Photo courtesy of New Moon Natural Foods

A trip to New Moon Natural Foods in Lake Tahoe, California yields some of the best produce in a 200-mile radius. It’s also a small act of resistance.

New Moon’s two locations stock their shelves with certified organic produce, exclusively. They refuse to carry Driscoll’s or other industrial organic brands. Instead, they prioritize the “teeny, tiny independent” growers that don’t have the volume or clout to get on the shelf of larger retailers, explains longtime produce manager Tammy Graham.

Small farms find their way to New Moon through the retailer’s close relationships with two trusted distributors, Veritable Vegetable and Tahoe Food Hub. Stars of the local food system, these entities work with farms that carry a higher price point than corporate brands, leading to interesting conversations in the produce aisle.

If customers balk at the price, Graham points to value. Those smaller distributors pay fair prices to farmers. The quality of those farms is unparalleled.  Small certified organic farmers (some “soil geeks” who have mastered no-till) sell food grown in soil that’s thoughtfully stewarded. The added value: ecosystem services, nutrition, and flavor. In fact, Tahoe Food Hub works primarily with chefs.

Without New Moon, customers in her area wouldn’t find this produce on the grocery store shelves, Graham says.

“And then what?” she wonders. “The next thing you know, we’ll be stuck with greenwashed organic products. There’s no coming back from that.”

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