Posted in July 2011

Imagine the Next: Vokashi

One of our core founding issues at The Moderns twenty years ago was food justice, and over the years we have gotten involved in this arena in a variety of ways. Of concern globally, and nationally in the U.S. is the quality of our soil. Nutrient rich soil is needed to grow the most nutrient rich food.

Our office is in New York City, which is considered a food desert, because most of our food comes from a great distance. The soil surrounding New York is poor and anyone who’s ever visited New York can tell you another obvious problem of the country’s largest city: piles and piles of garbage.

When Vandra Thorburn, president of Vokashi, founded her company she was already deeply imbedded in the local composting and community garden arena in New York City. She saw clearly the need to match our city’s problem of overflowing food waste with a need for nutrient rich soil for our community gardens and homes.

Vokashi uses the traditional Japanese method of fermentation, called ‘bokashi,’ to ferment food waste through a combination of a special bran mixture (EM-1, molasses, and wheat bran) in an airtight container. Her pick-up and drop-off service in the New York area provides her clients with airtight EcoSmart buckets to leave their food waste in to ferment, which takes about two weeks. Upon collection of the buckets, Vokashi takes the fermented food (which has no decay, odor, bugs or pathogens) to community gardens, where it is mixed directly in to the soil or into worm bins to compost. This method composts the food waste very quickly without decomposing the food, providing extremely rich nutrient soil.

Vandra brought EcoSmart buckets and bran to show us a demonstration. Besides food waste, any biodegradable paper can also be added. The food and paper get layered in the bucket with the bran mixture and once sealed, the fermentation magic starts to happen. She left us with two buckets and bran to do the process in-house and we absolutely love it.

With no decay, hardly any smells, bugs, or pathogens, what’s not to love about giving back to the earth? Thank you Vokashi, for a very inspiring Imagine the Next.

Imagine the Next Friday: Vokashi

with Vandra Thorburn, President of Vokashi

Vokashi is a compost starter that uses Japanese methods of fermentation to compost raw food waste. It’s easier than most composting methods, faster and doesn’t put off as much of an odor. Come to our office for Imagine the Next™ this Friday, July 15th at 12:00 to learn more about this unique composting technique.

Happy Independence Day!

The Moderns hope you had a great, long weekend celebrating our wonderful country. Ours was filled with time with family and friends, delicious food and the annual Macy’s firework show, which is always a crowd pleaser. Our founder, Janine James, didn’t realize the fireworks were literally at the end of her street. She ran outside, grabbed ice cream from the organic ice cream truck and watched the fireworks with business partner, Kevin Szell’s three barefooted children (don’t tell their dad!). Next year we know whose cookout we’re going to in Chelsea to get a front row seat to the fireworks show.

With CSAs, employees benefit!

Community Supported Agriculture Programs, or CSAs, are mutually beneficial partnerships between farmers and their local communities that allow consumers to receive ultra-fresh, affordable produce while supporting sustainable farming practices. At The Moderns, one of the many ways we Imagine the Next is through our employee benefits. We recently began participating in the Prince George-Norwich Meadows Farm CSA and just received our second share of fresh produce. Every Thursday our staff receives local produce from the Norwich Meadows Farm, a certified organic farm in Chenango County near Binghamton, New York. We have yet to hear of any other company that provides this employee benefit.  We are proud to be the first.

How it works

CSAs allow small farms to compete with large industrialized agriculture by greatly reducing the costs and risks involved in small farming. Community participants in a CSA pay in advance for a share of the food that a given farm will produce. This reversal of the usual process—where farmers typically grow first and get paid later— offers a number of benefits. Since everyone gains in proportion to how much is produced, farmers and consumers are pooled together to share the risks and rewards of farming. Small farms become far less likely to be ruined in the event of a poor season, while everyone still benefits from a great harvest. Having money in advance also allows farmers to buy seeds and hire labor without having to take out high interest loans. Plus, because they already know where their food is going, farmers do not need to worry as much about marketing during the growing season, when they may be working 16-hour days.


CSAs are a great way for people to become informed, involved, and connected to their food and food production. In our CSA, volunteering and interacting with others is an important component. It is required for each shareholder to volunteer at least 4 hours. Volunteers can get involved by helping during distribution days, organizing a potluck, or making volunteer reminder phone calls. As an added bonus, we will even have the opportunity to meet with our farmers and talk with them about the food we eat and the growing process!

At The Moderns we Imagine the Next in social, environmental and food justice, not because it is trendy, but because it is who we are. For the past twenty years, we have been supporting environmental and social equity through multidisciplinary work for our clients. Providing our employees with fresh, sustainably produced organic foods is just one of the ways we are improving the workplace and the world – by staying true to ourselves.

To learn more about CSAs, visit Common Ground and Local Harvest.