burrowing need to “stock-up” on things, which is still there today. But I keep reminding myself that I will be back in a few days. I can get what I need then.

Eat Healthier

With each additional trip to the store a few things began to happen. Simple things like buying less and stocking-up on fewer items. I also began to spend much less time in the store, escaping what Jerry Seinfeld talks about in his comedy bit below.

More importantly, though, I began to buy better foods. I could manage to bring home fruits and vegetables. They would get eaten and not wasted. I bought less of the packaged food that is designed to last for weeks.

In addition, to these better foods in my life, I started noticing that I eat closer to my needs, with cravings. I could buy stuff for one big meal I wanted, have fun cooking it, and eat it for the next few days.

All in all, I can’t complain that I’m eating better foods and feeling better everyday.


I love my new lifestyle. Being a regular at the store. Spending less money each time and all together. Feeling better and healthier in my diet. You should try this and/or let me know your routines.

P.S. My current favorite treat is apples with peanut butter (thanks Meredith). And, here is a clip from Jerry Seinfeld talking about the scary grocery stores: