Until quite recently,
Shopping for organic foods required a special trip to a natural foods store or farmers market.
Today, you can find an extensive selection of organic products in thousands of natural food stores and three out of four conventional grocery stores. Americans have developed a healthy appetite for organics, with fresh produce being in the lead.
In the summer of 1924 Rudolf Steiner presented what has been called the first organic agriculture course to a group of over one hundred farmers. Steiner’s Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, published in 1924, led to the popularization of biodynamic agriculture, probably the first comprehensive organic farming system, based on his teachings.
But the first use of the term “organic farming” was coined by the English Lord Northbourne, who derived the idea of “the farm as organism”, which he expounded in his book, Look to the Land (1940), in which he described a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming.
By the 1950s, sustainable agriculture was a research topic of some interest, mainly focused on the new chemical approaches then being developed. Here in the States, J.I. Rodale began to popularize methods of organic growing, promoting organic gardening to the general public, then in 1962, Rachel Carson, a prominent scientist and naturalist, published Silent Spring, chronicling the effects of DDT and other pesticides on the environment. A bestseller, and widely read around the world, Silent Spring was instrumental in the US government’s 1972 banning of DDT. The book and its author are often credited with launching the environmental movement.
In 1968, widely remembered as the Summer of Love, Stewart Brand published the Whole Earth Catalog, creating a marketplace for consumers and suppliers interested in sustainability and ecology, while Tom and Kate Chappell decided to create Tom’s of Maine to make and sell their own natural and personal care products that would not harm the environment.
Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) in the U.S. on April 22, 1970 as a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. Throughout the 1970s, worldwide movements concerned with environmental pollution, brought further attention to organic farming. One goal of the early organic movement was to promote consumption of locally grown food, which was promoted through slogans such as “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food”. A group of farmers formed California Certified Organic Farmers, becoming the first organization to certify organic farms in North America.
In 1972, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), was founded in Versailles, outside of Paris, France. IFOAM was dedicated to the diffusion of information on the principles and practices of organic agriculture across national and linguistic boundaries. That same year, John Battendieri founded Santa Cruz Organics, which marketed some of the first packaged organic products in the United States.
By the 1980s, various farming and consumer groups began lobbying for government regulation of organic production to ensure standards of production. This led to various legislation and certification standards being enacted through the 1990s and up to this time. By the time the new millennium rolled around, the worldwide market for organic products had exploded.
Way ahead of the curve, Cid and Betty Backer have been involved with the Natural Food Industry since the ‘70’s when both of them arrived in New Mexico as “young hippies,” as they describe themselves, albeit rather industrious young hippies!
Cid and Betty Backer opened Cid’s Food Market in 1986. Cid had come from New York to go to college, while Betty, having grown up West of Amarillo on a Cattle Ranch/Wheat farm arrived in Santa Fe after deciding very quickly, that college “was not my thing,” and promptly bought a vegetarian “hippie restaurant”. Cid was in Taos by then, having started a whole grain “hippie” bakery with a few other like-minded souls. The Bakery, Working Man’s Bread, eventually sold and became Mainstreet Bakery.
Once Cid began delivering bread to Betty’s restaurant the two fell in love which led to Betty selling her restaurant. But soon after making the big move to Taos, she went off to San Diego to study the Bates Method of Vision Training to become a Vision Trainer. The People’s Food Co-Op in Ocean Beach, one of the first in the Nation, made a big impression on her, she recalls. She returned to Taos where they lived together in a cabin on Hondo Mesa. After their oldest son Lee was born, Cid sold his share of the Bakery and they spent a good part of that Winter in Mexico.
When they came back to Taos, Cid got a job at the Amigos Food Co-Op. After several years of unofficially managing the Co-Op, he applied for the formal Managerial Position but when the Board hired someone else, the couple decided to open their own store instead on the North Side of Taos. They opened Cid’s in 1986 in the space the Northside Guadalajara Grill now occupies. Cid’s was a small, modest family run grocery store back then and because they offered gourmet items along with natural and organic products, they set themselves apart from the somewhat funky Co-Op. Evidently they caught a rising tidal wave, and now three decades later, although Cid’s remains a family owned and run business, it’s hard to imagine its humble origins driving into its always crowded parking lot any day of the week. Not bad for a couple of hippies!
Their two sons, Lee and Kellen, grew up working in the grocery store. Lee is now at the helm of the family business, while Kellen, an Academic, now lives on the East Coast with his wife and daughter. Under Lee’s watch, Cid’s has expanded to include prepared food along with a salad bar. It’s become one of the most popular lunch spots in town! Their great kitchen also caters events along with the food served at Cid’s daily. A few years ago, Lee and his wife Angelica (my daughter), opened the Cellar, a specialty wine, beer and spirits store, behind Cid’s, growing the business in a new direction.
But Cid’s remains the family run business it started out as, with their kids now growing up in the store, and helping out during school holidays and breaks, learning the ropes and the value of hard work. The company is renowned in Taos for its above average pay scale, benefits and work environment; in fact the staff are truly like a big family – not to mention that practically everyone in Taos has a family member who’s worked there at one time or another – and although Betty no longer works at the store, Cid is there most days, when the couple aren’t travelling or back East to see Kellen and his family.
As interest in organics grew, organic foods and other products have become widely available in conventional supermarkets, but until recently high prices meant only more affluent shoppers could afford them. Studies tell us that conventional retailers now outpace natural retailers for share of organic food sales. Their flourishing presence at “big box” retailers that cater to price-conscious consumers including Walmart, are a clear indication that things have changed, along with the term “farm to table” bandied about from Bangor to Bakersfield!
Initial interest in organics and natural products might have started with more educated consumers who took the time to research products, but their popularity has become more democratized across all demographics. Clearly Cid and Betty’s vision of including gourmet and other specialty items on their shelves, was farsighted, and remains the reason why people – both locals and visitors – make it hard to find a parking place in their lot, no matter the time of day!
This weekend, Cid’s celebrates 33 years aqui in Taos, and as always, they use this occasion to give back to the community in gratitude for the on – going support (and the packed parking lot!) Friday and Saturday, Nov 1st and 2nd, from 9-6, there’ll be a DJ, “lots of fabulous food tastings along with tons of giveaways!” Cid’s Marketing Director (my son – yeah, I told you it’s a family affair), Joshua Cunningham told me. “Be there!”
Local favorites, Nurturessence, Taos Honey CBD, Bison Star Naturals, and Gosar Ranch will all be featured over the weekend with specials and demos, along with many other vendors and brands. As usual it’s a party – get there early. The early bird finds the worm. And in this case, a parking spot!
For more on Cid’s Anniversary Weekend Bash, please visit their site linked below.
All images thanks to Cid’s.