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A Sugar Rush Remedy is “Cropping” Up in Sarasota

If you’re anything like long-time Sarasota resident, Karen Odierna, you likely know firsthand how difficult sugar cravings are to overcome. A self-described “sweets lover,” Odierna struggled with these urges for several years, despite her deep understanding of nutrition as a registered nurse and fitness instructor.

            However, an introduction to cold-pressed juicing finally empowered Odierna to eliminate artificial sweets from her diet. “After noticing the effects that organic leafy green juice had on both my boyfriend and myself, I was hooked! The increased energy and decreased sugar cravings made me want to share cold-pressed juice with everyone. Previously, I juiced and blended on-and-off, and I have always understood the importance of nutrition since my nursing school days. But, these last few years have been eye-opening.

            “There’s no doubt that, when I include juicing into my day, I hold myself more accountable for everything I eat. Even adding a few bottles each week is a wonderful way to infuse the body with raw, living nutrients. I aim to consume two bottles of leafy green-based juice every day, as I am a firm believer in consuming a variety of raw fruits and veggies for the amazing benefits and energy they provide,” she explains.

            Experiencing these positive, wellness-enhancing results prompted Odierna to create an environment where raw, organic and nutrient-dense juices dominate the menu. Thus, the first CROPjuice storefront opened its doors in January 2014. Odierna adds, “I have called Sarasota home since 1979 and, while I’ve seen wonderful changes and additions to Sarasota over the years, I wanted to bring a product to town that didn’t exist, but I thought was needed.”

            The establishment’s name, a clever nod to its reliance on freshly grown fruits and vegetables, is also shorthand for “Cold-Pressed, Raw, Organic Produce.” As this acronym would suggest, CROPjuice features the purest quality ingredients found in nature. “Although we do not have a USDA-certified organic label on our bottles, we only use USDA-certified organic produce in our juices.

            “When available, we source produce from a local, certified-organic farm called Aloe Organics, but to get the variety of produce needed for our juices on a daily basis, we use the local, certified-organic company Global Organic Specialty Source. We juice over 25 fruits and veggies including kale, bok choy, arugula, cabbage, spinach, celery root, dill, parsley, pineapple, green and red apple, ginger, turmeric, pumpkin, pear and tomato,” notes Odierna.

            Even the complex procedure by which these ingredients are liquefied indicates meticulous attention to detail and utmost concern for customer’s health. Odierna expounds, “The two-step hydraulic method of juicing is labor intensive alone, but we follow even more steps in our process which results in every bottle being handcrafted.

            “First, we soak the produce in triple-filtered water and organic Fit Wash. After rinsing thoroughly, the produce is trituated (ground) into a pulp slurry. The pulp is then transferred to a fine mesh bag, and hydraulic pressure is placed on the bag to press every last bit of juice from the pulp. The juice is strained to remove any remaining pulp, and each bottle is filled with all juice components: lemon first, leafy greens second and fruit third. The ingredients are measured, so – although time consuming – we know exactly what goes into each individual bottle. Finally, we safety seal and write the expiration date on every bottle.”

            She continues, “We offer approximately 20 flavors from 100% leafy green-dense veggie juices and 100% fruit juices. We also offer housemade mylks, coconut libations, smoothies and two-ounce anti-inflammatory shots. Our bestsellers include the six-cup leafy green juices combined with fruit – for example, Ginger Snap, Camouflage and Green with Envy. Seasonal juices are also popular, like CROPharvest which consists of cold-pressed pumpkin, carrot, apple and ginger juice mixed with housemade almond mylk and raw coconut water.”

            In addition to formulating premium juice blends, Odierna also values helping consumers determine which types are most beneficial. She warns against mass-produced varieties that lack essential nourishment. “The term ‘raw’ means a juice has not been heated, pasteurized, or processed in any fashion. Pasteurization destroys vital living components of fruits and veggies, making them nutritionally deficient. Cold-pressing juice, however, gently extracts the enzymes, vitamins and minerals which enables juice to be bottled without preservatives, while maintaining a four or five day shelf-life,” clarifies Odierna. 

            Moreover, she states, “typical ‘at-home’ juicers are centrifugal. This is a faster processing method but overall less efficient. Because the blade spins at a higher speed, it drives heat and oxygen into the process which breaks down nutrients more quickly. If you purchase any juice – including cold-pressed – from the grocery store, please keep in mind, they have all been preserved to some degree.”

            Despite her staunch support of incorporating organic juice into one’s daily routine, Odierna approaches the prevalent “detox” trend with skepticism. “I could speak for hours on this subject. I’m not a fan of extreme juicing behavior, like using juice to lose 10 pounds in three days or consuming only juice for a short period then returning to a ‘fast food’ lifestyle afterward. If someone chooses to cleanse for weeks, we encourage physician guidance.

            “Unfortunately, many people who cleanse force themselves through the juicing process then eat in excess once they’re done, due to extreme hunger or not consuming any whole foods for several days. In reality, they would’ve been more successful by supplementing a juice cleanse with clean snacking (e.g. organic salads, nuts and seeds). People know their bodies, though, so we encourage them to do what they need versus what they think they should do.

            “When our clients opt for a three-day cleanse, we ask multiple questions to help guide, assist and provide them with the optimal juices to meet their needs. We also discuss the option of adding raw, clean foods. My advice: listen to your body! Don’t feel you are not succeeding if you decide to ‘eat clean,’ along with juicing, rather than a complete cleanse. We should all strive for healthier lifestyles. Extreme, sudden behaviors usually don’t stick long-term, so be wise when you enter the world of ‘cleansing.’ As with any product, do your research, read labels and know that all juices are not created equal,” suggests Odierna.

            The Sarasota community has embraced Odierna’s effervescent passion for sharing her wellness journey from sugar fanatic to cold-pressed juice extraordinaire. As a result, CROPjuice continues thriving and expanding since its 2014 debut. “I believe this success stems from our never-ending pursuit to make the highest quality cold-pressed juices available anywhere, plus an unwavering commitment to hiring the best people, treating them well and training them appropriately for their positions.   

            “We didn’t start this business looking at the bottom line. We started it to deliver an unrivaled product in its category. We package in glass, use only organic ingredients, focus heavily on hand-poured, nutrient-dense leafy greens, and make sure our juices taste great. When selecting employees, we have a multi-step screening process that ensures we get the right talent, while creating an environment where few people want to leave. Our CROP Crew Members are our best assets, and we couldn’t be successful without them,” she concludes.

             So, come experience this inviting atmosphere, peruse the made-fresh-to-order menu options, and even savor a complimentary juice or smoothie sample. After a few refreshing and wholesome sips, you might just discover that your sweet tooth has finally met its match – otherwise known as CROPjuice.

 

CROPjuice is located at 2320 Gulf Gate Dr., Sarasota and inside the LA Fitness Health Club at 4057 Cattlemen Rd., Sarasota. A third and fourth store are also in the works which should be fully-operational by the year’s end. The third location will be at 8211 Tourist Center Dr., Bradenton. The fourth location will be in the downtown Ellis Building lobby at 1834 Main St., Sarasota. Starting early next year, delivery service to both residential and business customers will be available from the new downtown location. For more information, call 941-923-8640 (Gulf Gate Dr.) or 941-371-5400 (LA Fitness), email CustomerService@CropJuiceSRQ.com or visit CropJuiceSRQ.com.

 

Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota-Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer, based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog, HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com, features practical tips for embracing a fit, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.

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