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8 Fast Food Chains That Serve Local, Organic, Vegan Food

8 Fast Food Chains That Serve Local, Organic, Vegan Food

Sweet Green – What’s so sweet about Sweet Green? For starters, pretty much all their salad ingredients are locally sourced, and often organic. Their meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free. And the restaurants themselves are green from top to bottom: They use 100% plant-based compostable packaging and re-usaable salad blaster bowls and bags. Reclaimed and Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials go into the construction of their facilities, along with low-VOC paint and energy efficient LED and fluorescent lighting. They compost food scraps in their kitchens and have composting and recycling stations so customers can compost their packaging and recycle their bottles. Plus, Sweet Green offsets 100% of their power with wind energy credits.  The quickly expanding chain can be found in 27 locations in and around Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Go for the salads, but don’t leave without a cup of their yummy frozen yogurt.

Veggie Grill – The gluten-free, soy-free items on the menu here are also free of meat, dairy, eggs, saturated animal fat, cholesterol, antibiotics and trans fat. Their “chickin’” and veggie-steak proteins are made from organic or non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas.  Plus, they serve super grains, a whole-grain blend of millet, buckwheat, quinoa, and brown rice. Need something to drink? Try their homemade lemonade, organic teas, and locally produced craft beer and wine, all of which are free of high-fructose corn syrup. Find them in California, Oregon and Washington state.

Lyfe Kitchen – This chain strives to “be a place that reflects your values towards health, community and sustainability.” It serves “organic whenever possible.” There’s a big emphasis on locally raised fruits and vegetables. If you’re looking for breakfast, try a morning tofu wrap, or steel cut oats with dried cranberries and toasted almonds. For lunch, savor the vegan unfried buffalo “chick’n” (NOT!)  strips and a vegan antipasto, or the quinoa crunch bowl, made from quinoa tabbouleh, fresh crunchy vegetables and fireman’s hot sauce. For now, you can eat at Lyfe Kitchen in California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Chicago.

Dig Inn – A chain in New York City, Dig Inn sources local, seasonal ingredients for items like their “Natural Hero” sandwich,  made from house-made spicy beef and chicken meatballs with grass-fed cheddar, fresh parsley and whole grain Dijon mustard. Cluk’N’Kale is naturally-raised roasted teriyaki chicken served with sweet potatoes and kale and apple salad with ginger dressing.

Chipotle – Probably the biggest fast-food chain with a commitment to sustainably raised food, Chipotle’s website says that “whenever possible, we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.” The chain also sources organic and local produce “when practical.” Wiggle room aside, Chipotle has shown that fast food chains can steer a greener course when they put their minds to it. The company has put solar panels on restaurants, uses low VOC paints and energy-efficient lights, and paper products made from unbleached paper. Chipotle is pretty much everywhere.

Elevation Burger – This growing chain, currently in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Maine, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, the Carolinas, Florida and Indiana, serves burgers made from 100% USDA-certified organic, grass-fed, free-range beef. The veggie burgers are made with organic whole grains, too. Try their “half-the-guilt” burger — one organic beef patty and one veggie patty of your choice. Want a smaller portion? Order the kid-sized burger, even if you’re only a kid at heart.

Native Foods – The chefs at this chain have taken the word “native” to heart, making all their vegan cuisine from scratch – including cheese, tempeh, and of course, their nachos, chilis, soups and salads. Their menu, which is 100% plant-based, showcases seasonal dishes as well as fun stuff like the Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl with tofu, grilled veggies and quinoa. Give them a try if you live in California, Colorado, Oregon, Chicago, or Washington, D.C.

Tender Greens – The salads and entrees you’ll find here are composed mostly of freshly picked, locally grown produce and beef from grain-fed, hormone/antibiotic-free beef and free-range chickens. They tap small local farmers, ranchers, artisans, boutique wineries, local breweries and coffee roasters. Says the company on its website, “there should be a conscious connection between the one who eats the food and the sources of that sustenance.” Who can argue with that?

Do you have a favorite fast food restaurant that serves locally produced and organic food? Please share!

By Diane MacEachern

Diane MacEachern is a best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and mother of two with a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and the Environment. Glamour magazine calls her an “eco hero” and she recently won the “Image of the Future Prize” from the World Communications Forum, but she’d rather tell you about the passive solar house she helped design and build way back when most people thought “green” was the color a building was painted, not how it was built. She founded because she’s passionate about inspiring consumers to shift their spending to greener products and services to protect themselves and their families while using their marketplace clout to get companies to clean up their act. Send her an email at


Would feeling fantastic every day make a difference in your life?  Healthy Highway is a Healthy Lifestyle Company offering Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!   We help people who are…

  • Wanting Work Life Balance.
  • Needing Stress Relief.
  • Concerned about their health and the environment.
  • Frustrated battling allergies to gluten, foods, dust, chemicals, pollen.
  • Overwhelmed with choosing the best products for their body, home, and office.
  • Unsatisfied with their relationships with the men and women in their life and are ready to transform them into satisfying, happy partnerships.
  • Standing at a Career Crossroad.
  • Preparing to start a family and want a healthy baby.
  • Seeking solutions for aging, more energy, and a good night’s sleep!

Are any of these an issue or problem for you?  Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your needs and how HealthyHighway can meet them? As a Healthy Lifestyle Coach with an emphasis on allergies and wellness, Leesa teaches her clients to make informed choices and enables them to make needed changes for a Happy Healthy Lifestyle. What you eat, what products you use ~ on your body and in your home and office, how you talk to yourself ~ it all matters!

Contact me today and Start today to live a healthier, happier life!  Don’t live in Atlanta?  Not a problem.  We do virtual coaching worldwide!

I look forward to helping YOU Live a Happy Healthy Life!  Remember, Excellent Health is found along your way, not just at your destination.

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author of two books…

Member International Health Coach Association

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9 Food Pairings that Fight Disease


Over the last few decades, there has been a mountain of research on  the healing powers of individual compounds in  foods, such as lycopene,  vitamin D and essential fatty acids. Yet, scientists  are now realizing  that while an antioxidant like sulforaphane in broccoli can  be a potent  cancer fighter on its own, combining it with another compound such  as  selenium found in chicken, fish and Brazil nuts,  will give you even more  impressive disease-fighting results.

“Food synergy ties into the prevention of so many of our chronic  illnesses,  including heart  disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes,” says  California-based  dietitian Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of Food  Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful  Healing Food Combinations to  Fight Disease and Live Well (Rodale,  2008).

You don’t have to eat in a fancy restaurant presided over by a  professional  nutritionist to enjoy the benefits of food synergy, either.  While researchers  haven’t even begun to untangle all the science behind  the synergy, these “power  couples” can easily come together in your own  kitchen — and prove that, when it  comes to our diets, one plus one can  easily equal three.

Tea & Lemon

Green  tea is at the top of the functional-drink heap, promoting  wellness  through antioxidants called catechins, which can aid in  reducing the  risk of both heart  disease and cancer. But if we want a  bigger health boost from our  tea, we should be adding a splash of  citrus, says Mario Ferruzzi, PhD,  associate professor of food science at  Purdue University.

“In test tube and animal studies, we discovered that ascorbic acid,  such as  that in citrus including lemon, orange and lime juice, helps  stabilize  catechins in the gut and increase absorption into the  bloodstream,” he says.  Looking for a warm-weather alternative? Brew up a  batch of iced tea and add  slices of lemon.

Other research suggests that pairing green  tea with capsaicin (the  compound that gives chili peppers their pow)  can increase satiety and  potentially aid in weight loss. The tag team of green  tea and lycopene,  present in watermelon,  tomatoes and pink grapefruit, works  synergistically to help men dodge prostate  cancer.

Bananas &  Yogurt

Yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kefir, tempeh and  sauerkraut, are  teeming with beneficial live bacteria called probiotics that keep our immune and  digestive systems strong. But, like all living  creatures, they need something  to munch on to thrive. Enter inulin.

Found in bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), onion,  endive, garlic, leeks, wheat germ and artichokes, inulin is a  nondigestible  carbohydrate that acts as a food source for intestinal  bacteria. “It behaves as  a prebiotic to enhance probiotic growth,” says  Georgianna Donadio, PhD, program  director for the National Institute of  Whole Health in Massachusetts. In  addition to boosting the friendly  critter count in your gut, inulin increases  the intestinal absorption of  bone-strengthening calcium.

Calcium & Sun

If calcium could speak to vitamin D, it would say, “You complete me.”  That’s because the sunshine vitamin increases the amount of calcium  that gets  absorbed in the intestines, says Magee. Ergo, you can down all  the calcium-rich  foods you want, such as tofu, yogurt, sesame seeds,  broccoli and cheese, but  without a steady supply of calcium’s wingman,  your bones won’t reap the  rewards.

European scientists recently reported that adequate daily consumption  of  both calcium and vitamin D was linked to a 20 percent drop in the  rates of hip  fracture in individuals 47 or older. Harvard scientists  found that subjects  with the highest calcium intake and blood vitamin-D  levels had reduced insulin  secretion, which may offer protection from  type 2 diabetes. And another Harvard  study determined that premenopausal  women with the highest intakes of both  vitamin D and calcium had a 30  percent lower risk of  developing breast cancer.

Your best bet for getting enough vitamin D is to spend a minimum of  10  minutes a day in the sunshine (with a decent amount of skin exposed),  but you  can also benefit from good food sources, like cod liver oil,  salmon and  sardines. The latest recommendations from respected experts  like Andrew Weil,  MD — 2,000 IU of daily vitamin D — suggest that you  may also need a daily  vitamin-D supplement.


Salads & Avocado (or Nuts)

Find naked salads unbearably boring? Then, by all means, top them  with  vinaigrette or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.  Similar studies  from Ohio State University and Iowa State University showed  that adding  healthy fats like nuts, extra-virgin olive oil or avocado to your salad  bowl  can increase the amount of beneficial antioxidants — such as lutein  in leafy  greens, lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and  beta-carotene in carrots— your body absorbs.

Fat slows down the digestion process, which gives the plant  compounds in the same meal a better chance of being absorbed,” says  Magee. Fat  also helps fat-soluble antioxidants, such a vitamin E,  dissolve in the  intestine so they can be passed into the bloodstream  more efficiently. After  absorption, says Magee, these antioxidants may  help vanquish some of the free  radicals in our bodies, which can damage  DNA and trigger diseases and hasten  aging.

In fact, a 2008 Journal of Nutrition study reported that those who  ate more  alpha- and beta-carotenes — compounds in fruits and  vegetables  that help bring out their stunning yellow, orange or red hues — had   roughly a 20 percent lower risk of dying from heart  disease over a  15-year period than those who took in less.


Beans & Raw Peppers (Iron +  Vitamin C)

Long before food synergy became part of our lexicon, scientists knew  that  iron and vitamin C form a unique relationship. Iron  comes in two  guises: heme iron, the type found in animal products such as beef,  fish  and poultry, and a form called non-heme, found in plant foods like  beans,  whole grains and spinach.

On its own, the body absorbs up to 33 percent less non-heme iron than  heme  iron, says Donadio, “but you can increase its absorption two- to  threefold by  consuming it with the vitamin C in whole fruits and  vegetables.”

So how does vitamin C pull off this nifty trick? Donadio says it  likely  participates in the production of an enzyme responsible for  changing non-heme  iron to a more easily absorbed form called ferrous  iron, so you get more  mileage, for example, out of the iron in your bean  salad. Iron is necessary for  producing hemoglobin, which transports  oxygen to muscles and the brain. Low  levels can lead to fatigue,  weakness and poor concentration. Vegans and  vegetarians should take  particular heed of this food pairing to help keep iron stores replete.   Premenopausal women are also particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency  due to  losses through menstruation.


Burgers & Bananas (Salty Foods +  Potassium)

By all accounts,  the American diet is tantamount to a salt lick.  According to Centers for  Disease Control data, the average person in the  United States consumes an  elephantine 3,436 milligrams of sodium daily,  double the amount most people  should ingest. For some, this is a recipe  for cardiovascular woes because of a  salt-induced rise in blood  pressure, which raises stroke and heart-attack risk.  But potassium,  which encourages the kidneys to  excrete sodium, can counter the harmful  effects of sodium overload. So, when  noshing on salty dishes or  sodium-packed canned soups, frozen meals and  fast-food fare, make sure  to load up on potassium-plump fruits, vegetables and  legumes at the same  time.


Brown Rice & Tofu (Carbs +  Protein)

If you emerge  from the gym with a rapacious appetite, make sure to  quell it with a healthy  dose of both protein and carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates and protein together after a workout work jointly to  speed up  muscle recovery by enhancing the blood insulin response,” says  Molly Kimball, a  sports dietitian at the Elmwood Fitness Center in New  Orleans. “Higher insulin  levels will supply muscles with a faster and  larger dose of repair nutrients  such as glucose and amino acids.”

The outcome of this perfect pairing is less muscle soreness and  better  fitness results. Postworkout, Kimball recommends carbohydrate and  protein  combinations such as a turkey sandwich, yogurt and fruit; brown  rice and  grilled chicken or tofu; and pasta with meat sauce.


Wine & Fish

Merlot and  salmon may indeed be a perfect pairing. A 2008 study  published in the American  Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that  European men and women who consumed  as little as 4 ounces of wine a day  had higher blood levels of the omega-3 fats found in fish such as trout,   salmon and sardines. The same results were not found for beer or  spirits.

Scientists believe that heart-chummy polyphenol antioxidants in wine  such as  resveratrol might be responsible for the improved absorption of  omega-3 fats,  which have been shown to protect against myriad maladies,  including depression,  diabetes, mental decline and stroke.

Prefer chardonnay over merlot? According to a 2008 Journal of  Agricultural  and Food Chemistry study, white wine contains its own  distinct polyphenol  compounds that give it the same heart-protective  qualities as red. You can  enjoy wine with your fish or even use it to  marinate your catch  of the day.

Both on food labels, and in nutritional reporting, the tendency has  been to  trumpet one nutrient at a time. But food scientists have  uncovered thousands of  bioactive phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables  and whole grains, says Magee, “and now they are discovering that these  often work better in pairs or  groups.”

What we’re learning, she says, is that extracting and isolating  nutrients  doesn’t work very well: “The power is in the packaging, and  pills with single  nutrients just can’t match the healing power of whole  foods.”

The lessons of food synergy, it seems, are the same commonsense  lessons  we’ve been hearing for a long time now: For good health, eat a  variety of whole  foods — and eat them together.


Herbs & Olive Oil + Meat

Good news for grilled-meat lovers: Scientists at Kansas State  University  discovered that adding rosemary and other herbs to meat  cooked at  high temperatures reduces the formation of suspected  carcinogenic compounds  called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by as much as  70 percent. Antioxidants in  extra-virgin olive oil have also been found  to help fend off cancer-promoting  HCAs. Similarly, marinating meat such  as steak and chicken in an  antioxidant-rich spice or wine blend has been  shown to be a very effective  method of reducing HCAs.



Not-So-Good  Pairings:

Alas, some couples were never meant to be. Here are  three common food  pairings that fail to bring out the best in either party.

Milk and Tea

A recent study in the European Heart Journal suggests you  shouldn’t follow  the lead of the Brits and spike your tea with milk. The  scientists discovered  that adding moo juice to black tea blunted its   cardiovascular benefits. Casein protein in milk may bind up antioxidants  in  tea, rendering them less available for absorption.

Milk and Chocolate

A few studies have also found that milk can reduce absorption  of flavonoids  in cocoa. These flavonoid antioxidants are believed to be  behind the numerous  health perks, such as reduced blood pressure,  attributed to dark chocolate. So choose dark chocolate  over milk  chocolate when possible.

Coffee and Oatmeal

“Tannins present in coffee, tea and wine are known to interfere  with iron absorption, particularly the iron found in plant-based foods  like  oatmeal, beans and leafy greens,” says Jarod Hanson, ND. The upshot  is this: If  you’re prone to iron deficiency, you might want to avoid  the cup of joe with  your morning oats.

Matthew Kadey MSc, RD, is a Canada-based dietitian and food and nutrition writer. His favorite food pairing is dark chocolate and almond butter. (Leesa recommends all your choices be organic!)  


Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!   I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

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Organic is Best for Flower Bouquets, Too!

Organic is Best for Flower Bouquets, Too


How “fresh” can most cut flowers for sale be, given the amount of pesticides  and fungicides (up to 50 times as much as can be used on food crops)  used to grow them? There’s also the fact that the vast majority (around 80  percent) of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from far away, often from  countries like Columbia and Ecuador.

If you are not inclined to grow flowers yourself using chemical-free methods,  it’s more than worth it to consider getting sustainably grown flowers. These have been reared  without synthetic, toxic substances and by workers who are paid a fair wage for  raising them. Instead of pesticides, growers can use predatory mites to kill  spider mites and thrips that damage petals and leaves. Instead of being shipped  to you in mounds of styrofoam and plastic packaging, flowers from retailers  seeking to meet eco-standards come to you in biodegradable, green materials.

The Fair  Trade and Veriflora  labels can help you figure out which flowers were raised using sustainable  practices. Flowers with Fair  Trade and/or Veriflora  certification come from farms that have been audited to ensure they follow  strict environmental and labor standards. For instance, in recognition of the  discrimination women in the flower industry often experience, Fair Trade requires that farms provide employee benefits,  including twelve weeks of paid maternity leave and child care.

Fair Trade’s and Veriflora’s certification do not, however, require  flowers to be fully organic. The label USDA Organic certifies that flowers have been grown without  toxic or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Some online suppliers for organic  flowers are listed at Organic Gardening; also check out Local Harvest to find growers and retailers in your  area.

Another factor to keep in mind in seeking out sustainably grown flowers is  the issue of energy efficiency. Smaller amounts of flowers grown locally in a  heated greenhouse and then transported to various farmers’ markets in a pickup  truck do not have an automatic eco-advantage over large loads of flowers  transported by more energy efficient means. In addition, as the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) points out, the  flower industry has an important role in the economies of some Latin American  countries. Our buying flowers from farms certified by entities like Fair  Trade and Veriflora can help to push for better regulations to protect workers’ rights and health.

Fresh flowers are routinely associated with spring. Locally grown, organic flowers comprise only a tiny percentage of the huge  business in cut flowers, but by seeking “green flowers” out, you can support  growers and florists who are trying to make a difference and do what’s right for the  planet. If you’re not giving flowers with the dirt, why not make sure a bouquet is  beautiful through and through, down to the very methods and substances used in  growing it?

By Kristina Chew

Photo from Thinkstock


Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life?   Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!  I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

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The Benefits of Organic vs Conventional Food

The Benefits of Organic vs Conventional Food



The debate between organic and conventionally produced food continues, and a  new infographic (below) produced by gives more statistics to consider. The creators  focused on the  unhealthiest conventional foods, what meat looks like from both  a  grain-fed and  a grass-fed cow, and the nutrient differences between   organically and conventionally grown products.

Researchers have conducted many studies on whether organic foods are  more  nutritious than conventionally grown foods, and the results are  varied,  depending on what study you go by. This infographic states that  they have one  quarter more nutrients than nonorganic. One of the most  well-known and  frequently cited study, done by Stanford University  scientists, looked at over  forty years of data comparing the two types  of food, and concluded that organic  foods are no more nutritious nor  more likely to be contaminated. However, critics of that research say organic is still superior,  as  it excludes antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, high  fructose corn  syrup, artificial sweeteners and dyes, pesticides, and  sewage sludge from being  present.

An interesting thing to note is the three countries that eat the most   organic foods. Per capita, they are Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.  According  to the CIA World Factbook, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria  are all in the top  25 percent ranking of countries with the highest life  expectancies, with all  three ahead of the United States. In a 2012  study by Bloomberg, Switzerland  ranked as the fourth healthiest country in the world. These could be  coincidences, of course, but lend more credence to the benefits of buying  organic.

Perhaps the most surprising section of the infographic is when it  states  what are the best foods to buy organic. Beef and milk make the  list, as the  controversy over antibiotics and artificial growth hormones like rBGH being added to them are  well known. But did you realize that  conventionally produced celery, popcorn  and tomato sauce contain very  high amounts of chemicals and pesticides? Or  that, just as important as  the quality of food you buy, is the type of cookware  you prepare it  with? The makers of the graphic recommend you buy “organic  cookware,”  meaning avoid plastic, aluminum, and Teflon “nonstick” coated  cookware  in the kitchen. Instead, sites like say you can   safely use cast iron, stainless steel, glass and stoneware cooking pots  and  pans for all your culinary needs.

It’s important to do your research when choosing whether or not to  buy  organic. There are many factors involved in choosing produce and  meats, and  different products have different risks and possible health  benefits associated  with buying it organic or conventionally grown.

Eating organic saves us money in the long run because we offset all of the healthcare costs


by Sarah Shultz for Diets in Review


Big Organic Garden Delivers Georgia’s Best Fruits & Veggies

Big Organic Garden Delivers Georgia’s Best Fruits & Veggies


How I wish every city had a fresh, local, and in-season produce delivery  service! Maybe once the word of Big Organic Garden in Georgia spreads we’ll all  be happily awaiting our own fruit and veggie delivery.

The owners of Big Organic Garden are able to source produce from farms across  their state of Georgia and the southeast to offer their customers the freshest  in-season options they can. Big Organic Garden promotes local and in-season produce to support local industry and provide  optimal health, as studies point to benefits of eating from your own local  harvests. Also, by providing in-season options, this cuts down on the carbon footprint that shipping of  out-of-season produce causes.

The customers of Big Organic Garden can choose a box size and price every  week. The boxes are somewhat specified by the customer from their website, but  all contain an assortment of fruits and vegetables. A small box is $20, medium  is $37, and a large will cost $50. If not for yourself, this sounds like an  awesome holiday gift idea!

An example of what you might find in the $50 large box includes 4 Braeburn  apples, 4 Honeycrisp apples, 2 avocados, 2.5 bunches of bananas, 5 oranges, 5  lemons, 1.5 heads of broccoli, 1 head of cauliflower, 2 bunches of collard  greens, 1 bunch of spinach, as well as squash and tomatoes.

All of the products are organic and most are local. Obviously the avocados  are not local, but they only bring in a few items from out of the area and they  are always certified organic. The company offers a few pick-up locations  throughout the week, but they also offer delivery. Big Organic Garden encourages  customers to leave a cooler with ice packs on their porch so the produce can  stay fresh.

What a wonderful idea this is. It’s not too different than CSAs  that are already wildly popular, but it extends the range of who can include and  receive produce. As I wrestle with trying to do the best for my own family and  the earth we live on, it’s hard to compete with the store that’s just minutes  from my home. And furthermore, I can eat strawberries in the winter if I shop in  the store that knows no seasons. But truly, I want to do what’s right. Hopefully  more companies like Big Organic Garden will sprout up all over the country very  soon.

By Lacy J. Hansen for

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