3 Things I Learned At The Cultivate Festival

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Jason and I spent an awesome weekend in Chicago as guests of Chipotle at the Cultivate Festival, a one-day celebration of food, ideas and music in Lincoln Park. Live music and good food was the backdrop for an interactive dialogue on better ingredients, preparation and farming practices.

From watching a gluten-free “gordita” food demo with “Best New Chef” James Beard winner and Food Network Star Nate Appleman, to checking out the Fresh vs. Processed Experience installation, to learning about avocados (fun fact: drop a banana peel or apple in a brown paper bag to make them ripen faster), to tasting new vegan tacos (currently being tested in the LA market — delish), to grazing on local vendors’ chow at the Artisans’ Hall, Cultivate Fest was a fun, informative, and inspiring weekend.

The “Fresh vs. Processed Foods” large-scale installation was a gem, bringing to a tangible, very real level the harmful chemicals that are used in processed foods.

Another highlight was the “Farm Facts Experience,” a series of visuals that highlighted the dangers of antibiotics and other typical factory farm tactics, contrasted with practices at more responsible farms.

In New York, a city of $12 green juices and $15 kale salads, it’s easy to find healthy options, but they are expensive. It’s great to see a company like Chipotle with massive national reach creating a dialogue on understanding freshness, food and farmers.

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Is there still more work to be done to create accessible organic food that's been brought to table with responsible practices?

ABSOLUTELY! And let’s hope other companies follow suit so that better, healthier food becomes the norm.

Three Things I Learned at the Cultivate Festival:

1. Could there possibly be more reasons to love avocados?

We've known that avocados are the "good fats," one of the few fruits that have monounsaturated fats, and that it's also known as a beauty and fertility superfood. But there's even more good news! At the "Avocado Experience," I learned that avocados have lutein, a potent antioxidant that helps with eye health, and also beta-Sitosterol, a plant sterol, which may help with cholesterol. Avocados also have 8% of the recommended daily value of folate. The only downside is that California grows approximately 90% of the nation's avocado crop, so many of you locavores will be out of luck.

2. Look for tortilla chips with sunflower oil.

Guacamole with gluten-free chips is definitely a staple in my apartment. When buying chips at the market, look for ones with sunflower oil instead of soybean oil. Most soybean oil produced in the United States is made from genetically modified soybeans. Luckily, sunflowers haven't been genetically modified, so you know that the oil is GMO-free.

3. There's another reason to choose organic cotton.

We've known that organic cotton can be a better option since typically it's grown with only natural forms of weed and pest control and without the pesticides and toxins of conventional cotton. Another reason is that the cotton seed ends up in our food supply! With organic cotton, there's less risk of tainting our soil — and our food — with chemicals.



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