Healthy Concepts

Sabamba Alpaca Ranch is about to celebrate 10 years in business. Our business has been made up of three key components over those years. Each of these parts plays a vital role in the total overall business plan: a fiber producing livestock farm, which works on product development/sorting and grading and shearing during the springtime; a bed and breakfast, which is most active during the summer months; and a retail alpaca store, which is most active during the fall and winter months.

Our business started with the purchase of a 12.5-acre farm, six pregnant female alpaca and one breeding male alpaca. Lucky boy! After purchasing the farm in the fall of 2006 we spent one year remodeling the 1890 farm house, which had been twice remodeled before us. We gutted it and refinished the house with the intent to open a bed and breakfast.

In the fall of 2007 we welcomed our first alpacas to the ranch, just as the last gate was installed. Our herd consisted of five pregnant females with cria (baby alpaca) at side and one open female with cria at side. Our first cria delivered at the ranch arrived in the summer of 2008. There was a stiff learning curve for the first twelve months in the business, which included alpaca birthing, handling and training, shearing, weaning, health care, showing, and the question, “What do we do with all this fiber?”

When we purchased our animals we invested a great deal of money into our business. Alpaca prices were at a premium in 2006. Then came the recession of 2008. Like so many other businesses ours was adversely affected by the recession. Prices of the animals plummeted by approximately 2/3 of our initial investment. Yikes! That was the bad news. The good news was that by 2008 I had discovered that the fiber produced by this animal is spectacular. So as we say in business, “shift happens!” We shifted our focus toward establishing a retail business where we could sell alpaca items. In 2009 we launched our bed and breakfast and our retail store.

Our first and favorite alpaca product is a heavyweight, super warm alpaca sock. The sock was produced through a national cooperative. As a member of this cooperative we could contribute our fiber and purchase finished socks at a wholesale price to sell in our store. It was a big hit, which was no surprise to us as we happily wear them every day. So life was good. Business was growing nicely and then the next shoe fell. Due to unforeseen manufacturing difficulties, the co-op ran out of sock to sell — just as our demand was growing! Who said owning your own business is easy? We went in search of a new manufacturer. One was found, but when we presented the product to our existing customers they were unhappy that we changed the sock. We believe the customer is always right and the co-op started producing socks again, so we went back to our original sock the following year.

The wholesale price of the sock had increased quite a bit so our profit margin was shrinking and the price of feed for the alpacas was not going down. Oh yes, and that breeding boy was busy! The herd was now up to almost 50. Then the next shoe fell. Our beloved co-op announced that it was going out of business due to financial issues. Now it was time to really step it up. Keep the change coming — we love change!

The co-op auctioned off their remaining assets and we were the successful bidder for the balance of their sock inventory. Those socks will be arriving at the ranch soon. Our own production recently launched last week with our first shipment of sorted fiber. We are going to a 4-day training seminar to sharpen our skills as graders so we can continue to produce a quality product. Hopefully we can produce enough socks to supply our store and other farmers in the area who also have farm store.

Challenges and changes occur often when you are an entrepreneur so you have to be willing to embrace them and rise above. Sabamba Alpaca Ranch and Bed & Breakfast has and has never been better! 

The gut or microbiome is becoming an increasing area of interest and study. It has been estimated that we have over 100 trillion bacteria in our gut. Wow! Lots of tiny but mighty creatures making up what is called the microbiome. As around 80 percent of our gut makes up our immune system, a healthy belly is in our best interest. The gut has also been called our second brain and has also been referenced as our “gut instinct.”

Did you know you have the same neurotransmitters in your gut as your brain and if your brain isn’t happy chances are your belly is not either? Newborns are first introduced to important bacteria as they enter the world via the vaginal canal and get bathed in bacteria, setting the stage for immune health. Cesarean section babies are at a disadvantage to this initial introduction. In some parts of the country OB docs swab the mom’s vaginal area and then wipe it on the newborn born via a C-section as they have less diverse bacteria initially. One might wonder if this could play a part in a C-section baby having more allergies and asthma.

A stool test can be a very useful tool in providing a snapshot of the milieu of the microbiome. This one- or three-day test can be performed at home and sent to the lab. Your practitioner can go over the results with you.

Consider the 5 ‘R’s when improving the function of the gut:

1. Removal. Often upon evaluating stool tests parasites and various pathogens are uncovered. Eliminating these stressors is one approach to achieving better belly health. There are many antimicrobial supplements to help target specific infections. Food sensitivities also play a large part in gut damage, especially gluten. Food sensitivity testing is a helpful avenue to pursue.

2. Reinoculate. Specific probiotics can feed our gut and help establish a better balance. Antibiotics, while important in fighting the bad bugs, can also damage the good bacteria. Taking a probiotic can support the good flora that gets knocked out with antibiotic use. There are several strains on the market, and your practitioner can help you determine which is best. Complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables are slow to be digested and also feed our gut. Resistant starch can also improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People on a gluten-free diet need to be extra vigilant about getting enough fiber. The bugs in our belly feed on this fiber and make nutrients that we need. Women in general need about 25 grams of fiber, and men about 30. Eating a wide variety of foods can boost your gut health. The average American eats the same 15 foods over and over again. Remember variety is the spice of life! Eating with the seasons can also help to rotate your foods. Remember when shopping to use the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen” rules when purchasing your fruits and veggies. With increasing pesticide use the dirty dozen foods should only be consumed if you purchase it organically and the Clean 15 foods you can save your pennies on due to low pesticide use or a thicker rind to absorb the deleterious spray. is a great website to learn more when you have time.

3. Repair. There are various herbal products that help repair the gut lining such as L-glutamine, deglcyrrhizinated licorice aloe and arabinogalactans.

4. Restore and 5. Rebalance. Restoring includes daily exercise and returning to healthy eating habits.

If your belly is not as happy as it should be, consider seeing a functional medicine practitioner for evaluation and to help achieve better health.

Buying health insurance has become very expensive. For many years, most of us received health insurance through our employer’s group plan. We paid little or nothing toward the premium and out-of-pocket costs. We never got a bill, because the group health insurance plan paid it.

To show you a perspective on how costs have increased, in 1963 a family plan cost the employer about $2.50/month or $30/year. In 2017 or 54 years later, that same plan will cost about $2,500/month or $30,000/year.

Today, these higher costs are being shifted to the individual and family in the form of premium contribution and deductibles. This cost shift is the new reality for people who receive their insurance through an employer or buy insurance on their own.

Five tips for buying health insurance:

  1. Know your monthly premium and annual maximum out-of-pocket limit. If you have a large health care bill, this is your total financial risk each year.
  2. Know your existing health care costs. What are the names, dosages, quantities and costs of your prescription medicines? What are your anticipated office visits, labs, tests and other product costs for the year?
  3. Know how these health care costs are covered by your plan. Compare the coverage of these costs to your annual premium cost. Does it make sense to pay more in premium to have lower out-of-pocket expenses, or does it make sense to save the lower premium for when you need it?
  4. Know your health insurance plan options. Many people today have health insurance options to choose from such as HSA qualified plans with health savings accounts, HMOs and PPOs that determine the doctors and hospitals you can access.
  5. Ask questions. Every year plans can change. You want to access a health insurance advisor to make informed decisions about your insurance cost and coverage.

After you purchase your health insurance plan, your other purchase decision is health care. Here you want to assemble your team of health professionals who can help you assess your health risks, and work with you to improve your health to avoid paying high out-of-pocket costs each year. 

Welcome to the world of beekeeping! Now that your bees have arrived and you’ve installed them into your Langstroth hive, you’re good to go, right? Not quite. If you installed your bees into your hive on brand new equipment, these first several weeks are very vital. You see, the bees have to draw out the comb for the queen to begin laying. If the queen gets crowded, she and the workers will find a more suitable place to live. Thus, swarming occurs. This means some pampering from you, the beekeeper, to keep your girls happy.

When you first installed your packaged bees into new equipment, you more than likely “locked” the queen in. This prevents her from taking all the workers and leaving. While locked in, you are feeding your bees. What do you feed bees? Well to start with, syrup and a pollen substitute. The syrup is the bees’ carbohydrates, and the pollen is their protein. The queen needs both to become strong and healthy to lay eggs. The syrup is also used for the worker bees to make the comb. Supplemental feeding is usually done until the nectar flow begins.

Inspecting your hive every 7-10 days is important. This is to assure the queen has the room to lay her eggs. She could potentially lay upward of 1,000 plus eggs per day! Inspecting your hive also lets you know when to add additional boxes, either hive bodies or honey supers. Contrary to what you may think, you never start your colony with all boxes on your hive. Your bees need to work one box at a time for them to completely fill out all the frames in that one box. The only way to know when to add another box is by inspecting. There will be some rotation of frames during your inspections, but never the center frames. The center frames are reserved for the queen’s brood. When inspecting the brood, you are looking for eggs. This lets you know the queen is still in the hive, regardless of if you’re able to locate her. The brood frames are never rotated, they are inspected and put back in the same place they were removed from.

Once the brood chambers are drawn, it’s time to think about adding honey supers. These boxes are typically the boxes that are used for honey production. The nectar flow season in northern Wisconsin is June through August. The colony is typically at its largest, upward of 50,000 bees at this point. Inspections are done now to see if you need to add another honey super. No more inspecting of the brood boxes. Each honey super can hold approximately 50 pounds of honey! You can either continue to add honey supers as needed or extract and put that honey super back on. This is called “wet supering.” Either way, you are bound to have lots of natural, raw honey! Yum!

Thanks for following our story — “bee” happy! 

Ask anyone in Victoria Cavataio’s family and they will tell you she’s a natural caretaker. “Victoria has always been selfless,” her cousin Otto Panzenhagan III said. “She’s the first one to lend a hand.”

Now Victoria herself needs a hand, and Otto has found a way to help her through Community Benefit Tree (CBT) of Kaukauna. Diagnosed shortly after Thanksgiving with stage 4 lung and bone cancer, Victoria sometimes has appointments every day or two at the cancer center.

“I haven’t been able to eat a lot and I’ve lost 55 pounds,” Victoria said. “I asked the doctor to hold off on treatments so I can eat and gain a little weight and some energy before we start the next round. Chemo and radiation cause me to be low on fluids no matter how much I drink,” she said. Thus the constant trips to check her fluid levels between visits for treatment.

A single mother of two adult children, Victoria said, “My seven grandchildren are what keep me going. I was making a cross stitch for each of them with their birthdates. I have three more to do, but I haven’t had the energy to work on those recently.”

Vickie has always helped raise her grandchildren, according to Otto. They are just the latest in a long list of family members for whom she has cared. Moving to her parents’ house when her mother developed a brain aneurysm, Victoria went back home after her mother passed away.

“Then her dad started getting ill,” Otto said, “so she moved back home again to take care of him. And then my mom, who lived in Phoenix, started getting ill as she got old. Vickie went out to Arizona and helped her for three months. She even helped us pack up mom’s stuff and move her back to Wisconsin.”

“There probably is not a chance that I will live a long time,” Victoria said. “It raises concerns for me about my grandchildren. I’m trying to spend as much time with them as I can. I want to finish their cross stitching so they have something to remember me by.”

On a more final note, she said, “I have enough insurance to cover my funeral. I’ve taken care of all that. My sister will take care of it for me.”

Otto, who met CBT executive director Heidi Frederickson through a business networking group, naturally turned to the nonprofit when he realized that Victoria’s medical bills were mounting. He has set up a fund for donations through Community Benefit Tree that will help pay Victoria’s medical and living expenses.

“Community Benefit Tree helped me develop the fund and taught me ways to advertise it and things like that,” Otto said.

Victoria is grateful. “I appreciate that Otto started this fund for me and that Community Benefit Tree is helping,” she said. “I just sent them some receipts and bills that I have because of the issue with my arm (broken last year when she was hit by a drunk driver).”

We usually think of medical bills and paying monthly expenses when someone faces illness. There are other costs we never consider.

“I need some clothes that fit because I’m wearing the same clothes I had when I was big,” Victoria said. “I didn’t even know about Community Benefit Tree until Otto started my fund.”

One thing she really appreciates is that all of the donated funds go directly to her expenses. “When you do ‘GoFundMe,’ you pay fees,” she said. “Community Benefit Tree doesn’t charge or take any fees.”

Readers wishing to help Victoria can donate to her fund at Scroll down the page to find her fund, “Vigor Victory of Victoria.” 

Our environment is full of toxic chemical compounds. If we could see the harmful chemicals we would probably freak out. It can be mind numbing to consider the scope of the problem. Most of us are powerless to change our circumstances so that we could somehow escape exposure. The baby boomers are the first generation to grow up during the chemicalization of America. It has only gotten worse, much worse. The children being born today already have over 100 chemicals in their systems at birth. Exposure just continues to grow from there.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to reduce your exposure to the many chemicals in our lives. We can also support our natural detox systems in the body. So the big idea is to live cleaner as best you can, improve nutrition to support health, and help your body detox by regular and periodic cleansing.

How does the body get rid of and/or neutralize harmful chemicals? Our bodies are amazing in the ways in which we deal with the many forms of assaults we face daily. What are the risks from a lifetime of exposure to hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals? It is bad enough to understand the risks of one chemical in the body, but what about the synergistic effect of many chemicals together? No one knows. How many of today’s health challenges are made worse by this exposure? Being naturally healthy requires that we consider how to avoid those toxins in the first place and how to get rid of the ones we have.

A toxin is defined as any compound that has a detrimental effect on cell function or structure:

  • Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic
  • Phthalates are found in plastics
  • Acrylamide is a chemical in starchy fried foods, such as french fries
  • Industrial chemicals like dioxins, furans, PBDEs (fire retardants) and PCBs
  • Chlorine in drinking water
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Pest repellents
  • Disinfectants
  • Volatile organic compounds (solvents)
  • Tobacco smoke byproducts

We must face the fact that we are swimming in a sea of toxins. The best we can do is to avoid what is possible for us to avoid and help our bodies to detoxify. Our body is always cleansing, detoxifying and purifying. Imagine your home if you did not get rid of waste in a timely and efficient manner. What if garbage and waste were allowed to accumulate? The result would not be a pleasant place to reside. If your body does not efficiently eliminate toxins, then your internal environment becomes more and more toxic and a risk to your health. This is why we detoxify on a regular basis.

To truly support the body’s detoxification processes, you must support the health of your liver. This is more of a long-term lifestyle decision. This is particularly important because once the detox system becomes overloaded, toxic metabolites accumulate and we can become progressively more sensitive to other chemicals, even ones normally considered not toxic.

The long-term approach to detoxification

Stay away from:

  • “Bad” oils, such as corn, safflower, soy and anything hydrogenated
  • Refined sugar foods and beverages
  • Diet soda
  • High mercury fish
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Reduce exposure to chemicals whenever possible

Load up your diet with foods that are rich in components that help protect the liver from damage and improve liver function. These include:

  • High sulfur-containing foods: garlic, legumes, onions and eggs
  • Good sources of water-soluble fibers: pears, oat bran, apples and legumes
  • Cabbage family vegetables, especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Dandelion
  • Many herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon and ginger

Here is the payoff: Your ability to detoxify is closely tied to how you feel. So if you want to feel more energetic, have greater clarity of thought, more happiness, and a greater passion for living, then these are some of the potential benefits of detoxification. Your potential for living longer and healthier is greater when you are well-nourished and eliminate waste and toxins efficiently. 


From the colonial mansions of New England to the stately ranches of the Southwest and the charming Midwestern farmhouses in between, one striking feature unites all the very best houses of the nation: hardwood floors. The timeless beauty of natural wood just can’t be matched by any other material. And while the aesthetics of wood flooring are often of foremost concern, there are a number of reasons why the modern, practical, health-conscious and environmentally-friendly homeowner should champion hardwood floors. Here are just a few of them.


Many of us today are trying to do what we can to make sure that we don’t squander our planet’s resources at the expense of future generations. While it may seem counterintuitive (how is cutting down trees good for the planet?), wood is widely accepted as a sustainable resource. It may take a little while to happen, but trees do grow back. And right now, thanks to conservation efforts, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that we’re growing more trees than we’re chopping down.

That said, harvesting hardwood must be done responsibly. Many lumber suppliers partner with the National Forest Service to ensure that commercial timber harvesting is not undertaken at the expense of existing ecosystems or future generations. If you’re considering installing new hardwood floors but are concerned about their environmental footprint, check to see that the seller’s materials are certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Of course, if you really want to commit to sustainability, you can use reclaimed wood for your floors. Though this option can be costly, it is probably the most beautiful and most fashionable way there is to recycle.

No off-gassing

Then there are the health benefits. Lots of decorating and building materials used today contain substances that aren’t terribly good for us. These are called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. There are literally thousands of VOCs, with common culprits including formaldehyde and benzene. These chemicals are associated with ailments as varied as respiratory and nasal irritation to liver damage and cancer. Many of these compounds exist in nature and shouldn’t cause harm when encountered outdoors or in spaces with adequate ventilation. However, VOCs crop up in many indoor building materials as well, where ventilation is often less than adequate.

Certain types of carpeting, its backing, and the adhesives that are used to install it all contain VOCs. They are also often found in the glues used to make pressed-wood composites, common in laminate flooring. VOCs inside your living space result in a process called “off-gassing,” which is the release of these noxious particulates into the air you breathe.

While there is considerable debate within the scientific community over the safety of these materials, many concerned homeowners would prefer to err on the side of caution. Hardwood floors are a good way to do just that. The Environmental Protection Agency agrees. They suggest that anyone building or remodeling homes should consider using prefinished hardwood products to minimize the impact of VOCs in their environment.

Though prefinished hardwood products do contain some VOCs, research suggests that any fumes or particulates that could be harmful to homeowners disperse within 24 hours of application. In other words, the bad stuff is gone by the time you put these products into your home. This cannot be said for carpets or wood composites.

Ease of maintenance

Not only is hardwood flooring good for your body and your conscience, it’s also extremely practical. Even the most committed environmental crusaders need to clean their floors, “dirty hippy” stereotypes notwithstanding. This brings us to another benefit: hardwoods are easy to take care of.

Regular sweeping, occasional mopping and perhaps refinishing every five years or so — that’s it. Routine spills are easy to clean and staining is a non-issue. (OK, if your kid pours a whole bottle of bleach on the floor, you might have a problem. But most spills are quick and easy to clean.) And if you’ve ever lived in a home with white carpet, you’ll get the added benefit of once again being able to serve red wine at parties. What’s not to love?


And then there’s the fashion element.

Ever walk into a room that was carpeted wall-to-wall with thick, orange shag? What was your first reaction? Groovy?

One of the greatest yet most overlooked benefits of hardwood flooring is that it never goes out of style. Wood floors are by their nature permanent (or at least semi-permanent). While carpeting and linoleum can become dated quickly, wood floors have a classic look that tends to improve with age. Of course fashions will always come and go, but redoing your living room or your office isn’t like trading in your bellbottoms for a pair of skinny jeans. New floors are a significant investment. Which brings us to yet another benefit.


Many homeowners would love to put in hardwood floors but are put off by the somewhat high cost up front. But their relative ease of maintenance and extremely long lifespan means that the initial investment will be the only significant expenditure you will need to make during your home’s lifetime. Choosing hardwood flooring over materials that require a lot of maintenance, and that may well require replacement within a decade or less, results in significant cost-savings over the long term. Better to pay once and be done with it.

Natural beauty

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the aforementioned aesthetic value. Wood is beautiful. If you run your hand over a polished table or pause to marvel at the mesmerizing variations of knots and grains in an old door, you know that wood is nature and nature is a miracle. An expert artisan can take nature’s masterpieces and shape them into gorgeous objets d’art that perfectly enhance the unique charms of your space. Nowadays, there are literally more design options to choose from than ever before. Parquets, plank-flooring, strip-flooring, limitless opportunities for customization — if you can dream it, an expert artisan can make it.

Add it all up and you’ll find that hardwood flooring is the natural choice for the discerning homeowner. 

References: “The 9 Main Benefits Of Solid Hardwood Flooring.” www.builddirect.com

“An Update on Formaldehyde.” United States of America Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Ask the EcoTeam: My New Carpet is Off-Gassing!” www.ecologycenter.org

“Addressing Indoor Environmental Concerns During Remodeling.” www.epa.gov

“Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality.” www.epa.gov

Changes in your daily food choices can be a fun way to increase the sustainability of our food system while having positive impacts on you, others and the environment. There are a million and one ways to make a difference by the types of food you choose to eat every day. I’d like to share tips from three diverse foods: coffee, fish and live culture fermentation.


Coffee is a seasonally-harvested fruit that grows in specific tropical locations. The seeds are carefully sorted, roasted, ground and then brewed with care. Opting to buy Fair Trade coffee varieties can provide a living wage to a coffee farmer while you can enjoy that delicious morning cup of joe.

According to Jared Linzmeier of RUBY Coffee, “The biggest tip I have for improving coffee at home is to use filtered water and pick up a basic digital scale. Weighing your coffee and knowing your coffee to water ratio will give you consistent results that you can tailor to your taste. We recommend starting with 60 grams of coffee per liter of water.”


Wisconsin waters are teeming with hungry fish and can provide a tasty, healthy meal harvested from waters close to home. When preparing fish, less is better so you are able to taste the flavor of the fish. Ingredient paring ideas include lemon, garlic, pepper, oil, butter, paprika or maple syrup, and cooking the fish over a cedar plank offers added flavor.

A tip from Theresa Stabo of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for cedar plank preparation: soak the cedar plank for at least one hour, warm the plank on the grill for about 5 minutes, and when the plank starts to smoke, lay the filet on it, skin side down. Close the lid of the grill so the fish steams on the plank, and cook for 12 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet. Don’t overcook. Keep a spray bottle handy in case the plank bursts into flames. It’s also a good idea to have fireplace gloves close at hand.

Live culture fermentation

Consider increasing the digestibility of your pizza crust or bread dough through live culture fermentation, known as sourdough. To make sourdough you will need to maintain a living sourdough culture. The culture, referred to as the “mother” or “starter culture” is kept alive by adding flour and fresh water each time you make pizza crust or bread, and retarding the fermentation in the refrigerator between uses. The starter should look spongy and have a slight to strong smell that is reminiscent of wine or vinegar. Depending on the temperature (higher temperatures ferment quicker), typically the longer your sourdough culture sits, the tangier your dough will be.

We as consumers play an important role in maintaining a healthy environment for ourselves and generations to come. Being a knowledgeable consumer and knowing the source of the foods we’re consuming, how it was raised, grown, caught and prepared can make a huge impact on our local economy, sustainable agriculture, and inevitably lead to healthier lives for all.

With over 250 workshop topics related to sustainable living and live food demonstrations at this year’s 28th Energy Fair in Custer June 16-18, you can learn simple and easy ways to live sustainably this summer. Look out for the DNR Fishing for Dinner program providing information about fish identification, lures and licenses, and preparation in the kitchen. The easiest way to get a sourdough culture is by learning in-person and taking home a free starter culture of your own!

Many modern families are spread out across the country if not the globe. Some people move away from family to further their careers, while others are called upon to care for others. Children may separate from their parents to witness new travel experiences. Military service may call individuals away from home as well.

Distance can make it challenging to spend time together for major holidays and other special occasions — like Mother’s Day. But Mother’s Day can still be special even if Mom lives hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Embrace technology

Technology helps break down some of the barriers created by distance. While phone calls were once the way to keep in touch, many people now utilize various forms of digital communication. Someone who lives across different time zones can talk through texting or the various social media avenues available on computers, phones and tablets. Video apps like Skype and FaceTime enable you to video chat with others in real time. Come Mother’s Day, connect with mom via such apps so you can watch her open up her gifts.

Reconnect with home

If Mom is the one who ventured from home, help her to reconnect with her hometown or another place she feels attached to. Ship her some favorite regional foods that can only be bought in town. Make a photo or video montage of places of interest in town. These little touches of home can mean the world to her.

Create a special day

Even if you do not live near your mother, you can still plan a fun day for her in her town. Make reservations for a spa, hair salon or other sources of pampering and surprise her with all the details.

Treat her to the ultimate surprise

If possible, make a surprise visit this Mother’s Day. Coordinate the plan with your father or another relative and then enjoy seeing her eyes light up when you arrive.

With a little creativity, even families separated by geography can share the magic of Mother’s Day together.

Source: MetroCreative Connection.

It is estimated that more food goes into our landfills than any other material. In 2014, Americans threw away more than 38 million tons of food. In other words, up to 40 percent of food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed. Considering that Wisconsin is a major agricultural producer, the Badger State could do better by its food producers and make resources go further.

Reducing food waste begins in the kitchen. A preliminary inventory of cupboards and refrigerators will help us to purchase less food. Then, at the grocery store, a willingness to buy “ugly” carrots or tomatoes will help. Ungainly fruits and vegetables have the same great taste and nutritional value, but nevertheless grocers throw out produce that doesn’t look picture perfect.

The next step is to feed hungry people. Many local grocery stores offer day-old bakery and perishable items to local food pantries. This is generous, but could be expanded to include leftover prepared food from delis, restaurants, hospitals, schools and special events. Efforts are being made to donate prepared foods to local soup kitchens to feed the homeless, but many businesses are reluctant to contribute. Fortunately they are protected by “Good Samaritan” laws that shield them from liability when donating to charities.

Other steps include feeding animals, anaerobic bio-digestion, composting and lastly landfilling.

Some Wisconsin farms accept suitable food waste to feed livestock. UW-Oshkosh operates an anaerobic bio-digester that accepts food waste from local restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores and Brown County’s food collection program.

Finally, composting with a conventional backyard compost pile or vermi composting (with worms) is an excellent method for reducing wasted food.

It’s important to understand there are alternatives to waste and that we can all make a difference. 

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