Standing Stone Brewing Company

Author: maschweisguth

Mt. Ashland Hillclimb Run: Another Great Day at the Top

Mt. Ashland, which caps out at over 7,000 feet, is one of our favorite sights and places to hike. We usually carpool there on four wheels, though some of us enjoy mountain biking up there on a beautiful, steep trail.

On the first weekend in August, more intrepid souls make the trek on foot as runners and walkers take part in the Mt. Ashland Hillclimb Run. We were there to witness it this past weekend, August 4. Congratulations to overall male and female winners, Eric Blake and Stephanie Howe, and everyone who took part.

This fun community event is something we’ve supported for many years. It benefits the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association, which we love for keeping our trails clear and our watershed healthy. You’ll find us pouring a cold craft beer for finishers and friends aged 21 and up. The overall male and female winners also get their names engraved on a keg that makes its home in our brewpub for all to see year-round.

The race is 13.3 miles long, a bit longer than a length of a half-marathon, but it’s no flat, fast road race. It climbs a vertical mile, starting at a little over 2,000 ft in Ashland’s Lithia Park and ending at the tip-top of the mountain. Many Standing Stone Brewing Co team members have completed it, and can attest it was a world away from the Avenue of the Giants half marathon several of us ran this spring—an effort that’s a feat itself. The gorgeous trail, fabulous volunteers and aid stations, and breathtaking vista from the top make the challenge well worth it.

The Mt. Ashland Hillclimb run started out with humble beginnings, involving a handful of adventurous, trail-blazing, mountain-loving local runners who showed that the formidable effort was doable, and even fun. It’s grown into a widely renowned race that attracts top running talent from near and far. Yet, it hasn’t lost its hometown feel, and that’s why we come out year after year to support participants, all of whom are champions. This year, we upped the ante to offer four beers at the finish, served from a mobile tapping unit assembled by SSBC owner (and periodic Mt. Ashland Hillclimb Run participant).

Hats off to Race Director Torston H, and everyone who lends a hand to put on this fantastic event. We hope to see you there next year. In the meantime, run, hike, bike or carpool up to enjoy the stunning beauty and 360 degree, expansive views from the best lookout in Ashland, OR.

Rogue Creamery – Sustainable, Award-Winning Handmade Cheese

The farmers, ranchers and food artisans with whom we work are essential in ensuring we deliver delicious, sustainably-minded food and beverages. We’d like to spotlight Rogue Creamery, a longstanding purveyor of handmade cheese. We feature their cheeses in our burgers, sandwiches, specials and more, including a stout cheddar they make with our beer.

Owned by David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, Rogue Creamery shares our commitment to unwavering quality and sustainable business. They’ve duly received numerous awards at national and international cheese competitions, regularly make Oregon Business’ list of the 100 Best Green Businesses to Work For (along with SSBC), and were selected as the special pairing with our beer at this year’s SAVOR event in Washington, DC. David also sits on the Oregon Governor’s Sustainability Board. We asked Robert Coplen (QA Administrator) and Tasha Butz (Marketing Intern) to share a bit about their history, creative processes and sustainability practices.

What led David and Cary to get into the cheese business?

David and Cary (on the left in the photo) initially wanted to open a wine bar in Ashland. Knowing how well wine and cheese pair, they approached Ignazio (Ig) Vella, owner of Rogue Creamery, to find the perfect cheese for this. Ig said the company was for sale and if they wanted cheese they would have to purchase the company and learn to make it themselves. Ten years ago this month, they assumed ownership.

What a great story! How did your cheesemakers learn to make such incredible cheese?

Ig Vella passed his experience and knowledge to David and Cary, who have added to our handmade cheeses by experimenting with various flavors and molds. They’ve passed their skills and knowledge to cheesemakers Craig Nelson and Jason Garcia, who have shared it with our excellent team that makes some of the world’s best handmade cheese today.

Where do you get your ideas for new techniques and flavors (like Rogue River Blue..mmmm)?

We gather ideas from team members, David and Cary, and general experimentation. Our unique flavors come from the terrior that surrounds us here in the valley…. and all over the world. Our TouVelle, for example, is an original combination of cheddar, jack, and gouda.

How does sustainability fit into your business mission?

The company’s mission is “an artisan cheese company, with people dedicated to service, sustainability and the art and tradition of making the world’s finest handmade cheese.” Sustainability is part of our business mission, not only within the mission statement itself, but within everything the Creamery does.

What are some of your key sustainability practices?

These include the Nellie Green Pedal Power Bike Commuter Program [free commuter bikes for employees], 252 photovoltaic panels that generate 30% of our energy needs (one of Southern Oregon’s largest) and our sustainable agriculture practices. These programs signify our commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Every step of the cheesemaking process takes “being green” into consideration, from start to finish. Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals — environmental health, animal welfare, and social and economic equity. The cow dairy that supplies our milk is certified sustainable by Food Alliance. Our cheesemaking facilities participate in the 3 R’s, reducing waste at facilities, reusing whey, and using recycled-content packaging

Way to go! What benefits do your sustainability practices bring?

Pursuing responsible and sustainable stewardship of our resources allows us to create our products in ways that have a positive impact on our environment. Perpetually working toward and incorporating new ways to reduce our carbon footprint brings us closer to a positive return for the environment around us. These sustainability practices allow us to benefit our environment, as resources are used, rather than destroying it.

What a delicious approach to business! Thanks, Rogue Creamery, for sharing a little inspiration and for your fabulous handmade cheeses! We’ll see you at the farmer’s market (your curds blow us a-whey!), or our next grass-fed burger!

(Last photo: M. Schweisguth)

By in Sustainability 0

Seven Sweet Rewards of Buying Local

We’re loco for local food, and can’t get enough of the fresh produce that makes its way to the Ashland Saturday Growers Market on our block.

Of course, local finds go well beyond food to cover all the goods and services we need. That’s great news we can all use! Even better, choosing to get these from independent businesses in our area has lots of benefits for ourselves, our communities, our regional economy and the planet. Though at times it may seem more expensive, every purchase returns much more than the amount we pay.

We thought we’d share some benefits we’ve learned about and experienced in our own efforts to increase our local purchasing to spread the positive news and a little inspiration.

  •  Local is fresh and tasty!   You’ll enjoy peak flavor and more nutritious food when you get food direct from the farmer, rancher, baker and cheese-maker. Food that has had to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles is tired – and you can taste it.
  • Local empowers consumers. We can learn more about what’s behind what we buy when we can talk to the folks who make it and work directly with producers. When we shop at the farmers market, we can ask about farming practices and find sustainable, chemical-free produce that’s more healthful for us and the environment.
  • We protect and create jobs in our communities. Local businesses need employees—sustaining employment right here at home.  We’re proud to have over 60 employees and support lots of hardworking local farmers, food artisans, service providers and more. It’s like a big family!
  • Locally-spent dollars multiply in our economy as they re-circulate. Number-crunchers say that shopping at a local business yields three times more investment in local communities than shopping at a non-local one. The longer a dollar stays in our community, the more this benefit grows. The more dollars that stay local, the bigger this benefit gets.
  • Local businesses support our communities. Check out this cool fact from our friends at THRIVE: “A study of charitable giving in Oregon showed that when in-kind contributions were included, small firms gave an average of $789 per employee, medium sized firms $172, and large firms $334. (NFIB Small Business Policy Guide)”
  • We build relationships. Our local vendors are responsive to our needs and have become important partners in shaping our business success.
  • We save resources and cut emissions. Local purchasing means shorter transportation distances, using less gas and making fewer emissions.

Wow! That’s a lot of goodness—and that’s just a piece of the pie. For more information and inspiration, pay a visit to THRIVE online, and check out their local benefits list. Then, get out and support your favorite local producers, merchants and service providers.

(photos: M. Schweisguth)

By in Food 0

Tips for Baking With Beer & Vegan Mocha Stout Cupcake Recipe

As lovers of craft beer and fine food, we’re always looking for new ways to unite them. So, naturally we were in seventh heaven when we tasted chocolate-stout cupcakes from Sweet Desire, a local bakery & confectionery, at this year’s Oregon Chocolate Festival. Made with Chocolate Stout we brewed for the festivities, they’re one of the sweetest food-beer pairings we’ve encountered. Sweet Desire makes vegan and gluten-free treats, delivering decadence to all, and uses as many local and organic ingredients as possible. We asked founder Stephanie Friedman to share tips for baking with beer and making vegan treats, and a recipe for you to savor at home. Enjoy!

1. What inspired you to focus on vegan baking?

I’ve always loved baking and decided to explore vegan desserts a few years ago when a friend asked me to make truffles for her wedding. My initial batches used cream, as is typical, but, as I’m lactose intolerant, I decided to try hemp milk instead. I was surprised and thrilled at how delicious and creamy they were. After that, I went on a vegan cupcake-baking craze. I started to sell my products on a small scale while working in the kitchen of the Morical House Garden Inn. People were enjoying my truffles and cupcakes, so, when I was offered the chance to share a commercial kitchen, it seemed like I should go for it. Sweet Desire has been growing rapidly ever since.

2. How did you learn to make such delicious vegan and gluten-free treats? My mother was a great cook and baker, and my father was extremely health conscious, so I was exposed to healthy and alternative food choices since childhood. I learned to make delicious vegan and gluten-free treats by my own experimentation and a few great cookbooks.

3. What local and organic ingredients do you use, and how do you find them? I have a strong commitment to using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. We’re lucky to have so many options in Ashland, OR! My favorite jam for layer cake fillings and frosting is from Pennington Farms. Berries and produce come from a variety of local farms, and I choose based on what’s in season and fresh. Last summer I picked masses of berries from Eagle Mill Farm. I use Oregon-based distributors including Hummingbird Wholesale, which specializes in local products, including flours. 

4. What are some simple ways to adapt baking recipes to be vegan?

There are a few ways to swap out dairy and eggs. Dairy is usually easy to substitute with nut milks, hemp milk, soymilk, or even water! Eggs are harder, as they are used as a binder (and contribute to rising), but bananas and ground flax seeds work well. I usually use a baking powder/baking soda mix with apple cider vinegar for rising, a depression era baking solution.

5. Can you share a few tips for using beer in baking recipes?

I’d add beer as a percentage of the liquid that the recipe calls for, from 25% to 75%. The cupcakes I made for the Oregon Chocolate Festival with Standing Stone’s Chocolate Stout had 25% of the liquid as beer. Next time I would try increasing the amount for a stronger beer flavor.

6. Can you share a recipe for beer lovers to try?

Sure!

Sweet Desire’s Vegan Mocha Stout Muffins/Cupcakes

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (or instant espresso)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • ½ cup stout beer (like Standing Stone’s Oatmeal Stout)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Line muffin/cupcake tins with paper liners.
  • Whisk together all oil, vinegar, almond milk, vanilla extract, and stout beer. Add instant coffee and sugar. Mix well.
  • Sift all other dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add to wet.
  • Do not over-mix.
  • Fold in Chocolate Chips
  • Fill muffin cups almost to the top.
  • Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out dry (unless it hits the melting chips!)
  • Let cool until you can remove from tin and place on cooling rack.
  • Enjoy!

Thanks Stephanie! We can’t wait to try the next batch of beer cupcakes, and hope this blog inspires some great beer-infused baking.

(last two photos by Stephanie Friedman)

Celebration on Tap! American Craft Beer Week Returns, May 14-20

American Craft Beer Week is here! Each May, independent craft brewers and beer fans unite to honor and enjoy this wonderful beverage and all it brings to our communities.

Breweries across the nation take part in the festivities, and we’re doing our part to ensure Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley isn’t left out. To us, American Craft Beer Week is really about the community surrounding our brewers and brewpubs. We appreciate everyone in this community, and relish the chance to offer a little fun and special flavor as a way of saying thanks.

Here’s what’s on tap. Among the highlights: Mayor John Stromberg will read a Proclamation in support of the event, and we’ll tap a new specialty beer made entirely with ingredients from Oregon.

Every Day

  • Enjoy our new specialty beer made with 100% Oregon-grown ingredients (on tap from 5/16)
  • Chef Eric Bell is designing menu specials to pair with various beers
  • We’ll offer a special beer & cheese sampler plate

Daily Special Happenings

  • Monday, May 14th, 6 PM:  Brewery tour for women with Women Enjoying Beer. Sign up online
  • Wednesday, May 16, 6 PM: Specialty beer tapping (100% Oregon-grown ingredients) and reading of Mayoral Proclamation by Ashland mayor, John Stromberg
  • Thursday, May 17th, 6:30 PM: Guest beer tapping with Southern Oregon Brewing
  • Friday, May 18th: Brewery tours at 4 PM, 5 PM and 6 PM

As we know, beer is much more than a simple libation. It’s the hub of conversation and community, and an economic engine that creates jobs, boosts allied supply and distribution industries, and supports communities. We’re proud to offer good jobs to more than 50 employees in our extended family, support local food producers and suppliers, and give back to our community, thanks to customer support. We also love how each day gives us the the opportunity to engage with friends and neighbors, while getting to know new folks and providing hospitality to travelers.

Craft beer contributes a lot to our state as well. According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, Oregon is the nation’s number two craft beer producer, with 139 breweries employing over 7,900 staff. It’s also the number two hop-growing state, with a crop value estimated at over $31 million in 2010. Southern Oregon’s brewing scene is quickly growing, and features several commercial brewers along with myriad brewpubs and taprooms.

We’re grateful and proud to be a part of this growing movement, and appreciate all those, near and far, who have helped it grow. Join us for American Craft Beer Week – it’s your party, too!

For more information on Standing Stone’s events visit our event calendar. If you’re not in the Rogue Valley and want to find events elsewhere, or if you’re looking for more information on American Craft Beer Week, see the ACBW website and calendar.


By in Sustainability 0

Get Rolling: Bike Month & Go By Bike Week in May

With warm weather and longer days, May is perfect for biking. Aptly, it’s Bike Month, organized by the League of American Bicyclists. To celebrate locally, Go Rogue Valley is coordinating “Go by Bike Week” from May 14-20, which includes events, a bike commuting transit pledge and more. (Coincidentally, this is also American Craft Beer Week. We love both bikes and beer, and celebrating them together is even better!)

Rogue Valley residents who want to participate in Go by Bike Week can get tips and pledge to ride on the event website. If you’re out of the area, check out the Bike Month site to find events near you.

To help folks get started rolling or kick your biking commitment into a higher gear, we asked Nathan Broom, Transportation Options Planner at Rogue Valley Transportation District (part of Go Rogue Valley) to for motivation and biking tips.

What’s “Go By Bike Week” about?

Research indicates that the majority of people – about 60% – are interested in bicycling, but for various reasons, ride rarely or not at all. Well-designed roads and paths help, but so does encouragement – and that’s what Go By Bike Week is about. It’s an invitation to plan ahead, get prepared and go on two wheels for a week – for work, school, errands, fun and more. It just might stick.

What are the benefits of bike transportation?

The first benefit is the reason every kid gets on a bike in the first place: it’s fun! That’s true for adults, too. Money is another compelling reason for most of us. AAA says it costs 59.6 cents per mile to drive an average sedan. That’s nearly $16 for a round trip between Ashland OR and Medford, OR. Health is another strong reason. We can combat the destruction of sitting diseases just by changing the way we make some of our trips. I could go on about emissions, mental wellbeing, parking impacts, etc. but after a while, it all starts sounding too good to be true. It’s not!

What’s a good way to find bike routes? 

Just paying attention is probably the best way, but there are some great tools, too. Google Maps has a button for directions specific to bicycling (as well as walking and public transit), and a layer showing bicycle facilities. Combining bike and bus is a great way to make longer commutes feasible. Drive Less Connect is a statewide tool that helps people connect with bike commute and carpool partners.

What tips do you have for getting started or increasing your commitment to biking?

Just pick a day and make it happen. Maybe it’s during Go By Bike Week. Maybe it’s the summer solstice. To increase your commitment, explore what you value about biking. If it’s financial savings, figure out how much you save per mile. Track your saving and promise yourself a reward at a certain point.

What are your top safety tips and how can people learn more about safe biking?

The best advice I’ve gotten comes from bicyclesafe.com. It focuses on the most common kinds of collisions between bikes and autos, and gives practical advice on avoiding those. In summary, it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, but it’s a great idea to take steps to avoid a collision in the first place.

Thanks, Nate! We hope this leaves our readers as inspired and ready as we are to pump up the pedal power. Happy biking!

Behind Your Brew: Winter and Spring at Alpha Beta Hops Farm

We love the greenery and color spring brings. As brewers, we’re particularly excited to see hops pop out of the ground after hibernating for the winter. We asked our friends Steve and Rebecca Pierce, of Ashland’s own Alpha Beta Hops, about what’s happened since our virtual visit with them last fall.

They’ve been growing organic Cascade hops for several years (now joined by sons, Spencer and Morgan), with plans to expand acreage and varietals to meet growing demand for this essential ingredient in beer. (Photos by Rebecca Pierce)

 What’s the winter like at the hop yard?

With the hops cut and put to bed with a covering of straw, the hop yard is pretty quiet in the winter. It’s a great time for marketing our fresh hops to local breweries and home brewers. Winter is also the time we “retired” folks travel. Once we get the pasture grass clumps and weeds eradicated, we plan to plant a clover cover crop over the winter. For now, sheep, chicken and duck grazing supply nitrogen.

What does spring bring your way?

We start reviving the hop yard in February when we stretch wire trellis and repair anchors and irrigation hoses. In March, we put up 5,000-6,000 organic paper strings and anchor them near the budding hop plants. Hop bines wind around these as they reach for the sun.  We’ve been very lucky to be helped by WWOOFer (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteers, who work hard in exchange for hands-on experience on an organic farm. By May, the bines grab the strings and turn the fields into leafy green forests of hop bines.

What’s your favorite aspect of spring?

After a cold, windy winter it’s exciting to walk out into the field, which had snow on it a week before, and see our hops starting to push up through the straw (photo on right). We seem to be in a microclimate that’s protected by nearby foothills. So far, the hops seem to be able to survive anything Mother Nature sends our way. Spring in the Rogue Valley is a wonderful time of year, with everything turning lush and green. Although our winters are usually mild, it’s nice to have the rains stop, the mud dry up and hearty sprouts popping up everywhere.

What else do you grow at your farm?

Like so many others, we’re striving to become more self sufficient and make a smaller footprint on this earth. We have a quarter acre organic vegetable garden, egg-producing chickens, turkeys, sheep and two miniature donkeys.

Our son, Morgan, and his fiancé, Jessica, design and coordinate our vegetable and flower garden. Jessica designs the most beautiful beds, incorporating flowers with vegetables, rotating the crops annually, and using marigolds and other natural methods to control any unwanted pests. After each year’s crop, they collect seeds to make their own starts in the greenhouse. This year we harvested our first batch of asparagus, enjoyed fresh organic produce all winter and just finished off the bit of over-wintered broccoli. Jessica and Morgan like to introduce us to many heirloom vegetables so we never know what wonderful treats are in store.

What a hoppening place – we can’t wait for the harvest! (Volunteers welcome and it’s FUN – contact the Pierces.) Until then, we’ll enjoy one our the craft beers we make with their wonderful hops. As Steve and Rebecca would say, “Prosit!”

Earth Day: Sharing Ideas for Daily Sustainability

Each year on Earth Day, April 22nd, the world unites to celebrate the environment and recommit ourselves to upping our efforts to protect and restore it. Of course, to make this happen we need to make environmental responsibility a daily habit. To get inspiration, we asked some Standing Stone Brewing Co employees, partners and fellow green businesses to share what they do at work, home and on-the-go to lighten their load on the planet. We’d love to hear your ideas, too, so post a comment to let us know how you honor Earth Day a little bit each day.

Rachel Koning, Events Manager & Social Media

  • Bring silverware and plates from home for food on-the-go. I use them for lunch to get my favorite tamales at the Ashland Growers and Crafters Market.
  • Reuse bags for bulk foods at the grocery store. I use the same animal cracker bag each time for my son’s favorite snack from the Ashland Co-Op.
  • Walk! Ashland is a beautiful walking town with lots to do and see, all within a few miles.

 Larry Chase, Brewmaster

  • When running water and waiting for it to turn hot, we collect shower water in a pitcher to fill our dog bowls and 5 gal buckets to flush the toilet, and put kitchen water into pitchers for drinking. About 1 gal flows at most faucets in our house before hot water arrives. So, we save at least 800 gal of potable water per year.  Because municipal water is ridiculously inexpensive, our conservation saves only $1.81 per year. Nonetheless, 800 gallons is a sizable amount of water not wasted, and that’s the important thing.

Ginger Johnson, Women Enjoying Beer (and Jackson County Master Recycler)

  • When we give a beer tasting session, we bring small glasses that we buy from thrift stores and put our logo sticker on, eliminating one-use plastic cups. Glass is also best for beer that has been carefully and lovingly made, and guests get a keepsake to use again. Sending the sustainability message reverberates successfully and makes everyone happy.
  • I’ve made small washable cloth napkins for our events, using fabric from thrift stores. Cutting and sewing the edges myself reuses already available goods. It’s also economical and is met with positive response.
  • If you sell retail goods, research and procure them wisely. I try to buy only sustainable choices – organic fabrics, low impact ink, minimal waste and sustainably-minded companies. While these may have a higher price, it invites a great conversation with consumers. You may not always make a sale, yet you can always make a difference.

Annie Hoy, Outreach Manager, Ashland Food Co-op (AFC)

  • Find out what you can recycle locally and look beyond curbside programs to maximize landfill diversion. AFC reduced landfill waste by more than 20% in 2011 by finding a local company to accept more of the plastic we generate.
  • Conserve and green your energy, then offset what you need to use. AFC is offsetting 100% of our electricity usage through RECs from Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Some may say that’s just buying our way out, but it’s better than nothing. (Note: AFC also has photovoltaic solar panels.)
  • Encourage and learn from others. One AFC’s sustainability goals is to “take sustainability out to the community.” To enact that goal, I’m chairing a Chamber of Commerce Green Committee make Greeters events, the 4th of July and Food and Wine event more sustainable, and recognize “Green” greeters.

Risa Buck, Waste Zero Specialist, Recology Ashland Sanitary Service

  • It’s only trash if that’s how you treat it!

And, with that succinct no-words-wasted mantra, we have the perfect ending. Thanks for the ideas and motivation! What do you do? How will you up the ante on sustainability in life and work this year? Let us know!

Starting Up Our Rooftop and Farm Gardens + Tips for Yours

In Southern Oregon, spring keeps farmers and gardeners busy sowing seeds and transplanting starts. This year, we’ve joined the action. Our efforts launched last summer when we started a rooftop garden, and we began leasing farmland last fall to grow produce for our restaurant menu. We’re excited to get going on our farm and rooftop garden, with a full season ahead of us.

Melza Quinn, Standing Stone server and chicken caretaker (photo below), is also a gardener with a super green thumb. She’s been planting seeds for vegetables, herbs and flowers, including artichokes, basil, cauliflower, pink corn, kale, tarragon, tomatoes, hollyhocks, poppies, morning glories and sweet peas.

If you visit our restaurant and brewery, you’ll see some of our seedlings in the front window, getting their start in compostable cups. We’ve got many more inside under our skylights and grow lights.

When they’re ready for transplanting, we’ll take them to our rooftop garden and farm. We’ll leave a few inside the brewpub, too, to beautify the space while educating and captivating our guests.

On our farm, we’ll test them in different areas to find the best growing conditions. Over the winter, our farm team constructed some raised beds using a sheet mulching method. They laid down corrugated cardboard to squash out star thistle, then added a layer of mulch from spent grain and a layer of farm-fresh compost. This is a quick, easy, low-cost and successful way to start a garden in any area where you have grass or poor soil. Try it at home!

We chose heirloom varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, which specializes in heirloom varietals and gathers seed from a network of individuals who save seeds from home gardens and small farms. When buying seed, look for local growers and family farmers, too, like the Rogue Valley’s Siskiyou Seeds. If you have several friends who want to share a bulk seed order, the Family Farmers Seed Cooperative is a great option. They’re a co-op of small farmers in the western US who produce open-pollinated, organic varietals, including lots of heirlooms and select varietals adapted with traditional breeding. Their seed is available in bulk online.

We can’t wait until our efforts bear fruit – or veggies, herbs and flowers, to be exact! Growing food is a fascinating process that rewards us with fresh food, slashes food miles and eco-impact (especially if organic methods are used) and gives us exercise, fresh air and sunshine. What a delicious deal!

We hope you’ll join the fun and fulfillment by growing some of your own food. If you need guidance, contact your local Extension program or seed companies for information about when to plant specific crops in your area (from seed or transplanting starts), and optimal growing conditions for them. The Rodale Institute is a great source of information on organic gardening, too. If you need inspiration, stop by Standing Stone to say hello to our seedlings. Happy planting!

( photo credits: Top left – Rachel Koning, others – George Rubaloff

By in Sustainability 0

Sustainable Travel: Tips for the Journey

With spring in full swing, no doubt many folks are thinking about warm-weather travel plans. We love to get away to play and rejuvenate, and especially love enjoying the Oregon coast, hiking the state’s verdant forests and rafting the Rogue River. (Of course, Ashland, OR is a fabulous place to visit, too, and we’re happy to live in and around it!)

We’ve been thinking about how to make our own escapes more sustainable lately, since Travel Oregon granted us its Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, recognizing our efforts to provide visitors with food and beverages that benefit people and planet. We try to practice Standing Stone’s sustainability ethics wherever we go, and are always looking for ways to do more. We think the best way to appreciate the places and people we encounter is to take steps to protect and enhance the environment, and support local communities.

We thought we’d share a few ideas we’ve incorporated in our own travels, inspired by some great resources we’ve found:

  •  Choose reusables. Carry a reusable water bottle to avoid waste and enjoy the local tap water. (If local water is not potable, take appropriate purification supplies.) Pack a durable bag for souvenirs, a cloth napkin or multi-purpose cloth handkerchief, and reusable utensils and a plate for food on the go.
  • Pack your own personal care items. Travel-size toiletries and single-size hotel freebies result in a lot of waste. Refill small bottles and jars you already have with your favorite shampoo, toothpaste and other products, and pack soap in a small reused container (lid make a great soap dish).
  • Visit natural, cultural and historical sites and enjoy environmentally responsible recreational opportunities to appreciate the environment where you are, and support efforts to protect and maintain it. Take in local arts and music for multi-sensory cultural immersion.
  • Waste not. Find out what’s recyclable where you’re traveling, and try not to buy things that will generate non-recyclable waste. Recycle everything possible. (On airplanes, decline plastic cups and keep cans to recycle at the airport if the airline doesn’t recycle.) When booking lodging, looks for hostels or green hotels, which usually have recycling and even compost.
  • Travel lightly. Opt for public transit, which is a great way to experience real local culture that saves gas and emissions, too. Rent a bike or take a bike tour to explore places at human speed using clean pedal power. If you’re taking a shorter road trip and have some extra room and flexibility, consider a ride share. When renting cars, choose fuel efficient, electric or hybrid options.
  • Eat and buy local. Ask around for restaurants that use local food and stop by the farmers market to get a true taste of your destination and support hardworking producers. Bring home locally crafted souvenirs and gifts to share and remember your experience, and help artisans thrive.

How do you make your travels lighter on the planet and positive for the communities you visit? Post a comment to share your ideas. Happy trails!