Source Stories

Spectrum's former President and CEO Neil Blomquist literally travels the globe several times a year scouting for small farms who share our unswerving devotion to quality, and checking up on long-standing partners and friends. The stories he comes back with are so rich and wonderful that we just had to share them with you.



Spectrum Organic Greek Olive Oil
Pressing Tradition

If you’re a fan of Spectrum’s peppery, pungent Organic Greek Olive Oil, you’ll love the story of how it came to be . . .

Greece is a land of ancient culture. Read the adventures of Odysseus and you’ll find a portrait of daily that is still remarkably accurate today (minus the nymphs and Cyclops). So goes life on Crete. Today, many people still work their ancestral land in small, rural villages—growing olives, citrus, grapes and almonds.

With agriculture so entrenched in family society, organic practices are of growing concern. Cretan-born Dr. Manolis Kabourakis of the National Agricultural Research Foundation in Heraklion, Crete, addressed this very topic in his book, where he explored ways to preserve Crete’s family-based agrarian society in today’s competitive global economy, and how to do so without petrochemicals.

Spectrum President and CEO Neil Blomquist first came upon Minoulis at a trade show in London. Minoulis’ wife, Agapi Vassiliou, caught Neil’s attention with a taste of exceptional oil. She explained that it had come from the Cretan Agri-Environmental Coop, which she and her husband had started to educate farmers about moving away from petrochemicals, and which was already working aggressively towards organic certification.

Neil was so impressed with the couple and their efforts that he flew to Crete for the olive harvest that December. A defining moment for Neil came while taking lunch on top of a knoll with several other members of the coop. Neil watched olives being hand-picked into gunney sacks and loaded onto donkey carts to take to the community mill, all the while sipping grappa, dipping fresh baked bread in thick olive oil and nibbling on salted almonds and cured olives. As they ate, they spoke for hours about what Spectrum does and hoped to do with their oil, and what it meant to the growers there on Crete.

Spectrum Organic Greek Olive Oil is the only bottle in America holding the precious cold pressed oil from the Cretan Agri-Environmental Coop. Taste the tradition for yourself.

For a great way to use this Greek Olive Oil try our Wilted Spinach and Feta Cheese Salad.



Spectrum Unrefined Corn Oil
The Pursuit of Purity

Open a bottle of Spectrum’s Unrefined Corn Oil and you can almost taste the juicy sweetness of fresh roasted corn. Read on to find out what it takes to capture a flavor that fresh.

When Spectrum’s supplies of Unrefined Corn Oil had all but run out, our President and CEO Neil Blomquist was left in a bind. He was having a hard time finding a guaranteed non-GMO source in America due to the complexity posed by plants cross-pollinating over an area of several miles. But Neil wouldn’t relent. “You should have seen the comments from our customers,” he says today, “they loved that oil! I couldn’t take it away from them.”

So Neil put the word out among his extensive network in the organic oil industry and one day, just weeks before the supply ran out, he got a call saying “I think I’ve found it.”

Neil flew to Paris shortly afterwards to meet with a processor who was in somewhat of a predicament as well. Champagne Mais Coop is a grower/processor consisting of farmers from a secluded area of France’s Champagne region dedicated to growing only certified non-GMO corn. The Coop’s primary buyer had been Heinekin Brewery. But the beer company was only interested in the starch portion of the corn, not the oil itself, and Director General Jean Loup was greatly troubled by wasting what he knew to be wonderful, high-quality oil.

He and Neil struck a deal, and the producer taught Neil about his ‘bullet-proof’ non-GMO tracing system—from farmer education to advanced seed testing. His advice helped Neil tighten Spectrum’s own non-GMO verification systems, and the two went on to push for stricter standards within the industry.

Taste our Unrefined Corn Oil for yourself, and see what all the fuss is about. Here's a recipe that shows off this flavorful oil: Peruvian Corn Cakes with Garlic Parsley Dipping Sauce



Sustainability

Spectrum believes strongly in sustainable farming practices, and not only on a philosophical level. We seek out small scale farmers who are using organic, sustainable methods as sources for our products.

Sustainable agriculture looks at farming in a holistic sense—from environmental, economic and social angles—and seeks ways to nurture all for the long-term.

Dr. John Ikerd of the University of Missouri explains sustainable agriculture in this way:

"A sustainable agriculture must be economically viable, socially responsible, and ecologically sound. The economic, social, and ecological are interrelated, and all are essential to sustainability.

  • An agriculture that uses up or degrades its natural resource base, or pollutes the natural environment, eventually will lost its ability to produce. It’s not sustainable.
  • An agriculture that isn’t profitable, at least over time, will not allow its farmers to stay in business. It’s not sustainable.
  • An agriculture that fails to meet the needs of society, as producers and citizens as well as consumers, will not be sustained by society. It’s not sustainable.
  • A sustainable agriculture must be all three – ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible. And the three must be in harmony."

    How does sustainable agriculture work?
    Sustainable farming takes an approach that protects and enhances cropland and human resources with a long-term view, rather than ‘maximizing production’ of the land for short term, profit-centered purposes. Some of the main methods used in sustainable agriculture are:

    Stewardship of natural resources—Every area’s makeup of natural resources is different, and sustainable agriculture takes this into account. Whether its by wholesale deforestation, heavy irrigation in drought areas or practices heavily reliant on fossil fuels, conventional farming often consumes resources without regard. Sustainable agriculture seeks to minimize non-renewable resource consumption, and focuses instead on systems that will use renewable resources.

    Biodiversity—Modern farming most often practices what is called ‘monoculture’—acres and acres of one crop in order to streamline mechanized processes. Monoculture depletes the land of nutrients and encourages certain diseases, weeds and pests which are dealt with by an array of pesticides and herbicides. By contrast, ‘biodiversity’ rotates crops to prevent soil depletion; interplants various crops as a natural prevention of weeds and pests; and is based on a selection of crops best suited to a particular plot of land.

    A commitment to changing public policy—As our laws stand now, tax incentives and credits are geared towards supporting large, corporate farming and absentee ownership—the exact opposite of a sustainable view. The sustainable movement pushes for government policies that encourage a diverse and decentralized system of small-scale farms; the protection of farm land from development; and support for labor and rural communities.

    Support from food producers and consumers—There is one more very important piece to the sustainable puzzle, and that is the choices companies like Spectrum make in sourcing and producing their products, and the choices that consumers make with their purchases. Companies and consumers both have a responsibility for weighing the ‘true cost’ of a product, not just its monetary value, in making their decisions.

    Additional Resources:
    USDA Sustainable Agriculure Definitions and Terms
    Sustainable Agriculture Network
    Sustainable America Report by the President’s (Clinton) Council on Sustainable Development