Organic Personal Care Market to Grow to $25 Billion by 2025

 Photo:  Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Growing demand for organic products is leading to an increase in their availability in natural foods stores, supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores, online stores and elsewhere. The growth in e-commerce, in particular has provided consumers opportunity to access products that might not otherwise be available in local stores. This increased accessibility is credited for an expected growth rate in organic personal care products of 9.5% CAGR between now and 2025, when the market for organic personal care products is expected to reach $25.11 billion in sales, says research firm Grand View Research in a new report. North America was the largest market for organic personal care in 2017. Key findings include:

  • In terms of value, the global revenue for hair care is anticipated to reach $6.62 billion by 2025, rising at a CAGR of 9.8% from 2017 to 2025.

  • Skin care application dominated the market in terms of revenue in 2017, commanding over one third of the market, owing to ability of organic ingredients to impart antioxidation properties and improve skin health.

  • The U.S. organic personal care market is poised to exceed $7.7 billion by 2025 owing to presence of various manufacturers of organic personal care products in the country.

  • The market is highly competitive with presence of a number of multinational companies with wide product portfolios.

  • Major companies in the market lay high emphasis on expanding their presence in the global market, in an attempt to increase market shares and drive revenues. For instance, Estee Lauder acquired various companies such as BECCA Cosmetics, Too Faced, and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, over the past few years in order to expand its product portfolio.

Source: Grand View Research

CPG Giants Enter Supplements Space

 Photo:  Pexels

Photo: Pexels

As consumers turn increasingly to natural health options, a number of CPG giants have entered or expanded into the dietary supplements space, beginning in the past year with Nestle’s acquisition of leading non-GMO and organic supplement brand Garden of Life in December 2017. In April 2018, Procter & Gamble announced the purchase of Merck KGaA’s consumer health unit, adding vitamin brands including Seven Seas, Femibion and Neurobion to its supplement subsidiaries portfolio, which includes Metamucil and leading natural brand New Chapter, which Procter & Gamble acquired in 2012 (in July 2018, New Chapter cofounders Barbi and Paul Schulick announced their departure from the company). Natural immune support supplement maker Zarbee’s Naturals was purchased in July 2018, marking Johnson & Johnson’s first foray into dietary supplements. In June 2018, General Mills led a $12 million investment round in Boulder, CO-based functional beverage maker GoodBelly. California-based Clorox Company, known around the world for its laundry bleach, purchased Nutranext in March 2018, adding such brands as NeoCell, Rainbow Light, Blessed Herbs and Stop Aging Now to its portfolio. To top off this most recent spate of investments and acquisitions, Japanese beer maker Kirin, together with multi-portfolio firm Mitsui, announced in July 2018 that each had purchased 30% of supplement maker Thorne Research’s stock. Thorne Research is a leading dietary supplement brand specializing in the healthcare practitioner market.

Supplements Market Research Highlights

 Photo:  Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Overall sales of dietary supplements are slowing, but it’s also a bigger and more complicated marketplace, says Claire Morton, Nutrition Business Journal's senior industry analyst. Top takeaways from the 2018 Supplement Business Report include:

• Mass market retail dominates sales in the natural and organic products industry with more than half of total market share and over $120 billion in annual sales.

• E-commerce, while frequently discussed and rapidly growing in the double-digits, still represents only 4 percent of total market share.

• Consumers report frequenting mass, grocery and natural stores over other retail channels, including e-commerce.

• Manufacturers rate the top three challenges of online retail as driving awareness of product, navigating Amazon and standing out.

• Natural and specialty retail has lost market share consistently since 2006, with growth slowing exponentially since 2015.

Companies Could Save Up to $700 Billion Annually in Food Waste Costs

Annual food waste is expected to grow explosively between now and 2030, projected the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in a new report. “Roughly one-third of the food produced around the world goes to waste,” says Esben Hegnsholt, a BCG partner and co-author of the report. “This represents a challenge so massive that it was included in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. But while it is a daunting problem, there are steps that can be taken today, actions that draw on currently available technology and know-how, to dramatically slash food loss and waste across the value chain.” While food waste and loss are expected to reach 2.1 billion tons, worth $1.5 trillion, by 2030, by taking assertive action, companies, agricultural players, governments and others can take steps that could save up to $700 billion in food waste annually. The report identified initiatives companies can take to address the issue, including:

  • Educating farmers, consumers, and company employees on the issue of food loss and waste and steps they can take to reduce it.

  • Improving supply chain infrastructure for the food industry, including investment in cold chain systems.

  • Adopting digital, big data, and other tools to slash loss and waste and developing company KPIs and processes to drive reductions.

  • Improving collaboration across the food value chain, including between agricultural producers and food processors.

  • Advocating for changes to regulations and tax policies that would reduce loss and waste and encourage the repurposing and recycling of food.  

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

My Visit to Gaia Herbs Farm

Or the Tale of Rare White Squirrels, Ginkgo Groves, Fields of Echinacea to the Horizon, Dedicated People, and Organic Products that Care for Health and the Environment

Profile by Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural

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Asheville, NC (September 6, 2018) - Driving southwest on Highway 64 out of Asheville, North Carolina, on this early morning in late summer, in and out of thick fog and cool mountain air as my rental car navigates hills and valleys, I am struck by the lush, verdant, and primordial landscape of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

I am headed to the legendary, certified organic Gaia Herbs Farm.

Located in its own little valley, protected from pesticide drift by mountains on all sides, and bordered by the French Broad River and the 530,000-acre Nantahala National Forest to the west, the farm is in a uniquely biodiverse, temperate rainforest region where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all plant species used in North American herbalism are native to this region – a key reason Gaia Herbs established itself here more than 32 years ago.

This was my first visit to the Asheville area, and for a guy from Boulder, Colorado, I felt right at home in this densely forested, rugged, mountainous region – an ancient geologic area left untouched by the glaciers of the last ice age that flattened much of the Northern Appalachians, with rock formations that are nearly half as old as Earth itself, and home to the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. Plus, what they say about Asheville is true – it’s a mecca for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, and a delightful, historic town full of restaurants, craft breweries, shops, music, unique architecture, art, culture and more.

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The good folks at Gaia Herbs, one of the nation’s leading herbal products brands – invited me to visit Gaia’s proprietary 350-acre organic herb farm where it grows up to 6.5 million plants a year to satisfy demand for pure, safe and efficacious herbal remedies.

The team hosted me for a full day of meetings and tours of the farm, as well as the analytical and quality assurance laboratories, and extraction and processing facilities located right on the property.

Offering more than 200 products and with a commitment to regenerative organic agriculture practices, Gaia Herbs is a truly vertically integrated herbal products manufacturer committed to health and the environment. With its farm, laboratories and processing facilities primarily in one location, the company ensures quality, integrity, potency, safety and efficacy from seed to shelf.

Discovering a Verdant Valley … and White Squirrels
More than 32 years ago, Massachusetts-based Medical Herbalist Ric Scalzo was searching for a location where he could grow the medicinal herbs he used in the formulas he developed for patients. Demand was growing for the products he created, and the farming season in New England was too short for the crops he had in mind. So, Ric headed south and stopped in his tracks when he discovered a fertile little valley tucked just outside of the rural town of Brevard, North Carolina, about 45 minutes south of Asheville. 

The property that caught his eye was an old dairy farm. Protected from other industrial agriculture and with pure mountain water from Cathey’s Creek, a designated Wild Trout stream running through the farm on its way to the French Broad River, Scalzo knew that this rich bottom land would soon be home to Gaia Herbs.

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(Now, here’s where the white squirrels come in: Brevard, founded in 1861 as the county seat in Transylvania County, is also known as home to a thriving, rare white squirrel population said to have descended from a pair of escaped carnival animals. The animals are unique to the area and so loved by the community that in 1986 the Brevard City Council voted unanimously to establish the town as a sanctuary for white squirrels.

After hearing numerous times from friendly staff about these elusive white squirrels, I finally got to see one hanging out in a Hawthorn tree grove near Gaia’s main farmhouse (the floral buds of the Hawthorn trees, too, are harvested for Gaia’s herbal product formulations). Not albinos, these cute critters – all white with a dark stripe running from the top of their head down their back – are a unique strain of the common gray squirrel that thrives in this particular area.)

Gaia Herbs – Next Generation
Today, Gaia Herbs employs more than 250 people and grows about a third of the plants it needs on the Brevard farm. The company also operates an organic farm in Costa Rica where it cultivates turmeric and other herbs, and plants are also sourced from certified organic farmers and ethical wildcrafters who sustainably harvest plants from nature. After completing a $5 million, state-of-the-art expansion in 2016 of its manufacturing facilities on the farm in Brevard and opening a 60,000 square-foot greenhouse in nearby Mills River, NC, Gaia Herbs is an internationally respected brand, known for its authenticity, purity, potency, efficacy, transparency, and commitment to health, organic agriculture and the environment.

With its Meet Your Herbs® transparency program from seed to shelf, and building on a platform of “Purity + Integrity = Potency,” Gaia Herbs is developing new products and herbal blends to serve an increasingly savvy and demanding natural health consumer. Under leadership of President Angela McElwee, a natural product industry veteran who started her career at age 16 helping customers in the aisles of Healthy Alternative, an independent natural foods retail chain based in Dayton, OH, the “Gaia Difference” is being well received, and Gaia Herbs continues to foster its position as an innovator and brand leader in the natural, organic, and herbal products market.

Meet Your Herbs® – Setting a New Standard for Traceability
For consumers, Gaia’s Meet Your Herbs® program raises the bar for transparency and traceability, says the company. For every Gaia Herbs product, a customer can enter a unique ID number located on the package to “virtually experience” how the botanical ingredients of a particular product were grown, cultivated and harvested, and then tested down to the DNA level in Gaia’s state-of-the-art analytical laboratories for quality and potency, efficacy and safety. Meet Your Herbs® also presents easy-to-understand science validating each step in Gaia’s process from seed to shelf, and anyone can explore the history, uses and function of each particular herb in their Gaia Herbs product formulation.  

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The company will showcase its new blends, including Calm A.S.A.P. and Mood Uplift, at the upcoming Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Unlike many herbal products that claim to support emotional coping skills by recommending a maintenance dose, Calm A.S.A.P. was specifically formulated for relief in the moment.* Blended from herbs cultivated on the company’s organic farms and sourced from an “impeccably transparent supply chain,” Calm A.S.A.P. was recently recognized as a 2018 NEXTY AwardFinalist for Best Condition-Specific Supplement by New Hope Network, producer of Natural Products Expo and publisher of leading trade and consumer magazines in the natural, nutritional and organic products market.

Mood Uplift, a new Gaia Herbs product designed to support mental and emotional wellbeing, combines herbal extracts traditionally used to help the body cope with daily stress, nourish the nervous system, calm the mind, support a balanced mood and help foster a better outlook on life.*

These new products, along with other Gaia Herbs’ liquid extracts, are available in Vegan Liquid Phyto Caps™. Designed for rapid absorption, Gaia’s plant-based Phyto Caps™ are a unique patented delivery system developed exclusively by the company to deliver the concentrated potency of a liquid extract in the convenience of an easily digestible, fast-dissolving capsule.

Giving Back – A Team Effort
As a socially responsible, mission-driven company, Gaia Herbs cares for its employees first, along with the local community and organizations dedicated to food, agriculture and the environment. Each year, a portion of the farm’s acreage is dedicated to growing vegetables for the company’s employees; the Gaia Employee CSA (community supported agriculture) provides 20,000 pounds of farm-fresh organic vegetables to the staff each season. In addition, team members benefit from employee wellness programs, living wage certification, and a paid volunteer program. Outside the farm, Gaia supports mission-aligned organizations including the Bread of Life Free Community Kitchen in Transylvania County, the Pisgah Conservancy to support environmental preservation in the region, Golden Courage, an international organization with a mission to end child poverty, and more.

Learn More about Gaia Herb’s Traceability Program, Meet Your Herbs®, in Part 2 of My Visit to Gaia Herbs Farm, coming next month!

Learn more at www.GaiaHerbs.com, and visit Gaia Herbs at Booth #3163 at Natural Products Expo East, Sept. 13-15, 2018, at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Photos: Compass Natural, Wikimedia Commons, Gaia Herbs

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Judge Rules Case Can Proceed Against USDA’s Withdrawal of Organic Welfare Rule

 Photo:  Pexels

Photo: Pexels

A judge for the federal court for the Northern District of California on August 21 concluded that a legal challenge filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) against the USDA’s decision to withdraw organic animal welfare regulations could move forward. In March, seven nonprofit organizations, led by CFS, sued the USDA and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, challenging its decision to withdraw the organic standards for animals on certified organic farms, called the “Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices” rule. The regulation, finalized by the USDA under the Obama administration in early 2017, strengthened the requirements for the care and wellbeing of animals on organic farms. “We are very gratified that the Court agrees we can challenge the unlawful withdrawal of these hard-won animal care protections in organic production,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and counsel in the case. “The Trump administration unlawfully reversed 28 years of well-settled organic law and policy. We look forward to protecting the public’s right to a meaningful organic seal.”

Growth in Organic Market Represents Ongoing and Deep Cultural Shift

 Photo: Compass Natural

Photo: Compass Natural

For the foreseeable future, organic products will remain for most consumers “the gold standard of a safer, higher-quality product,” says leading market research firm The Hartman Group. “Organic communicates freedom from chemicals (on the farm and during production) as well as a product that is seen as ‘better for the world.’ As such organic products will continue to play an important role in consumers' search for better food, said Hartman CEO Laurie Demeritt. Of U.S. consumers who use organic products, the majority (61%) is made up of Mid-level (Inner + Outer) organic consumers, with smaller segments at the two extremes: 24% are Core consumers, and 15% are Periphery consumers. The Outer Mid-level is the largest consumer segment (37%).

  • As described, Core organic buyers are the most intensely involved. As the trendsetters and early adopters, they are the most knowledgeable regarding issues surrounding organic products. By understanding the Core, we are able to examine potential upcoming important issues, which Mid-level consumers may come to espouse over time.
  • The Mid-levels represent the majority of organic consumers and thus the biggest opportunity for retailers, manufacturers and restaurant operators. Inner Mid-level consumers aspire to Core attitudes and behaviors but pragmatically apply them with less consistency and reach.
  • Outer Mid-level consumers engage with organic products as well, often motivated by fear of unknown consequences of conventional food as well as by status — “everyone is doing it.”
  • Periphery consumers prioritize other concerns. They still, however, know some general principles and occasionally incorporate organic products into their diet.

Hartman recommends that manufacturers, retailers and restaurant operators should:

  • Prioritize speaking to consumer values around organics; do not risk falling out of consumers’ consideration set.
  • Focus on communicating the benefits of organic and natural from a health and wellness perspective first. However, consumers do appreciate hearing about positive effects on the wider world: Communications that convey “better for you AND better for the world” are the most impactful.
  • Leverage the organic seal as a means of elevating quality perceptions, particularly in categories where pesticides are front of mind.

Source: The Hartman Group Organic and Natural Report 2018

Plant Based Food Sales Outpacing Overall Food Sales by 10X

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, September 2018
August 28, 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Plant-based food sales are growing like a weed. According to a new Nielsen study commissioned by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), sales of plant-based foods grew a whopping 20% in the 52 weeks ending June 16, 2018. “The growth is significant, especially compared to the sales of all foods, which grew just 2%, so plant-based foods dollar sales are outpacing dollar sales of all retail foods by 10X,” says PBFA. Sales of plant-based milks grew 9% vs. -6% growth in cow’s milk; and sales of plant-based meat products grew 24% compared to 2% growth in animal meats. Other standout categories included plant-based creamers, which grew 131% over the same period last year; plant-based yogurts (55% growth) and plant-based cheeses (43% growth). Learn more here.

Glyphosate Found in 95% of Foods Containing Conventionally Grown Oats

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, September 2018
August 23, 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and the most heavily used pesticide in the history of the world, has tested positive in 95% of oat-based foods, including popular breakfast cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars, according to independent laboratory testing commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Of 45 conventional products tested, glyphosate residues were present in 43, and 31 of those products contained levels higher than what EWG scientists consider safe for children. The herbicide, also used as a pre-harvest desiccant on cereals and grains, is so pervasive it also showed up in 31% of food samples made with organic oats, although EWG reports the organic foods tested at levels “well below EWG’s health benchmark.” In August, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a former groundskeeper who claimed his cancer was caused by repeated exposure to glyphosate. To view EWG’s chart of oat-based foods tested, visit here.

Farmers to Trump on Tariffs: “Trade, Not Aid”

 Photo by  Compass Natural

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, August 2018
July 26, 2018
By Steven Hoffman

In early July when President Donald Trump imposed trade tariffs on imports of commodities including steel and aluminum, the nations singled out by Trump, including China, Canada, Mexico and the EU, struck back, targeting food producers across the U.S. with stiff retaliatory tariffs on exports of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sorghum, pork, poultry, fish and a number of nuts, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products including bourbon, orange juice and dairy products. 

Asked to be patient in a speech to Iowa farmers on July 26, U.S. farmers are bearing a disproportionate brunt of Trump’s trade war. Feeling the financial pain, the patience of America’s heartland farmers – a bastion of support for President Trump – is wearing thin in a trade war Trump promised would be “easy to win.”

In an attempt to alleviate the economic impact to farmers as a result of his own trade policies, President Trump on July 24 promised $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers, using a depression-era assistance program to put a band aid on the immediate pain American farmers are feeling as a result of the U.S. imposed tariffs and subsequent trade retaliation by China, the EU and others.

But some Republicans and farmers are not buying it. Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker in a statement called Trump’s trade policy “incoherent” and the administration “was offering welfare to farmers to solve a problem they themselves created.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said in a statement, “This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches. . . .America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world.”

Sen. John Kasich (R-OH) said that President Trump was resorting to “farm welfare” when what American farmers really want is the administration to stop imposing tariffs. American consumers will feel the pinch both ways under the proposed bailout strategy in the form of higher costs for foods due to the higher tariffs, and also the $12 billion emergency aid for farmers will end up coming from U.S. taxpayers.

Relief from an EU Deal
In a move that could provide some relief to U.S. soybean producers, President Trump on July 25 announced a deal with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker that would remove tariffs on a number of industrial goods in trade between the U.S. and the EU. In a hastily scheduled joint press conference on the White House lawn, Trump declared that European countries would be buying “a lot of soybeans” from American farmers. In a campaign-style speech on July 26 in Iowa, Trump told a group of farmers, “We just opened up Europe for you farmers. You’re not going to be too angry with Trump, I can tell you,” he said.

However, existing tariffs still remain in place and the U.S.-EU announcement did nothing to resolve Chinese sanctions on U.S. soy, pork and other farm products. In response to Trump’s trade tariffs, China in early July imposed a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybean exports and also placed tariffs on U.S. corn, wheat, sorghum, pork, beef, nuts, fruit, vegetables and many other agricultural products. Mexico is also levying a 20 percent tariff on U.S. pork in response to Trump administration trade sanctions, as well, Agri-Pulse reported.

“If the price of soybeans goes down, farmers will have less to spend on new equipment. And equipment makers such as Caterpillar and John Deere will (eventually) have to raise the price of equipment due to steel tariffs,” Chicago trade attorney R. Kevin Williams said in the Chicago Tribune. “Eventually it will have an impact on the economy.”

“Patience is wearing thin on U.S. pork producers because the next six months of market prices – there’s a lot of red ink. We need the administration to come to these deals quickly,” Iowa hog farmer Gregg Hora told ABC News.

“We would prefer trade not aid,” said Dave Struthers, who grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs in Iowa, in a July 25, 2018, Bloomberg News report. “We’d like to see things figured out on these trade issues.”

According to Bloomberg, agriculture is the third-largest U.S. export industry. American farmers export approximately one-third of their annual production. According to Bloomberg, that generated an estimated $21 billion trade surplus this past year, however, that is now under threat after China imposed tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other agricultural products.

Impact on Natural and Organic Producers
But farmers are not the only ones affected by the administration’s trade wars. Packaged goods manufacturers, too, are beginning to feel negative effects. When the Trump administration placed tariffs on Chinese goods with an annual trade value of about $200 billion, roughly 1,300 products were impacted. The additional taxes will ripple through supply chains, reports CNN Money, compelling businesses in the U.S. and China to decide whether to absorb costs or raise consumer prices. 

CNN Money published a list of food products impacted by the trade tariffs here. Eater also published a list of foods subject to tariffs, by country, here.

Closer to home, Arnold Coombs, Director of Sales and Marketing for Bascom Maple Farms, the largest supplier of maple syrup and maple sugar in the U.S., and a seventh-generation Vermont maple sugar maker, puts it this way:

“While selling maple to Canada is like selling ice to Eskimos, we do sell some maple syrup and maple sugar to manufacturers there. We will lose a little under $1 million in sales. The bigger issue for us will be the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP. Unless this is reversed or another agreement completed, we will lose close to $9 million in sales. 

“One more trade issue for us is CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The tariff on Canadian maple is gone while there is still an 8 percent tariff on U.S. maple. This has essentially taken us out of the EU market with a loss of $4-5 million in sales. I doubt that we will have an agreement with the EU in the near future.

It seems that just when we had a good grasp of developing new export markets, the U.S. government got in the way and threw up some roadblocks. Ultimately, this hurts the U.S. farmer, as we will have to buy less syrup from them. That’s not the direction we want to go.”

Leading organic dairy producer Organic Valley’s CEO George Siemon added:

“Our dairy business will be mainly affected by the conventional market being harmed. Our own sales will not be that affected, as we do not export that much to the countries with tariffs. No matter how well we manage an organic dairy pool you end up with some conventional sales; thus a lower conventional price due to tariffs will hurt our income from those sales.” 

Dietary Supplement Products “Ensnared” in U.S. – China Trade War
With many nutritional product manufacturers sourcing ingredients from China and the world over, supplement makers are feeling the pinch of a 10 percent to 25 percent import duty on a range of ingredients including minerals, animal and plant proteins, sweeteners, hemp seeds, phytosterols and other ingredients.

According to Natural Products Insider, online trading resource IngredientsOnline.com has complied a list of more than 180 ingredients that could be affected by the trade tariffs. "Keep in mind this is just the beginning; we're hearing the tariffs can range from 10 percent to 25 percent. It's obvious this will have a tremendous effect on not only the industry but on consumers as well,” said Peggy Jackson, VP of sales and marketing for IngredientsOnline.com.

Among a list released in July of Chinese goods facing tariffs of 10 percent or more were a number of specifically named herbs and botanicals, as well as what American Herbal Products Association President Michael McGuffin described as a “catch-all” category that could include a number of herbal ingredients and a separate designation that could impact certain forms of minerals used in dietary supplements.

In addition, importers may choose to buy up raw materials before tariffs take effect, and “all of a sudden the supply-demand equation is no longer balanced and the costs are going to go up,” McGuffin told New Hope Network.

Generational Effects…Or Patience?
Robert Leonard, News Director for Iowa radio stations KNIA and KRLS, claims in a New York Times Op-Ed that President Trump’s trade war will hurt farm business at a time when the rural population is aging, and that it could accelerate the hollowing out of farm communities. “Mr. Trump recklessly opened trade wars that will hit ‘Trump country’ – rural America – hardest and that have already brought an avalanche of losses. Indeed, the impact of his tariffs will probably be felt by family farms and the area for generations,” he wrote.

Yet, President Trump argues that his proposed emergency farm aid bailout is only temporary. Eventually, he argues, the trade war will pay off—farmers will no longer need taxpayer help. “The farmers will be the biggest beneficiary [sic]. Watch,” he said. “We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen. Just be a little patient.”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Photo: Compass Natural
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Presence Marketing News. 

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive Launched

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

A rich trove of video interview recordings featuring pioneers and legends of the sustainable and organic agriculture movements has been unveiled by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) at the University of Minnesota.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive captures interviews from such luminaries as poet, author and farmer Wendell Berry; Jill Auburn, former program leader of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; organic agriculture policy advocate Roger Blobaum; Kate Clancy of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health; Environmental Working Group president and cofounder Ken Cook; former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin; Land Institute founder Wes Jackson; Kathleen Merrigan, Director of Sustainability for George Washington University; and others.

“Through a series of video-recorded interviews, this oral history archive documents the development and evolution of public policies to advance sustainable and organic agriculture going back to the 1970s. The women and men whose stories were recorded for this archive are among the key leaders and advocates who played significant roles in devising and promoting the laws and government programs that continue to undergird efforts to achieve a sustainable farming and food system in the United States,” said Ron Kroese, senior fellow in the Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota and project leader for the Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive.

To view the complete collection of video interviews, visit https://www.misa.umn.edu/publications/sustainableagoralhistoryarchive.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Hawaii Becomes First State to Ban Pesticide Found to Be Harmful to Children

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

More than a year after the Trump administration denied a petition to ban the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, the state of Hawaii on June 13 became the first U.S. state to ban this widely used pesticide, found to be linked to severe developmental problems in children and other significant health risks.

Under Senate Bill 3095, signed into law by Gov. David Ige after it was unanimously approved by the state legislature, pesticides containing chlorpyrifos will be prohibited throughout Hawaii beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Businesses will be able to apply for a three-year extension to meet the new regulations, reported Huffington Post.

The new law also prohibits the spraying of pesticides within 100 feet of schools during normal school hours. According to The Garden Island, the law also provides $300,000 from the Pesticides Revolving Fund for staffing, education and outreach plus funding to monitor and study pesticide drift at three schools in the state.

“This was a law that was years in the making. Its time had come,” Hawaii state Sen. Russell Ruderman told The Garden State. “We have been guided by the belief that we must always put our keiki (Hawaiian word for children) first. On that we should all agree.”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Sustainable Palm Oil Awareness Campaign, Set for September 2018, Brings Industry, Consumers Together to Celebrate the Positive Side of Palm Oil

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

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Mission-based educational platform Palm Done Right is enlisting industry and public support to help change the conversation about palm oil, and ultimately, how palm oil is produced, by launching the first annual National Palm Done Right Month in September 2018. 

Done right, palm oil can be grown sustainably in a way that positively supports people, communities and the environment, say the event organizers and brand partners supporting the Palm Done Right initiative. The choices manufacturers and consumers make can help drive more responsible practices in the conventional palm industry and grow the market for sustainably and organically sourced palm oil, helping to support smaller scale producers. 

Throughout the month of September, National Palm Done Right Month events and activities will galvanize the natural products industry, gain retail, manufacturer and consumer support, and build awareness around responsibly sourced palm, while also celebrating current partners supporting the Palm Done Right initiative. 

Retailer support is a critical aspect of spreading the Palm Done Right message and Palm Done Right Month is a call to action. “Retailers play a key role in the natural products industry as gatekeepers to a pathway for their customers who want to improve their lives through healthy food and lifestyle choices and gain a better understanding of where their food is coming from. Through their support as Palm Done Right partners, we will broaden our message and help highlight the brands that use responsible palm oil in their products,” says Neil Blomquist, organic industry pioneer and spokesperson for Palm Done Right.

Retailers and others can sign-up to receive a Palm Done Right Month tool kit, engage customers and activate change with the goal of creating an industry-wide movement at http://www.palmdoneright.com/en/become-a-retail-supporter/.

National Palm Done Right Month is organized by Natural Habitats USA, based in Boulder, CO, leading positive change in the palm oil industry by proving that palm oil can be grown for good. This approach demonstrates that palm oil grown organically, with third-party certifications, can preserve the environment and native species, bring positive economic support to local communities and create sustainable livelihoods for all stakeholders. The Palm Done Right initiative aims to connect the benefits of organic, responsible palm oil, with brands, suppliers, manufacturers, media and consumers, to change the conversation about palm oil and bring positive impact to scale. For more information, visit www.palmdoneright.com.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Industrial Hemp Derived CBD, Other Hemp-derived Products May Soon Become Legal throughout the U.S. Under the 2018 Farm Bill

 Photo by  Compass Natural

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, July 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Industrial hemp and full spectrum extract products derived from hemp, popularly known as “CBDs,” referring to products rich in hemp-derived cannabinoid compounds, may become recognized as legal throughout the nation if the 2018 Farm Bill advances with the inclusion of the Hemp Farming Act sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a bi-partisan group of supporters including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

The Hemp Farming Act, which has now been attached to the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill - expected to become law this year - would permanently legalize hemp in the U.S. 

The Farm Bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 13 with a 20-1 vote, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) being the sole “no” vote after his amendment to exclude hemp extract products was not included in the proposed farm bill. The vote moves to the Senate floor, but hemp industry and CBD advocates warn that Sen. Grassley may yet attempt to negotiate elements of his amendment into the 2018 bill, and that the industrial hemp industry needs to remain vigilant.

Hemp industry watchdogs are concerned because the day before the Senate Agriculture Committee vote, Sen. Grassley filed an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill which seeks to redefine hemp to exclude “derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, from Cannabis Sativa L.” The purpose of the amendment as stated in the document is, “To modify the definition of the term ‘hemp’ and to require the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be a controlled substance and listed in a schedule under the Controlled Substances Act and to expand research on the cannabidiol and marihuana [sic].”

Currently, growing industrial hemp is legal on a federal scale only for research purposes or if it’s under a pilot program in select states that have legalized it. According to Jonathan Miller, the general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry advocacy group, the proposed Farm Bill includes the ‘Hemp Farming Act’ sponsored by Sen. McConnell and endorsed by 25 other senators.

According to Sen. McConnell, the Farm Bill is scheduled to be voted on by the end of June. From there, it must then go to the U.S. House of Representatives for further consideration. “The House may not pass it, and it might not include hemp in their bill, said Miller in a statement. But, if it passes with the current language, then, hemp-derived CBD would be legal from a federal perspective.”

However, observes Fresh Toast, a cannabis lifestyle publication, “This will only be the case if President Trump signs the bill into official law. In the past, President Trump hasn’t publicly expressed his views on hemp. Last week though, the President told various reporters that he supports ending the federal ban on marijuana. If President Trump stays true to his word, the move would be historic because it would result in removing the substance from its current Schedule I classification. Although the President has expressed his views to end the federal ban on marijuana, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions has quite the opposite view.”

One thing is certain: if industrial hemp becomes permanently legalized in the U.S. through passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, it will be a boon to farmers, natural products retailers and marketers, and consumers seeking more natural alternatives for health.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

USDA Drops Organic Checkoff Marketing Program

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Citing “uncertain industry support for and outstanding substantive issues with the proposed program,” USDA in May 2018 terminated a proposed organic checkoff national marketing program. The measure, backed by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), would have assessed producers to pay for the program, raising at least $30 million per year.

The organic checkoff program, called by OTA “GRO Organic (Generic Research Promotion Order for Organics), would have been under the supervision of USDA, as are research and promotion orders for other commodity crops and marketing programs such as “Got Milk.” 

Organic producers and handlers with sales over $250,000 would have had to pay one-tenth of one percent of their net organic sales into the marketing fund, according to the proposal. Importers also would have paid into the system, and smaller producers could opt in to take part. However, growers and handlers with gross revenue of less than $250,000 would have been exempt from contributing funds to the marketing program.

The announcement came as a surprise to the OTA, the organization that originally petitioned three years ago for the program. “It came as a complete surprise – the last we’d understood was, based on the precedent from previous checkoffs, we thought we’d cleared the threshold, OTA Executive Director and CEO Laura Batcha told FeedNavigator. “We were very, very surprised – it was incredibly unexpected,” she said.

“It is not lost on folks that the same week they terminated the organic program – they launched a proposal for GMO labeling that has a smiley face on it,” Batcha added. “At face value that does not appear like a level playing field – and USDA should be in the business of promoting choices for farmers, not in the business of picking winners and losers,” she said.

However, not all organic industry advocates supported the organic checkoff program. There have been questions regarding the effectiveness of other product checkoff programs and their benefit to small producers, along with questions about the way funding is managed, noted Mark Kastel, co-director of consumer advocacy group Cornucopia Institute.

“The proposed Organic Research and Promotion Program would have required all certified organic operations, even those exempt from the checkoff itself, to submit annual gross sales reports. All entities whose organic gross sales exceed $250,000 would have been mandated to pay 0.001% of their annual organic net sales,” said the Organic Farmers Association (OFA), based in Kutztown, PA. Jennifer Taylor, Vice President of OFA and a certified organic farmer in central Georgia added, “Organic farmers already fulfill a heavy load of annual paperwork for their organic certification. Additional federally mandated paperwork would have been overly burdensome, especially for the 75 percent of certified organic farmers estimated to be exempt from the checkoff,” she said.

OFA says it does agree with OTA and other organic industry stakeholder groups that organic research and promotion are necessary and needed by the whole community, and looks forward to finding creative solutions that serve all constituents in growing the market for organic foods.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Organic Food Sales Top $49 Billion in 2017; Accounts for 5.5 Percent of Overall U.S. Food Sales

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

When the Environmental Working Group reported in April 2018 that conventionally grown apples contain on average 4.4 toxic, synthetic pesticide residues, some at high concentrations that don’t wash off, more and more consumers are getting the clue that the old adage has changed: “It’s the organic apple a day that keeps the doctor away!”

So many consumers are buying into organic these days, in fact, that overall sales of organic foods will soon top $50 billion. According to the latest data released in May 2018 from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), sales of organic products totaled $49.4 billion in 2017, reflecting an increase of 6.4 percent and new sales of nearly $3.5 billion over the previous year. 

Sales of organic foods grew the same – 6.4 percent – to $45.2 billion, and sales of organically produced non-food products increased 7.4 percent to $4.2 billion.

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The growth rate for organic food sales was short of the 9 percent growth recorded in 2016, “impacted by markedly slowed growth in the big organic dairy and egg category,” said the OTA in a release. However, organic food sales were well above that of the overall food market, which barely grew at 1.1 percent. “Organic continued to increase its penetration into the total food market, and now accounts for 5.5 percent of the food sold in retail channels in the U.S.” OTA said.

This year’s annual survey marks the 20th year OTA has released data tracking the organic industry’s growth. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive look at the retail organic sector in America, the survey first measured organic sales in 1997. That year, organic food sales were pegged at $3.4 billion; 2017’s sales of over $45 billion reflect a growth of nearly 15 times. In the last decade alone, the U.S. organic market has more than doubled in size, reports OTA.

Fresh fruit and vegetables continued to be the largest organic food category, posting $16.5 billion in sales and 5.3 percent growth over 2016 sales. Another category standout was organic beverages, with fresh juices driving 10.5 percent growth to sales of $5.9 billion in 2017. Nonfood items grew significantly, including organic fashion and fiber, which grew 11 percent to $1.6 billion, and organic dietary supplements, the sales of which increased 9 percent in 2017. 

“Organic has arrived. And everyone is paying attention,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our survey shows there are now certified organic products in the marketplace representing all stages of the life cycle of a product or a company—from industry veterans to start-ups that are pioneering leading edge innovation and benefits and getting shelf space for the first time. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store.”

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Whole Foods Market Delays GMO Labeling Deadline for Suppliers

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

In an email sent to suppliers in May 2018 from Whole Foods Market President and COO A.C. Gallo, Global VP of Merchandising Don Clark and Global VP of Procurement for Perishables Karen Christensen, the world’s largest natural products retailer announced the company has decided to postpone the rollout of its GMO Labeling Policy.

The company’s leaders cited concerns from suppliers about complying with both Whole Foods Market’s upcoming policy deadline, originally set for Sept. 1, 2018, and the USDA’s proposed GMO labeling rules just introduced this past month, dubbed the federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, as the reason for the delay.

In 2013, Whole Foods announced it would require all food producers who wished to sell products in its stores to include labeling that discloses the presence of any GMO ingredients. Whole Foods had previously announced that it would require suppliers to label products that contain genetically modified (GMO) risk ingredients and were not third-party verified as non-GMO or organic.

“While the proposed [USDA] rule speaks to requirements for disclosing a bioengineered food, it is silent on requirements for making an on-label non-GMO claim,” the email said. “Given the uncertain details of the federal regulation, we do not expect the verification of non-GMO claims on existing branded products by the previously communicated September 1, 2018, deadline.” Whole Foods’ executives further stated, “Once there is a better understanding of the final federal regulation, we will be able to provide further updates and timelines.”

In a May 22, 2018, statement to Food & Wine Magazine clarifying its position, Whole Foods added, "As the USDA finalizes the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and the food industry assesses the impact, we have decided to pause on our September 1, 2018, deadline for our GMO Labeling Policy. We remain committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims."

In a separate document, Whole Foods noted that it will continue to require suppliers in all categories to acquire third-party verification by a Whole Foods-approved program for “non-GMO” claims on their package labels. Approved vendors include The Non-GMO Project, NSF Non-GMO True North or the USDA Organic program, reported Project Nosh.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

USDA’s Proposed “Bioengineered” Labels, featuring Nature and a Smiling Sun, Give Impression that GMOs are Healthy, Environmentally Friendly

For Presence Marketing Newsletter, June 2018
By Steven Hoffman

USDA in May issued a proposed rule to implement legislation requiring some form of GMO ingredient label disclosure on food packaging. 

Officially named the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS), the 106-page proposed rule provides definitions on what is considered a bioengineered ingredient, suggestions on how to disclose those ingredients and the scope of exemptions available under the law. For example, food products produced from an animal that ate GMO – or what USDA now refers to as “bioengineered” – feed do not require label disclosure. Food service establishments and very small food manufacturers are also exempt, reports legal firm Keller and Heckman. Foods certified under USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) also are not subject to GMO or “BE” disclosure.

Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through July 3, 2018, and should be submitted as directed in the Federal Register document, published on May 4, 2018.

In addition, USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service announced an informational webinar to provide an overview of the background, provisions and potential impacts of the proposed bioengineered food standard, available on AMS’s website.

  USDA’s proposed GMO or “Bioengineered (BE) symbols include scenes of nature and a smiling sun, intimating that GMOs are healthy and environmentally friendly.

USDA’s proposed GMO or “Bioengineered (BE) symbols include scenes of nature and a smiling sun, intimating that GMOs are healthy and environmentally friendly.

USDA’s proposed rule addresses federal legislation passed in 2016 to create a national GMO labeling standard in an effort to prevent individual states from passing their own GMO labeling regulations. As a result of the federal legislation, Vermont’s law to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered ingredients, which took effect in 2016 for a brief period of time, was overturned in favor of the national law.

USDA’s proposed standard defines “bioengineered” food as food “(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

According to organic industry observer Max Goldberg, publisher of Organic Insider, “This does not give us any clarity about whether GMO 2.0 technologies, such as gene-editing, synthetic biology and RNAi, will be covered under this rule. Second, a GMO-disclosure rule should make it clear and easy for consumers to know whether a food is genetically modified or not. The truth is that most people have no idea what ‘bioengineered’ means, and using this seldom-used, scientific term is confusing to consumers. Even the USDA itself was content to use the term ‘GMO labeling’ on its own website up until a few months ago,” he said.

Foods that need to be labeled are broken down into two proposed lists:

  • Bioengineered foods commercially available in the U.S. "with a high adoption rate,” i.e., genetically modified varieties are planted or produced more than 85% of the time. This would include such foods as canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet, and can be labeled as "Bioengineered food” or “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient.”
     
  • Bioengineered foods commercially currently available in the U.S. "with a low adoption rate,” including such foods as apples (non browning), papayas, potatoes and squash (summer varieties). These can be labeled as “May be a bioengineered food,” “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient,” or “May contain a bioengineered food ingredient.”

According to Goldberg, companies will have three options to disclose the presence of bioengineered foods: text, symbol or QR codes. However, he says, QR codes are inherently discriminatory since nearly 100 million Americans do not own a smartphone. Plus, USDA’s proposed bioengineered symbols, “which are supposed to be neutral, give off the impression that bioengineered foods are healthy,” he says.

Additionally, Goldberg warns, under the proposed rule, “Organic foods can be labeled as ‘Non-GMO’ or ‘Not BE.’ This is very problematic and poses an enormous risk for organic. While genetic modification is prohibited in organic production, this does not mean that organic foods are free from GMO contamination.”

Comments Talking Points
Comments on the proposed GMO labeling rule are being accepted through July 3, 2018, and can be submitted via regulations.gov. Goldberg recommends including the following talking points among your comments:

  • The term "bioengineered" should not be used. It is both misleading and confusing to consumers. "GMO", "GE" or "Genetic Engineering" should be used instead. These are terms consumers are familiar with and understand.
  • All forms of genetic engineering should be disclosed, including gene-editing, synthetic biology and RNAi.
  • All highly processed foods, such as genetically engineered oils, syrups and sugars, should not be excluded from labeling.
  • Any symbol that represents "bioengineered" should be neutral and not contain a smiley face or a sun, or a nature scene.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Worth the Retreat: One Week At Finca Luna Nueva

 Photo by  Compass Natural

Perspective by Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

Eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm Finca Luna Nueva, situated at the base of 250,000 acres of pristine rainforest surrounding the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, provides visitors an ideal setting for corporate retreats, vacation, and reconnecting with the natural world.

San Isidro, Costa Rica (April 27, 2019) – Walking on a solo hike through the rainforest at Finca Luna Nueva, a magical, “rustic luxury” eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm at the foot of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest near San Isidro, Costa Rica, listening to the primal scream of the Howler monkeys and the loud calls of the Oropendola birds in the tall trees above me, I am reminded of the innate intelligence of Mother Earth.

Of how everything is connected. The cycles of life, death, decay and rebirth and the abundance of nature – how it all works together to foster new life all around us. Nature is a community we are a part of, not just a commodity for us to selfishly exploit without any consideration for other life or the environment. All of this is clearly visible every which way you look in the lush rainforest surrounding the farm and resort.

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It can be seen in the tropical saplings growing quickly through the stumps of fallen trees that came before. In how the leaf cutter ants recycle organic matter and build soil fertility by harvesting bits of foliage throughout the jungle to feed a fungus they cultivate in their underground nests to farm their own food.

A delicate balance of natural resource and nutrient usage. Plants and animals taking advantage of a new niche when a giant tree falls, leaving a gap of light in the dense forest canopy that quickly fills in with eager new growth. The myriad, complex defense mechanisms the jungle’s living creatures create for survival. A mother three-toed sloth watching carefully as she begins to train her baby to fend for itself in a tree for a few moments before cradling it again in the comfort of her lap. How the tall Cecropia tree, with its dangling seed pods, draws different species of birds including colorful toucans at different times of day to eat and spread the tree’s seeds in the forest. How the tiny red poison dart frog has to eat certain species of ants that in turn have to eat certain species of plants in order for the frog to manufacture its particular brand of poison with which it defends itself.

You begin to see how it's all connected, and how life has evolved so that it's all dependent on each other and on the Earth itself. Mother Nature abhors a monoculture; that's evident in the cacophony of rich biodiversity represented at Finca Luna Nueva.

It’s all connected, and if you tug on one thread, like we humans are doing with the environment, there is a great risk that it all unravels.

  Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

A Vortex of Biodiversity

Finca Luna Nueva is located at the base of 250,000 acres of primary and secondary rainforest, with the still-active Arenal Volcano looming over all. One of its owners, and my host for the week, Tom Newmark, Co-founder of the Carbon Underground and former Co-owner of New Chapter Vitamins, explains it like this:

“Here we are in the very middle of Central America, at the nexus point of a narrow land bridge connecting the immense continents of North America and South America. In addition, we are at a central location with the Atlantic Ocean immediately to the east, and the Pacific Ocean

immediately to the west. It is a critical corridor of biodiversity. This ‘vortex’ has created one of the most biodiverse regions in one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet – and Finca Luna Nueva, with its 224 acres of rainforest and regenerative “food forest,” is smack dab in the middle of all that. We’ve been told this is one of the most biodiverse farms on the planet!”

  Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

"Rustic Luxury" Retreat Center

I came to Finca Luna Nueva as the guest of Tom and his wife Terry Newmark, and Co-founder and farm manager Steven Farrell, as Compass Natural has the great fortune of helping with marketing and PR for this incredible place. The resort’s mission is to raise awareness of environmental issues and regenerative and Biodynamic agriculture, and provide a memorable corporate retreat and conference center for mission-based companies and organizations in natural, organic, regenerative and related products and services.

With its open air meeting center, a soon to be completed poolside restaurant and bar constructed with bamboo and other natural building materials, spa, hot tub, rooms and individual cabins, organic food grown on the farm and served in its restaurant – and an amazingly kind, courteous and muy amable staff – I highly recommend Finca Luna Nueva to reconnect with your company’s mission, your people, Mother Nature ... and yourself.

Natural Building Highlighted

An unexpected highlight of my trip was arriving at Finca Luna Nueva right at the start of a natural building workshop that was being conducted on the farm by Dome Gaia, an organization founded by Hajjar Gibran, grand nephew of late author and poet Kahlil Gibran.

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Led by instructors Rafael “Rafa” Bravo and Gabriel De La Cruz, the workshop attracted nearly 30 people from all over the world to learn to build affordable, sustainable dome buildings made from “AirCrete.” Made with cement and the foam of dish detergent (the instructors specifically use Seventh Generation dish detergent, due to its particular formulation!), the lightweight AirCrete blocks are meant to help people the world over to build low-cost, eco-friendly dome buildings and homes. The group embraced me warmly into the fold and I witnessed and photographed the dome getting built in just 10 days. You never know when you’re going to learn something new ... and meet great people!

My journey to Finca Luna Nueva was a meaningful one for me, as it marked the 40th anniversary of my first entering the Peace Corps in 1978 at the age of 22 and a return to this rich Central American country. While I was eventually assigned to serve in Honduras, I lived for three months with a wonderful Costa Rican family while receiving immersive training in tropical agriculture and Spanish language and culture at the Peace Corps’ training center in La Guacima Alajuela, near the capital of San Jose.

Natural building, natural food, natural world. Thank you, Tom, Terry, Steven and everyone at Finca Luna Nueva. While I’ve returned to my home in beautiful Boulder, CO, a piece of mi corazón will always remain in Costa Rica, and, “si Dios quiere,” I look forward to a return visit to my beloved Finca Luna Nueva. As the Costa Ricans say, Pura Vida, everyone!

Corporate Retreats Available

If you’re interested in exploring corporate and organizational meetings, workshops and retreats at Finca Luna Nueva, contact us at Compass Natural and we’ll be pleased to share more information and connect you with the very professional team at Finca Luna Nueva. Our associate Evan Tompros will be pleased to be of assistance. Contact evan@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Resources
Finca Luna Nueva
Brave Earth
Dome Gaia
Ecological Building Network
Tom Newmark’s vanilla blog

 From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

Photos by Steven Hoffman