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Posts by Cody Atkins

Local Vendor Spotlight: Matr Boomie

What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?

In 2006, Manish Gupta embarked on a journey to create opportunities for marginalized artisans in India to realize their creative, economic, and leadership potential. Through grassroots efforts with a team in India, he and his wife, Ruchi, found master artisans and created workshops to transform unskilled men and women into skilled artisans. We gathered a team in Austin, Texas to create modern product designs inspired from traditional Indian art forms. Today, the little company launched in our Austin apartment is a leading wholesale and retail company in the ethical, sustainable, fair trade market. In 2018, Matr Boomie was awarded the People & Planet Award from Green America. This award is given to small businesses who show dedication to a green economy and worker empowerment.

What makes your products unique? Why should someone buy them?

Matr Boomie makes products that beautifully pair modern design with handmade art forms. We have a design team in Austin that creates and selects designs that are relevant for the market. The designs are then handcrafted by artisans in rural India using traditional art forms that have been passed down through generations. We prefer to work with marginalized groups like women, minorities, and rural artisans so they can have fair access to trade opportunities and fair wages.

Are your products fair trade?

Our products are all fair trade. Many of our products are made from sustainable and responsibly-sourced resources, and several of our products are made from recycled or upcycled material such as cotton, sari, or metal. As part of our mission to create a world that’s more compassionate, kind and connected, Matr Boomie goes beyond fair wages. We also invest in development projects, healthcare, education, skills training, loan programs, and scholarships for women, minorities, and people with special needs. 
Purchases of Matr Boomie’s exclusive products sustain jobs for people throughout India who have been handcrafting artisanal goods for generations. We partner with women’s groups, minorities, people with special needs, urban slums and isolated rural communities to empower artisans through dignified, sustainable employment. Above all, we value:

  • Safe work conditions
  • Education
  • The confidence and well-being of our artisan partners
  • No child labor

What are your most popular products and why?

  1. Jewelry – handmade, unique, India-inspired styles that are affordable, lightweight, and colorful
  2. Bells – handcrafted bells made from recycled tin that are hand-tuned and have a distinct sound that is unlike most bells
  3. Puzzle Boxes – handcarved wood boxes in fun designs that are a puzzle and a small storage space in one

Do you have a special tagline or slogan?

Made by hand. Made with love. Made for good.


How many staff members do you have?

28 – 14 in Austin; 14 in India

Where are your items sold?

Matr Boomie products are sold in fair trade and boutique stores nationwide as well as in several popular online stores, museums, and zoos.

SOCIAL NETWORK
WEBSITE:  https://matrboomie.com
FaceBook @MatrBoomie — Followers: 3,536
Twitter @MatrBoomie — Followers: 4,037
Instagram @MatrBoomie — Followers: 1,977

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Fair Trade - Give the Gift that Gives Twice

If thinking globally and shopping locally is kinda your thing then consider picking up a Fair Trade gift or few at Wheatsville this holiday season. When you choose Fair Trade you are giving more than just a gift- by choosing FAIR TRADE products you are supporting businesses that encourage democratic decision-making, transparency, gender equity, and independence all over the world. It’s also a way to give gifts guilt-free; the knit hat you buy might warm a head but it will also warm your heart knowing that your purchase supports a mission to end injustice in the world. This holiday season you can be twice as nice by choosing any or all of these awesome brands we’re proud to partner with. Here’s a few:

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Vendors Are Partners: Alaffia this month’s Fair Trade Partner

Thanks to Robin Michael, Alaffia Western Regional Sales Manager, for answering a few questions about Alaffia.

What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?

Alaffia is a fair trade (certified by IMO) hair, face, and body care organization that began in 2003 by founders Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde. The two met when during Rose’s service in the Peace Corps, she was stationed in Olowo-n’djo’s village of Kabole.  Headquartered in Olympia, Washington, Alaffia’s clean, safe, and efficacious products incorporate indigenous, nutrient-rich ingredients handcrafted at our six women’s cooperatives in Togo and Ghana. A percentage of each product sale contributes to our Empowerment Projects in West Africa, addressing vital areas for the self-empowerment of the people of West Africa—maternal care, education, reforestation, and eyeglasses.

Do you have a special tagline or slogan?

Beauty – Equality - Empowerment

What are your most popular products and why?

  • Babies and Up Lemon Lavender Bubble Bath- safe, clean bubbles without irritation!!
  • Purely Coconut Hand & Body Lotion- made with hand crafted fair trade coconut oil, for a non-greasy moisturizing formula.
  • Charcoal Based Underarm Deodorants- best-selling formulas that wear well with lasting protection!

What makes Alaffia products unique? Why should someone buy them?

Fair trade AND efficacious. We combine the ancient wisdom of plant based oils with science to create products that are accessible, safe and effective.

Are your products fair trade, organic, co-op made, non-GMO?

We are a Fair for Life fair trade certified body care company- one of only two (Dr. Bronner’s is the other)!

How many staff members do you have?

U.S.- 175
Togo- 700 year-round, and 14,000 empowered

What would an employee say is the best part about working at Alaffia?

  • “The work is very diversified, and I get to try my hand at many things.  Furthermore, the work feels meaningful, and I think it attracts such great coworkers- talented, smart, and all of whom want to help the business succeed.” -Matthew Barrett, Marketing Supervisor
  • “Truly, it’s the people I work with.” -Jen Luck, Sales Planner (formerly of First Alternative Co-op)
  • “The fact that we empower and employ people across the globe, here and in Africa, to make the world a better place.  It’s all about making the world a better place…through kindness, empowerment, empathy, listening, sustainable practices. The kids who are able to stay in school because they received a bicycle through Alaffia’s “Bikes for School” program- you never know which one  is going to change the world or help inspire someone else who will change the world.”  -Dane Halter, Alaffia Broker

Anything else we should know?

Our empowerment projects have affected more than 50,000 lives for the better!  Follow link for more details: alaffia.com/empowerment/

SOCIAL NETWORK

  • FaceBook @Alaffia
  • Number of Followers: 18,233
  • Twitter @AlaffiaSkinCare
  • Number of Followers: 4657
  • Instagram @alaffia
  • Number of Followers: 17,200

More History, Fair Trade Ingredient Information, Baskets and Empowerment Projects

Over the years, there have been moments that shaped the natural products industry. One such moment occurred when Olowo-n’djo Tchala met Prairie Rose Hyde. No one could have imagined a young woman from rural Washington and a young man born and raised in rural Togo, West Africa with a sixth grade education would go on to build one of the most successful fair trade body care organizations in the natural products industry.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala was born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo where he shared a single 8’x10’ room with his mother and seven siblings. After failing to afford school tuition, Olowo-n’djo dropped out of school in the sixth grade. In the years after, he worked alongside his mother on her farm. In 1996, Olowo-n’djo met and fell in love with Peace Corps Volunteer, Prairie Rose Hyde, while she worked in Kaboli. After her service ended, the couple moved to the United States with a shared goal: finding a way to alleviate poverty in West Africa.

Rose entered a graduate program at the University of California, Davis studying International Agricultural Development and Ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants. Olowo-n’djo studied English and earned a degree in Organizational Theory. Determined to make a difference in his home country, Olowo-n’djo applied for a $50,000 business loan and, not familiar with the American banking system, did not understand why the bank could not fulfill his request when he had no personal financial assets. Eventually, Rose’s brother offered his house as collateral and the couple obtained the loan, traveled to Togo, and formed what we know today as Alaffia.

Fair trade is a movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers. While there are several definitions of fair trade, they all include:

  • Fair Trade Price: base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted higher than open market price.
  • Price Premium: a percentage above the base fair trade price is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities.
  • Working Conditions: fair trade operators must adhere to basic human & labor rights, including the right to organize, no child labor, access to health care, and so on.
  • Environmental Stewardship: fair trade organizations must minimize environmental impact.

To Alaffia, fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions, being open to public accountability, and reducing the number of middlemen between producers & consumers. We believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self-empower.

Fair Trade Unrefined Ingredients:

Shea Butter

Shea butter is the oil from the nuts of wild Shea trees scattered throughout the wooded savanna of West and Central Africa. Shea butter has been used for centuries in Africa. It’s protective and emollient properties are most valued for skin care. In recent clinical trials, shea butter was found to help to protect skin against climate and UV aggressions, reduce appearance of wrinkles, soothe irritated and chapped skin, and moisturize the epidermis.

Handcrafted, unrefined shea butter contains the maximum amount of bioactive phytochemicals. Most shea butter available to the general public outside West Africa is white and odorless: in other words, it has been refined to remove the natural scent and color of natural shea butter. In the process, the majority of the antioxidant agents are also removed. The yellow tint of unrefined shea butter is due to the Vitamin E content. Remove this color, and the beneficial vitamins have also been removed. Refined shea butter is often hard and grainy, not smooth and creamy like pure, unrefined shea butter.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is traditionally extracted oil from fresh fruit of the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. Coconuts have been cultivated in coastal West Africa and been part of the diet and skin care for centuries. Virgin coconut oil is an important food oil, and is applied to skin and hair directly to protect from sun and wind damage.

Virgin coconut oil is high in natural antioxidants and protects skin from damaging free-radicals. It also helps keep skin looking firm, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Repeated use of virgin coconut oil helps keep skin smoother and more evenly textured by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells. We extract our virgin coconut oil by hand using traditional fermentation methods in Togo, West Africa from fresh coconuts grown organically on small farms. We use our virgin coconut oil in its natural, unrefined state for maximum effectiveness.

Refined coconut oil has been stripped of natural antioxidants and is highly prone to free-radical generation. Free radicals damage skin cells and cause skin aging and cancer. The antioxidants in unrefined coconut oil not only prevent free-radicals from forming in the oil, but also help protect against free-radicals that the skin is exposed to.

Baskets

The Alaffia basket weaving program began in 2004 and the first Alaffia Basket Weaving Cooperative was established in Tchevié, southern Togo in 2006. In 2008, Alaffia baskets were Certified Fair Trade by GiFFT and the Alaffia Internal Control System with full quality parameters was established. In November 2014, our Togo basket weaving program underwent a full and rigorous inspection by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification Program. IMO is one of the first and most renowned international bodies for inspection, certification and quality assurance of sustainable products. Our Togo baskets are now Certified Fair Trade by IMO. Furthermore, our baskets, as well as shea butter, other oils and soaps received IMO's highest possible Fair for Life performance ranking (5). To our knowledge, our West African Togo baskets will be the first and only to be Certified Fair Trade. The certification covers the baskets woven in our Sokodé, Togo center.

Empowerment Projects

Alaffia’s success is not simply measured by profit. Our success is measured by empowerment. Empowerment Projects are Alaffia’s mission in action, funded by the sales of Alaffia products. Alaffia invests in our communities because it is our moral responsibility and to ensure African resources empower African communities. The goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Our Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM Eradication (Female Genital Mutilation), Eyeglasses and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty. Click for more information.

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Wheatsville’s Signature Brine

 Brining Turkey

To guarantee a moist and flavorful turkey, use a brine. Wheatsville’s signature brine mix features the usual salt and sugar but also has a cornucopia of other seasonings including a dash of candied ginger! Packaged in reusable mason jars, just add your own liquid and your chosen bird. You can use fruit juice (apple works just fine), broth, or water. With this pre-mixed brine, it’s very easy to prepare the star of your Thanksgiving dinner! We have this brine featured alongside our other turkey accessories, in close proximity to the meat market.


How to Use Wheatsville’s Signature Brine

You will need:
1 12 oz jar of Wheatsville Turkey & Poultry Brine Mix
1 gallon brining liquid of choice (water, vegetable stock, or fruit juice, such as apple)
1 gallon of heavily iced water
1 turkey (14-16 lb) 1 brining container or bag

 
Directions:
Bring the gallon of brining liquid to a boil in large stockpot. Empty jar of Wheatsville Brine with the boiling liquid, stirring to dissolve solids. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use. Ensure brining liquid is chilled before the next steps.

Place thawed turkey and gallon of iced water into a brining container or bag with chilled brine mixture. Keep chilled in refrigerator or place in a cooler with plenty of ice for 12-24 hours. Turkey can be rinsed in cold water before roasting.

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Maintaining Your Memory

The start of the school year reminds me of the importance of pursuing a lifetime of learning. Paramount to learning is the ability to store and recall information. However, as we get older these abilities diminish to some extent. Luckily there are a few items in the Wellness department that can support cognitive function. Here are a couple:

Bacopa is an Ayurvedic Herb that has been used in Ayurveda to enhance memory, learning and concentration. I also helps mitigate the effects of stress by balancing dopamine and serotonin while reducing cortisol.

DHA is an essential fatty acid that is crucial to brain function. Supplementation of DHA has been found to support memory, mood, and brain functions affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. DHA can be found in ocean-sourced omega 3 supplements (fish or algae) and in wild caught salmon and other saltwater fish.

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Keepin’ It Clean with Silver Botanicals

Silver has long been recognized for its antimicrobial properties, effective in killing viruses, bacteria, molds, and fungi. Prior to the development of modern antibiotics in the 1940s, physicians used medicine containing silver for the treatment of colds and infections and even had silver sutures. Additionally, soldiers used silver leaf in the field during WWI to treat infected wounds. Even in ancient Greece, Hippocrates wrote about silver usage for wound care!

However, silver also has disinfecting uses outside of treating illness and wounds. Locally-owned Silver Botanicals has several safe, all-natural, and effective products for keeping your spaces and yourself clean  using the power of colloidal silver and essential oils.

Their Silver Shield Sanitizer is great for household surfaces in the kitchen, bath, and laundry hamper. It deodorizes as well as disinfects quickly, safely, and leaves an invisible silver shield that continues to work long after you’ve spritzed your surfaces.

Silver Botanicals also has a few personal care items such as their Silver Tongue Oral Disinfectant, an alcohol-free disinfecting oral rinse which is great for beating back bad breath and fighting germs associated with gum and tooth disease. Because there’s no alcohol, there’s no burning and the essential oils along with the xylitol work synergistically with the colloidal silver to support optimal oral health.

There is also their foot spray, Silver Foot Shield, which is a long-lasting shield against odor-causing bacteria and fungus. It is intended to be used directly on the feet but it is also effective inside footwear. It is perfect for anyone spending time outside in these hot summer months!

Perhaps the most popular products from Silver Botanicals here at Wheatsville are their Silver Shield Deodorants. We offer their roll-on and spray applications in both an original and sensitive skin formula. Both contain nano-silver particles along with aloe vera and baking soda to keep you odor-free even when under high stress or physical exertion!

All Silver Botanicals are on Co+op Deal for 25% OFF during July & August! It’s a great time to try any of these locally produced, highly effective, safe products.

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The 411 on Wheatsville Brand Supplements

Here in the Wellness Department, we frequently get asked about our house-brand supplements. Who makes them? Where do the ingredients come from? Are they actually any good? Even before the recent exposé on the private-label supplements offered by several nationally-recognized companies, these were really good questions.

To start, our supplements are made by Reliance, a privately held company that has been producing supplements since 1978. Located in Edison, NJ, Reliance has a new start-of-the-art facility that is LEED certified and contains Class 10,000 clean rooms which exceed the industry standards for both air quality and humidity control, both of which are vital to preserve the potency of ingredients. To achieve this quality, the Reliance facility utilizes a MERV air filtration system to produce clean air. The system uses no hydro chlorofluorocarbons so it significantly reduces their ecologic footprint.

The innovators at Reliance were some of the first to be able to offer private-label products and formulations in many categories including shelf-stable probiotics, vegetarian DHA, and liquid herbal extracts. Their Aller 7 Support product, formulated for allergy relief, won a Vity Award for Best Natural Allergy formula from Vitamin Retailer, a trade publication.

Reliance’s team of PhD.s and nutritionists source both raw and patented ingredients for their products and formulations from all over the globe. All ingredients are third party tested by independent laboratories for purity. You can even go on their website, http://www.reliancevitamin.com to fi,nd the results of these tests. Additionally, Reliance fully discloses all ingredient suppliers and is certified GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) compliant from both the NSA and NPA. The company is also actively involved in legislative and regulatory organizations that serve to promote and protect the natural products industry.

It is our hope that, no matter what type of product you choose to purchase from Wheatsville, your decision is one that you feel educated and good about. This overview is brief; if you have any questions that aren’t covered here, feel free to ask any member of the Wellness staff!

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Resolution Support & Superfood Smoothies

If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better, to be more active, to lose weight, or to have more energy, then you may want to start incorporating smoothies into your daily diet. Smoothies are a versatile and delicious way to boost your nutritional intake. Whatever your specific nutritional goal or need is, our full selection of smoothies and drink mixes can help you achieve it! Here’s a few of our popular smoothie products available in the Wellness Department:

Greens
Health Force Vitamineral Greens*

Formulated by Dr. Jameth Sheridan, this superfood blend of greens from the earth and ocean is raw, vegan, and goes a step beyond organic to be tested 100% free of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, irradiation, and GMOs. Not content with standard USDA Organic testing, Health Force calls products that meet this standard TruGanictm. Beyond these great qualities is a product that has been pulverized to the point that is dissolvable in liquid without the scratchy fibrous qualities found in many green foods products. This item is both a staff and customer favorite.

Proteins
Plant Fusion Plant-based Protein*

This plant-sourced blend of proteins is perfect if you are looking to add some protein to your diet. Each serving contains 21 grams of protein while adding only 120 calories to your shake. The protein blend comes from organic sprouted quinoa, organic sprouted amaranth, yellow peas, and artichoke. And while you will find enzymes for digestibility and branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) for muscle recovery, you won’t find any GMOs, gluten, soy, or dairy in this product!

SFH (Stronger Faster Healthier) Whey Protein
SFH has a premium line of whey protein that is derived from A2 milk. A2 milk differs genetically from A1 milk. Most milk sold in grocery stores is either A1 or a combination of A1/A2 milk. Research hasn’t been conclusive but many believe that A2 milk is easier to digest due to the type of beta-casein, which constitutes 30% of milk’s protein, it contains. Coincidentally, milk from goats also contains the A2 beta-casein but unlike goat’s milk, A2 cow’s milk does not have a goat’s milk-like taste.

Weight Loss
Garden of Life RAW Fit

RAW Fit is a certified USDA Organic, raw, plant-based, vegan shake that is formulated with weight loss in mind. In addition to 28 grams of protein, RAW Fit also contains green coffee bean extract, chromium, and cinnamon to support healthy blood-sugar levels. Ashwagandha is an ingredient in RAW FIT which can help reduce stress related cravings. There is also a healthy dose of soluble and insoluble fiber to help keep you feeling full. To top it all off RAW Fit contains probiotics and enzymes to support a healthy digestion that can make the most of the nutrition you put into it.

Total Nutrition
Vega One

Vega One is formulated by former professional triathelete and two time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, Brendan Brazier. With total nutrition in mind, Vega One can cover a lot of your dietary needs. Each serving contains 17 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, almost 7 grams of omegas, 1.5 grams of greens, 1 gram of Maca, 200 mg of antioxidants, 300 mg of enzymes, 1 billion probiotics, and 50% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs. Vega one is a great way to bolster your daily nutritional intake and just like Brendan Brazier, Vega One is vegan.

*Available as a smoothie add-on in the Deli

From chia seeds, to flax seed oil, to local bee pollen, to fiber powders, and superfoods, we have a full spectrum of items for vegans and omnivores alike. Stop in and ask one of the helpful Wellness staff members and we’d be happy to show you a product just right for your needs!

For most of us, the New Year brings resolutions to take better care of ourselves. The Wheatsville Deli offers a wide range of healthy and delicious smoothie options to help you with your health and wellness goals.

Superfood Smoothies
By Lisa Weems, Deli Coordinator

We start our custom smoothies with a base of banana (an excellent source of vitamin B6 that also contains vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber) and add your choice of apple, orange juice, or soy, rice, almond, coconut, or cow milk. We then blend in your choice of fruits—strawberries, pineapple, peaches, mango, blueberries, and/or raspberries, as many or as few as you like! Add in any of our extras for a small additional charge, from yogurt or nut butters for a tasty protein boost, to omega-3 powerhouses chia seed or flaxmeal, to plant- based nutritional supplement powders. You could create a custom smoothie every day of 2015 and never drink the same one twice!

We revamped our smoothie menu a few years back to incorporate an even broader range of ingredients, specifically vegetables. Our January Resolution Smoothie is a nutrient-rich treat that starts with our housemade Gingerade, a perfectly spiced fresh ginger infusion mixed with citrus juices. We blend this tasty brew with banana, spinach, cucumber, and carrot—perfect for a healthy breakfast or post-workout replenishment.  We are happy to add the veggie of your choice to your smoothie—just ask your friendly deli counter clerk what is available! Happy new year! Here’s to a healthy and smoothie-filled 2015!

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