A Town Treasure on a Baguette
With all of this ebb and flow on the Seghesio project I thought I’d check in with one of the most respected local merchants in the community, Will Seppi, general manager of the family owned Costeaux French Bakery in downtown Healdsburg.
Costeaux has been around for some 92 years, first as the French American Bakery, which was owned by Octavia and Ricardo Cassaza. In 1927 the bakery was sold to J. Sarzotti and A. Viari who featured breads, panettone, pasties and grissini (breadsticks). They delivered twice a week to customers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys who would pay after the annual harvest.
From 1930 to 1971 the bakery had several different names and owners including Tom Alexander who changed the name to Alexander’s Modern Bakery. In 1959 the bakery was bought by Fred Loupi (still a Healdsburg resident), who changed the name to, what else, Fred’s Bakery. During Fred’s tenure there was a rumor around town of a bakery truck spinning “donuts” on the plaza lawn but Fred doesn’t know anything about that. In 1972, the bakery was bought by Jean and Annie Costeaux from Reims, France and gave the bakery its current name.
In 1981, the Seppi family bought the bakery and kept the name. Karl and Nancy often visited Nancy’s great aunt, Mary Zandrino, who lived on a ranch in west Dry Creek. It was Mary who knew the bakery was for sale and suggested that Karl and Nancy buy it. Karl, who was a golf pro, was taught how to bake bread by Jean Costeaux. Karl didn’t seem to have much of a handicap switching to the bakery business as Costeaux won the only gold medal for bread at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair that first year and they have been winning gold medals, and even national acclaim, ever since.
After graduating from Villanova University and a stint in accounting for a Silicon Valley finance company Will took over the business full time in 2004. He and his three sisters (one of which, Karla, along with her husband Rob Lippincott own the popular Healdsburg Parish Cafe) grew up in Healdsburg where Will still lives with his wife Brandy and their three kids ages 3, 2, and 8 months. Under Will the company has kept growing. They now sell their wide assortment of baked good in not only Sonoma County but also in Mendocino, Napa, Marin and San Francisco. They produce from three to five thousand loaves of bread per day which can go to ten thousand or so with special events. Even though they now have over 85 employees (50/50 retail and production) you can still see Will delivering bread to places like Big Johns.
The bakery and restaurant on Healdsburg Avenue is a beautiful facility reminiscent of a French villa. With an eye on ecology Will recently put in solar panels and to save water he put in a brown colored wood floor instead of tile that needed to be mopped daily, also the crumbs blend in better. Their annual events including Bastille Day (the replica guillotine was made for them by Aristocrat Wood Products and Redwood Auto Body) and Christmas Eve celebrations are a lot of fun and Nancy’s spirited homemade eggnog is very popular. Their in house promotions include a December 24th “secret envelope” where you can win a gift certificate, complimentary bread, desserts or cookies and a “coffee coin” can get you a croissant, cookie or loaf of bread.
But it’s not the in-house promotions that define the Seppi family. When it comes to giving back to the community Will seems to be everywhere. Each year the bakery donates money and products to an astounding 500 community events including Northern County Services, the Healdsburg Senior Center’s Christmas dinner, Redwood Gospel Missions Great Thanksgiving Banquet, FFA and more. They contribute to the KZST Secret Santa Christmas gift program; the Algebra Academy and internship programs at Healdsburg area schools and have sponsored family ESL literacy programs for their employees. And the list goes on and on. The Seppis’ may not be the Triones’ but their philanthropic mind-set sure is.
Costeaux Solar Installation
So what’s Wills’ take on the Seghesio project? He says that Pete Seghesio, like Will grew up in Healdsburg, and loves the town and community and can understand why Pete was a little shocked at any negative reaction to the project. The business will generate jobs and tax revenue and if the meat market does well it will become a popular local venue not unlike Costeaux. As far as the upscale restaurant goes most locals, even though most couldn’t or wouldn’t spend that kind of money on a restaurant meal, thought it was fun having Cyrus’ in town. It’s like the downtown wine tasting rooms; if there is a demand they will stay in business, if not they’re gone.
But one thing is for sure, the Seghesio have and will give back to the community and, like the Seppis’ they are part of the fabric of the Healdsburg community.
A few weeks ago I attended the Piner Highs School open house for their new high tech science building. The $3.6 million dollar structure (the full size planetarium is awesome), officially known as the Science Position Astronomy Research Quest Center, or SPARQ, was built to house the schools STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math) classes. To see the new facility go to: http://sparqatphs.com/index.html
Testing for GMO
I came upon a group of fifteen-year old students at the Health Science and Biotechnology table who were eager to show me how to test a food sample to see if it had been genetically modified. They showed me the micropipette in which the mashed food sample is placed along with a gel solution to separate the DNA from the rest of the cellular components. Simply stated, the DNA then needs to be copied many times because more DNA than is found in the food is needed for testing. This is done through a procedure known as Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR in which the food DNA is unwound. The last step is to visualize the DNA and see if the DNA has been modified. This is usually done by gel electrophoresis. These students are a lot smarter than I was at fifteen – than I am now for that matter.
To really get into how to test for GMOs go to: http://www.hudsonalpha.org
At lot about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) has been in the news lately and you know the subject is gaining main stream consciousness when a high school STEM course is teaching how to test for the presence of GMOs in their food.
California Prop 32 Campaign Poster
A California initiative, Prop 37, which would have required GMO labeling of all food by retailers and food companies, was defeated last November and California State Senator Noreen Evans is trying to get the job done through the California legislature by introducing a bill requiring all consumer food must contain GMO labeling. In Vermont they just passed legislation (5/8/2014) making the state the first to require food producers to label products made with generic engineering. The law won’t go into effect for two years and producer lawsuits are expected. Vermont Gov. signs GMO Labeling into Law http://radioboston.wbur.org/2014/05/08/vermont-gmo-labeling.
All GMOs are not bad. The GMO process in nature is known as evolution although nature’s process takes considerably longer (thousands and even millions of years) than the man-made kind. Technically GMOs are experimental plants or animals that have been genetically engineered in a laboratory with DNA from other plants, animals, bacteria or virus.
There are two main reasons for GMOs. First, seed producers modify their seeds to make them resistant to their brands of herbicides; and second, seed producers modify plants to contain built-in pesticides. Today, GMO ingredients are found in 80% of the packaged foods in the U.S. GMO crops are also added to processed foods as oils and sweeteners.
To make a GMO, three main components are required: the gene you want to transfer, the organism you want to put it into (target species), and a vector to carry the gene into the target species cells. The steps are relatively straightforward, but can be technically challenging. The gene to be transferred (trans-gene) must be cut out and isolated from the original organism. This is usually done by restriction enzymes, which are like molecular scissors that recognize specific sequences in the DNA and cut it at those places.
To really get into how to make a GMO go to: http://www.hudsonalpha.org
For some, the idea of GMO food is a good because the modifications allow crops to become resistant to drought and infestations, letting more people have more regular meals. Some research even shows that the world produces 17% more food than it needs to produce to provide each current human with three meals per day.
Rats with tumors
Others look at genetically modified foods as dangerous. From allergic reactions to potential intestinal damage, many people wish to avoid GMO foods because of animal studies that have shown changes in internal cell structure, abnormal tumor growth, and unexpected deaths that have occurred.
Another reason people distrust GMO foods is that they are so new to our food chain. People feel that they are the “lab rat” generation for the big Ag companies to see what happens to humans after a generation of eating GMO foods.
If you want to know more about this go to: http://organicconnectmag.com
When it comes to the mass the mass production of GMO foods the benefits need to outweigh the risks. In some areas, having access to GMO foods may make sense because resources are thin and people are dying from hunger. However, in other areas the risks may outweigh the rewards. So what exactly are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?
Pros of Genetically Modified Foods:
1. Better overall quality and taste
Through the modification of foods, the flavors can be enhanced. Peppers can become spicier or sweeter. Corn can become sweeter. Difficult flavors can become more palatable.
2. More resistant to disease
Corn without GMO
Plants and animals that have been genetically modified can become more resistant to the unexpected problems of disease. Think of it as a vaccine for that plant or animal, except that the vaccine is encoded into the genetics instead of a shot given to the immune system.
3. More nutrition benefits
GMO foods can have vitamins and minerals added to them through genetic modifications to provide greater nutritive benefits to those who eat them. This is especially common in developing countries that don’t always have the access to needed resources.
Cons of Genetically Modified Foods
Here are the primary problems with GMO foods:
1. Environmental damage
By growing plants or raising livestock in environmental conditions that normally wouldn’t support them, there is the potential of irrevocably damaging that environment. This is often seen through GMO crossbreeding – weeds, for example, that can be crossed with GMO plants can often become resistant to herbicides, creating the need for more GMO efforts.
2. There is no economic value
GMO foods take just as long to mature and take just as much effort to grow, meaning that there is no real economic value to growing GMO foods when compared to non-GMO foods. In addition, growers have seen little economic gain from the use of GMO crops.
3. A growth in allergic reactions in the general population
Time and time again, studies have shown that the consumption of GMO foods increases the risks of food-based allergies in people. If someone develops an allergy to soy because of GMO efforts, then if livestock eats that GMO soy as well, that person would have a high probability of an allergic reaction from eating the animal meat. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
The following is brief timeline of the development of GMO:
In 1935, a Russian scientist, Andrei Nikolaevitch Belozersky, isolates pure DNA.
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick publish their discovery of the three-dimensional double helix structure of DNA. This discovery will eventually lead to the ability of scientists to identify and “splice” genes from one kind of organism into the DNA of another.
In 1973, the idea for man-made DNA, or Recombinant DNA (rDNA), comes from a grad student at Stanford University Medical School. Professor Herbert Boyer and a few of his biologist colleagues develop it.
In 1975, a group of biologists get together (the Asilomar Conference) with a few lawyers and doctors to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA.
In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court rules (5-4) that genetically altered life forms can be patented. The decision allowed the Exxon Oil Company to patent an oil-eating microorganism.
In 1982, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first genetically engineered drug, Genentech’s Humulin, a form of human insulin produced by E. coli bacteria. This becomes the first consumer product developed through modern bioengineering.
In 1987, the first field tests of genetically engineered crops (tobacco and tomato) were conducted in the United States.
In 1992, the FDA declared that genetically engineered foods are “not inherently dangerous” and do not require special regulation.
In 1994, FDA approves the “Flavr Savr” tomato for sale on grocery store shelves. The delayed-ripening tomato has a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.
In 1996, weeds resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide used with many GMO crops, are detected in Australia. Research shows that the super weeds are seven to 11 times more resistant to glyphosate than the standard susceptible population.
In 1997, the European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.
In 1999, Dr. Zhiyuan Gong, at the National University of Singapore, injected a green fluorescent jellyfish gene into a zebra fish embryo, allowing it to integrate into the fish’s genome. The goal was to develop a fish that could detect pollution by selectively fluorescing in the presence of environmental toxins. The fish are now sold worldwide as Glofish.
In 1999, over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology.
In 2000,International Biosafety Protocol is approved by 130 countries at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montréal, Canada. The protocol agrees upon labeling of genetically engineered crops, but still needs to be ratified by 50 nations before it goes into effect.
In 2003, a Bt-toxin-resistant caterpillar-cum-moth, Helicoverpa zea, is found feasting on GMO Bt cotton crops in the southern United States. In less than a decade, the bugs have adapted to the genetically engineered toxin produced by the modified plants.
In 2011, research in eastern Quebec finds Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant women and shows evidence that the toxin is passed to fetuses.
In 2012, French farmer Paul Francois sues Monsanto for chemical poisoning he claims was caused by its pesticide Lasso, part of the Roundup Ready line of products. Francois wins and sets a new precedent for future cases.
In 2014, Monsanto’s patent on the Roundup Ready line of genetically engineered seeds will end in two years. In 2009, Monsanto introduced Roundup 2 with a new patent set to make the first-generation seed obsolete.