Once sweethearts of the Arizona dirt bike tracks, Cathy and Shaun Kalos are now racing to bring ‘clean’ produce to an organically starved Valley of the Sun.
By Jimmy Magahern
As a former professional motocross racer—a prodigy on the Litchfield Park dust bowls, who quickly rose to fame competing in European world championships as a sponsored rider—Shaun Kalos has always been comfortable with a little dirt. Not to mention the occasional bug between the teeth.
That may explain why today, as co-owner of North Scottsdale Organics, the certified organic foods distribution home business run by his wife, Cathy, Kalos has little patience for squiddly shoppers who avoid pesticide-free produce simply because they’re afraid of finding a little spider on their bananas.
“I’ve never seen a bug inside of an apple, have you?” he asks Cathy, as the couple, who recently celebrated their 21st anniversary (they met at a West Valley motocross track), take a short coffee break at the Starbucks at Kierland. “Never,” says Cathy, who began her organic buyers’ group 16 years ago, after a bout of valley fever forced her brown dirt cowboy to retire from professional racing (although he still teaches riders on weekends). “Well, once in a while we’ll get a bug on the outside.”
It’s Tuesday, when the Kalos’ weekly shipments of fresh fruit and veggies are delivered to their house off Greenway Parkway and 56th Street by a fleet of out-of-state trucks (“We have very understanding neighbors,” cracks Cathy). And the pair, along with their four young sons, will soon be busy again packing grab-bags of organic mangos, kale, blueberries and Roma tomatoes for the roughly 1,000 members who enthusiastically show up each Wednesday morning at one of several drop-off spots around North Scottsdale.
“To me, a bug on a piece of fruit is not a big deal,” Shaun continues. “You just brush it off, or whatever. But people always give that as a reason not to go organic. I always thought that was a good sign, actually. If you see a bug hanging out on a fruit, you know it’s clean!”
“Clean,” to the organic foodie—a growing contingent in the United States, where sales of organic foods have been expanding by an average of 10 percent every year since 2010—means chemical-free, nutrient dense and not genetically modified or irradiated. But to conventional grocery shoppers (who still account for 96 percent of the country’s $760 billion annual food sales), organic doesn’t always look clean.
“Some of the organic farms have trouble selling to grocery stores,” admits Cathy, who says conventional growers often polish their produce to brighten and “pop out” the colors (and to wash off some of the pesticides). “Take oranges, for example. The stores want perfectly orange oranges, without one blemish on them. Unfortunately, that means about a third of the organic farmer’s crop can be rejected. It’s the outside of an orange, what do we care? It tastes great on the inside!”
The other main reason the masses still shun organics is the higher cost—up to twice the price of conventionally grown produce sometimes. That’s where online buying clubs like North Scottsdale Organics come in.
For a $25 pre-order ($35 for a jumbo-sized bag) placed online by Sunday night, the Kalos family will put together an assortment of the Southwest’s best organic fruits and vegetables in season, sourced from their network of leading organic farms, and leave it in a bag at one of nine area drop-off spots (including the Kalos’ own front doorway) for pick-up.
About the only thing keeping North Scottsdale Organics from becoming a full-fledged hipster CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture group, is that they don’t buy local—although Cathy assures it’s not for lack of trying.
“Unfortunately there are not a whole lot of organic farms in Arizona,” she says—and indeed, among organic foodies, the arid Arizona desert is seen as an inhospitable place for growing sustainable organic crops. In her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” former Tucson resident Barbara Kingsolver talked about leaving the otherwise “idyllic” Arizona surroundings for rural Virginia because she “wanted to live in a place that could feed us.”
Cathy and Shaun Kalos, however, are determined to make that happen here.
“When I started doing this in Litchfield, it really was a ministry for me,” says Cathy. “Because I knew, as a mom, that I wanted healthier food for my family, and I thought that if I could find other people who wanted it, too, we could all share. And that’s exactly what’s happened.”
North Scottsdale Organics
For a $25 pre-order ($35 for a jumbo-sized bag) placed online by Sunday night, the Kalos family will put together an assortment of the Southwest’s best organic fruits and vegetables in season, and leave it in a bag at one of nine area drop-off spots. To place your order, visit www.northscottsdaleorganics.com. You have the option to become a member with an auto-pay account for a $5 discount. Pick-up is on Wednesdays at set times (check website) at the following Greater Airpark locations:
56th Street & Greenway Road (Tuesdays)
Natural Choice Academy
13840 N. Tatum Blvd.
7077 E. Mayo Blvd.
7450 E. Pinnacle Peak Road
8350 E. Evans Road
14885 N. 83rd Place