Category: Producer Profile

Small Business Week P6 Profile: Aprainores Co-op

This post draws on materials from Equal Exchange’s Phyllis Robinson. P6 will be posting producer profiles every day this week in honor of Small Business Week.

Tomorrow is World Fair Trade Day, so we wanted to highlight an international small business being supported by fair trade policies.

Aprainores farmersP6 founding member Equal Exchange launched the Grow Together program in 2014 to support Aprainores Co-op, a cooperative of small cashew farmers in El Salvador. Six participating retail co-ops, including P6 members Seward Co-op and Eastside Co-op, are matching Equal Exchange’s commitment to donate $0.50 per pound of cashews sold to support Aprainores. That $1 per pound is adding up! In 2014, the project raised $22,000 for the cooperative. This seed money allows the cooperative to make small loans to its members to support their growth.

Aprainores FarmersThis year, Aprainores was able to incorporate 15 new members from a surrounding area.  We visited the group (they were part of another coop but decided to join Aprainores instead as their fair trade status and relationship with us creates better opportunities) along with the local mayor who was particularly excited about this relationship.  They also were busy planting new cashew trees in anticipation of their “new found market” in the U.S.

Equal Exchange’s work is a great example of how we can support small businesses in other countries. The relationship-building and direct support that they offer is crucial to helping small businesses international to survive.

 

Small Business Week P6 Profile: C&L Organic Fertilizer

This post by Viroqua Food Co-op’s Bjorn Bergman was originally published on their website. P6 will be posting producer profiles every day this week in honor of Small Business Week.

 

Chuck and Linda Connelly were interested in starting a new business. cnl-fertilizerThey recognized the growth of organic agriculture in our region and were wondering if a new business venture could compliment that movement. Chuck first learned about worm castings online and decided to investigate the viability of starting a worm casting production business.

About a year and a half ago, he and Linda started C&L Organic Fertilizer. At that time, they were experimenting doing worm casting production in 3 gallon buckets and it was a lot of work. In the spring of 2014, their operation moved to 107 Eagle Drive, Cashton, WI, so that they could be closer to other organic agriculture businesses in the area and have more space to increase production.

Today, they operate an impressive worm casting production system. They’ve sized up their worm casting production methods and are now using large bins instead of buckets. To each bin, they add peat moss from Wisconsin Rapids, organic feed from Cashton Farm Supply, and about 7,000 African Night Crawlers, which is about 20 lbs of worms. These worms, which are much larger than typical red wriggler composting worms, have a voracious appetite (they can eat 1½ times their body weight a day) and can eat through the entire bin of moss and feed in about two weeks.

Once the worms have eaten all the food and turned it into castings, the mixture is sent through a machine that separates the finished worm castings, worms, and the refuse (things the worms aren’t able to digest). Finished castings are ready to use as a 100% organic fertilizer and the refuse is used as garden bedding or mixed in with potting soil. The worms are added to a new composting bin with new moss and feed and the process starts again. The Connelly’s hope to continue growing their worm population to about 1 million worms, which would allow them to produce about 4,000 lbs of worm castings a week.

Viroqua Food Co-op carries three sizes of bagged, locally produced worm castings from C&L. Learn more about C&L Organic Fertilizer online at www.cnlorganicfertilizer.com or find them on Facebook.

Benefits of using worm castings:

  • Safe and ordorless; non-toxic to children, pets, and wildlife!
  • Long term and sustainable solution to feeding and lawns: castings help build the health of the soil.
  • Insect Control: several microorganisms found in worm castings work as effective repellents for a large number of insects.
  • Fungus and Disease Control: microbial life in castings eat destructive fungi and produce beneficial fungi.
  • Water Retention: castings do a great job retaining moisture, making lawns and plants less resistant to drought – saving on irrigation.
  • Dry castings can be applied anytime or temperature, without worrying about “burning” the plants.
  • Castings build healthy soil and repair damaged soils.

Small Business Week Producer Profile: Local Greens At Ozark Natural Foods

This post by Ozark Natural Foods’ Leighanna was originally published on their website. P6 will be posting producer profiles every day this week in honor of Small Business Week.

Ozark Natural foods has some amazing local greens! It’s the perfect time for spinach, arugula, chard, green kale, and much more! Help support the local economy by using only the best local organic produce. Keep reading for specific sales and more info!

raw+zucchini

Featured Recipe: Baked Parmesan Zucchini

4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise                                              ½ tsp dried basil

½ cup grated Parmesan                                                             ¼ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp dried thyme                                                                       2 tbsp parsley

½ tsp dried oregano                                                                    2 tbsp olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste                                      salt, to taste

– Combine Parmesan and seasonings

– Drizzle zucchini with olive oil and toss with herb and cheese mixture. Bake on nonstick coated cooling rack in preheated oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Broil an additional 2 minutes until crispy.

Adapted from: damndelicious.net

Local Spring Greens

Hi everyone! Right now we are enjoying a flush of delicious, sweet, baby spring greens from several of our local farms. We have spinach, arugula, chard, green kale, and some intermittent spring mix. These produce items are coming to us from Dripping Springs Garden, Ozark Alternatives, Foundation Farm, Funny Farm, and Sycamore Bend Farm. Since these items are local the appearance of these products may be different then what you are used to seeing out of local season and from out of state. For example: we have two different sets of baby spring mix that we have been receiving and both have completely different varieties mixed in and were harvested at different stages of growth. These items are also being brought to you a little differently. The biggest difference is the packaged salads.

salad pic

Typically in our produce department you are used to seeing the 5oz or 1lb Taylor & Organic Girl Salads. These mixes are delivered in clamshell containers while the majority of our local produce is not. To help keep things the same though and enable our local farmers to bring you the local baby greens mixed, washed and dried, they are brought in clear bags with equivalent weights. We have 5oz bags of spinach and kale, along with ½ bags of spring mix and kale. Despite the packaging differences, we wanted you to know that you are getting the same type of product—just much fresher!

And if you are looking at some other fresh produce to compliment the local greens selection we now have fresh, local cilantro, parsley, shitake mushrooms, green onions, and chard! Thanks also to Sweden Creek Farm, Rocky Comfort Natural Farm, and Marty’s Produce!

 

Small Business Week Producer Profile: Good Life Farms

This post by Bloomingfoods’ Isaac Smith was originally published on their website. P6 will be posting producer profiles every day this week in honor of Small Business Week.

For Darin Kelly, Good Life Farms is a dream realized from years of having his hands in the dirt.

From the time he was five years old, Darin has always loved growing things. One of his earliest memories of gardening is planting maple keys and growing trees in a plot that his parents set aside for him. As an adult, Darin says everywhere he has lived he has turned every bit of soil into garden space. However, the leap from hobbyist to farmer took some time. It was almost by chance that he and his wife Deb fell into farming.

“About seven years ago we set up our first little roadside stand because we had some excess vegetables… We ended up selling $100 of vegetables in an afternoon on a Sunday,” says Darin. After the surprise success of their roadside stand, he says they began to recognize that they could potentially turn this idea into something bigger, and, nearly a decade later, they have.

“We all of the sudden figured out maybe we could make money doing our favorite hobby,” he says. Darin started renting plots for vegetables all over southern Indiana, pieces here and there from whoever had space. After operating this way for a year and a half Darin decided to look into hydroponic growing, a system that is soilless and uses long rows of tubing to house plants, providing nutrients by constantly running mineral-rich water over the tips of each plant’s roots.

After doing some research, Darin and Deb purchased 100 used channels from Amhydro Commercial Hydroponics and set up their first greenhouse in Eminence, Indiana.

The system is incredibly sustainable. While at first it may seem that constantly running water to irrigate plants would dramatically increase water use, Darin says that hydroponic systems save water.

“It actually uses about 1/5 or 1/6 of the water that you use in the field,” Darin says. This is in part due to the fact that the channels themselves are mostly closed, preventing evaporation. He says there is also the added benefit of preserving the soil around them.

“We don’t turn over one bit of soil. We don’t have any runoff of any kind. There’s nothing being leeched into the creeks around us,” he explains.

On top of all of this, the yields are also great. In 3,000 square feet of greenhouse and 325 channels, Good Life Farms produces an average of 67,600 heads of lettuce annually.

It’s a lot of hard work. Like most farmers, Darin and Deb don’t get days off or take long trips. They are tied to their greenhouse, but they don’t seem to mind.

“It’s a social event for us. The customers we deal with every week? That’s our social outing,” Darin says. Deb agrees: “It makes you feel good when you are doing stuff like this and then you go out and see your customers and they are so thankful for it.”

P6 Producer: White River Creamery

A version of this post by Pauline Arnold first appeared at Ozark Natural Foods’s website.

From Elkins, Arkansas, White River Creamery brings amazing artisan cheese to Ozark Natural Foods. Pauline, Fresh Manager, shares some flavor profiles and what they’ve got in stock. Here’s what she has to say:
White-River-Creamery

P6 Producer of the Month: White River Creamery!

Most Ozark Natural Food customers probably know about our stellar P6 goat cheese producer White River Creamery from Elkins, AR from their products in our store, at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, and from other markets in the Northwest Arkansas area. Their family-run diary and creamery raises over 90 registered Nigerian Dwarf goats on just 12 acres of pasture. Their farm is beautifully and logically set up just 20 minutes from town. I’ve been raising dairy goats and making some cheese here and there for 8 years and remember when White River invited us out several years ago to see their operation. I was so excited that a full time dairy goat farm was up and running with their business. Even more exciting is the variety of cheese they make with all the knowledge from Scott’s training at Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese.

white river cheese

Here’s just a taste of what they’ve got in stock:
Fromage Blanc: In French, literally White Cheese. This is a soft, creamy cheese that has less fat than that of cream cheese. It has a lighter flavor when plain, similar to yogurt, and can be used in place of yogurts or in desert dishes. White River also offers a Garlic and Chives Fromage Blanc for a savory twist!

Farmer’s Cheese: A pressed cottage cheese that is sturdy enough to slice. Growing up with cottage cheese, this variety has always been a favorite of mine. It’s lightly sour and salty and goes well on bread, crackers, or wrapped with meat. We also have a plain variety and a Port with Altus wine!

Feta: A classic brine cured goat’s milk cheese! Great in Italian & Greek dishes, salads, pizza topping, you name it you cannot go wrong with feta. We are so happy to have a plain and Greek Marinated goat’s milk cheese in our store!

Camembert: A newer addition to their offerings and named Aux Arc, this is an aged cow’s milk double cream cheese, soft-ripened with a bloomy rind. I prefer these single portioned cheeses with a granny smith apple.

white river goat

All of White River’s cheese milks are free of antibiotics and hormones. Their final cheese products boast the Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made labels. The above are cheeses that we currently have in stock as their Chevre for example is on hold while the goat’s kid. White River also makes Neufchatel, Ricotta, Chevre, and Raw Aged Goat Cheese. Are you curious about their goats or cheese making process? Then sign up this coming September to participate in our Second Annual P6 Tour de Farm! We’re assembling the routes right now for over 20 local P6 farms, breweries, and coffee roasters and White River Creamery will be one of the stops! Finally, we’d like to wish them an early happy anniversary, this May 2nd! White River will have been open for 2 years!

P6 Producer: Muddy Fork Bakery

A version of this post by Bloomingfoods’ Isaac Smith originally appeared at the Bloomingfoods website

From the Ashes from Bloomingfoods on Vimeo.

March 21, 2014 was much like any other Thursday in Bloomington, IN for P6 producer Muddy Fork Bakery’s Eric Schedler and his family. Eric fired his hearth oven that morning, his daughter, Leda, had a playdate with a friend, and just before bed, Eric fired the oven again to prepare for baking on Saturday morning.

By 3:00 a.m., Katie Zukof, Eric’s wife, woke with their newborn baby—feedings in the wee hours were something that Eric and Katie were used to. However, when Katie made her way into the living room, she noticed that something wasn’t right.

“When I was in the hallway I saw an orange glow that seemed really strange,” Katie remembers. “The bakery was a total inferno at that point,” Eric recalls.

Eric woke to Katie’s scream, which he thought was about their baby. When he realized the child was fine, he had a moment of solace.

“It was actually a bit of relief to realize it was only our whole livelihood and not our child,” Eric jokes. However, the gravity of the situation caught up with him.

After arriving on the scene, the firefighters worked until 7:00 a.m. to contain the blaze. Eric recalls that the fire burned so hot that things around the bakery began to melt. The situation was so overwhelming that it took some time to sink in.

“I wouldn’t say I processed it at 3:00 in the morning,” Eric remembers. However, some things took no time for him to understand. “I knew, without even putting it into words or thoughts… I knew it was a total loss. I knew we wouldn’t be able to work for a long time.” The cause of the blaze was never determined with certainty, though Eric says he suspects ventilation from the oven overheated, causing the bakery to catch fire.

As things began to set in the next day, Katie says she was not ready to see what was left of their old bakery.

 

Katie Zukof, left, and Eric Schedler, right, watch as their old bakery is torn down April 24, 2014 in Bloomington, In.

Katie Zukof, left, and Eric Schedler, right, watch as their old bakery is torn down April 24, 2014 in Bloomington, In.

“I didn’t go down to look at the ruins. Eric took Leda,” Katie says. “I couldn’t bring myself to go down there.” Even though they were still reeling from the night before, the two lost little time in planning the future of their business.

Eric and Katie finished building their Bloomington bakery and home, largely by hand, in 2011, and they lived there for two years with their daughter, Leda. In essence, they started their business and their family in the same place. After outgrowing the tiny living space, they built a house roughly 100 yards up the hill from their bakery. This decision to expand went hand in hand with the desire to grow Muddy Fork Bakery.

“There’s a limit to what you can do if you are living in the same space as your kitchen,” Eric says. When they built their first bakery,  the plan was to stay in it for at least five years. Eric says at the time of the fire they had not quite maxed out their space, but they were getting close.

The day after the fire, Eric and Katie spent a lot of time on the phone talking to their parents (Katie’s were already on their way from Connecticut to see their new grandchild) and to anyone they felt could help. After speaking with their insurance agent and an insurance adjuster, they were relieved to know that the structure was well insured, but there still were a lot of uncertainties.

Once word spread of the fire, community members and loyal customers wanted to know how they could help. Their chance came when Katie’s cousin set up a crowdsourcing fund using gofundme.com. Eric and Katie were reluctant at first to accept this kind of help.

“We weren’t sure at first if we were going to let them do it,” Eric says. At the time, they didn’t know how much money they would need, and they did not want to take more than would be necessary to get going again. However, after some discussion, they gave the go-ahead. In just four days the website raised nearly $15,000. While family and friends were certainly among the 169 donors, Katie and Eric did not recognize many of the names.

“I think we were just overwhelmed with just how generous everybody was,” Katie remembers. “That was moving and uplifting and gave us total certainty that what we wanted to do was to rebuild the bakery and as quickly as we could,” Eric adds.

Katie Zukof, reaches for a dish, as Eric Schedler, middle, and Brandt Badger shape loaves May 30, 2014 in Katie and Eric's Bloomington home.

Katie Zukof, reaches for a dish, as Eric Schedler, middle, and Brandt Badger shape loaves May 30, 2014 in Katie and Eric’s Bloomington home.

They were not down long. Katie and Eric missed only three Farmers’ Markets after the fire. They only had granola to sell, but they were happy just to be back. After the fire, they quickly made arrangements to rent space in the Bloomingfoods commissary kitchen so that they could at least continue production of granola, granola bars, and muesli. They slowly added things at the Farmers’ Market, offering smoothies and even branching into onsite pizza production, which Eric says was incredibly popular and crucial to keeping them going while they were without a bakery.

Muddy Fork employees make granola April 15, 2014 at the Bloomingfoods Commissary Kitchen in Bloomington, In. Eric Schedler says they missed only three markets after the fire. They rented space at the Commissary Kitchen to continue making granola and selling it in shops around Bloomington as well as at the Winter Market.

Muddy Fork employees make granola April 15, 2014 at the Bloomingfoods Commissary Kitchen in Bloomington, In. Eric Schedler says they missed only three markets after the fire. They rented space at the Commissary Kitchen to continue making granola and selling it in shops around Bloomington as well as at the Winter Market.

The first step to recovery was to excavate the land where the old bakery was. Demolition day was an emotional one. As the crew pulled the bakery down, wall-by-wall, Eric, Katie, and Leda watched as one chapter of their lives ended. As sad as it was, Eric had to keep looking forward.

“I was sentimental about it. I always though that Leda would grow up and we would show her the little, tiny loft where she lived her first two years… [but] you have to let go of things like that,” Eric says.

Despite the incredible damage to the building, after careful inspection, Eric determined that he could still use the old oven, allowing Muddy Fork Bakery to bring bread to market for a few weeks over the summer. Katie says that as emotional as it was to see the old bakery come down, she was far more upset to see the old oven dismantled. While there were a lot of big changes happening, it was comforting to still have the routine of baking.

“Even when we didn’t have any building at all, we still had this oven and were still able to produce something in it,” she says. “It was really, really hard to see it gone.”

Eric Schedler prepares loaves for baking May 30, 2014 at the site of his old oven. Eric was able to use his old oven for a few weeks in the summer of 2014 to bake bread before it was torn down so that construction on his new bakery could begin.

Eric Schedler prepares loaves for baking May 30, 2014 at the site of his old oven. Eric was able to use his old oven for a few weeks in the summer of 2014 to bake bread before it was torn down so that construction on his new bakery could begin.

  Despite the stopping and starting that accompanied the construction project, in early September, 2014 Eric finally got back to work. He lit several small fires in his brand new oven to kiln the masonry and prepare for that first bake on September 13th.

“It was pretty exciting to make that first big fire,” Eric recalls. However, even with all his excitement, part of him was still nervous. “I had to remind myself, even the old bakery didn’t burn down for four years,” Eric adds with a grin.

Eric Schedler puts loaves on the baker’s peel Sept. 13, 2014 during the first bake using Muddy Fork’s new oven. He says many of his customers asked each week at Market when their new oven facility would be ready. It was incredibly exciting and satisfying to go to that first market after baking in his new bakery.

Eric Schedler puts loaves on the baker’s peel Sept. 13, 2014 during the first bake using Muddy Fork’s new oven. He says many of his customers asked each week at Market when their new oven facility would be ready. It was incredibly exciting and satisfying to go to that first market after baking in his new bakery.

The new bakery sits over the footprint of the old facility and has many added perks, including a larger floor plan, a bigger oven, and a walk-in cooler. Eric says because of the increased capacity of his new oven, which can hold nearly twice the volume of the old oven, he had to learn the most efficient way to use it. After overcoming the learning curve, he says the bread is even better and they are selling more of it.

A crew from Solid Rock Masonry, of Duluth, Minn., cleans up the job site Aug. 4, 2014 where he and his team were building the new Muddy Fork Bakery oven.

A crew from Solid Rock Masonry, of Duluth, Minn., cleans up the job site Aug. 4, 2014 where he and his team were building the new Muddy Fork Bakery oven.

Both admit the fire was a terrible experience, but Katie and Eric both say it presented them with new opportunities. They were able to plan ahead and build in new features that will allow them to continue grow. But for now, they both say it is incredible to be back and to be doing the best work of their careers.

“There definitely was a silver lining,” Katie says. “What we have now is definitely better than what we had before.”

Eric Schedler leads a class in making pizza October 17, 2014 in his new bakery in Bloomington, In. One thing that took a back seat while the new facility was being built was baking classes. Eric says once the bakery was built he was excited to offer classes again. He adds that as the bakery has gained recognition, enthusiasm for the classes has increased.

Eric Schedler leads a class in making pizza October 17, 2014 in his new bakery in Bloomington, In. One thing that took a back seat while the new facility was being built was baking classes. Eric says once the bakery was built he was excited to offer classes again. He adds that as the bakery has gained recognition, enthusiasm for the classes has increased.

P6 Producer Profile: Seed Savers Exchange

A version of this post by Bjorn Bergmann appeared on Viroqua Food Co-op’s website. All photos are by Seed Savers Exchange.

We’re sure that many of you are eagerly awaiting the disappearance of snow and the thaw of the soil to seed-savers-seed-packetsmake way for the 2015 gardening season. In the upper Midwest, it’s time to pick up seeds so you can start planning and dreaming about your 2015 garden. For that reason, we thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about one of Viroqua Food Co-op (VFC)’s P6 seed suppliers, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE).

Seed Savers Exchange is well known to VFC customers when it comes to organic heirloom and open pollinated seeds, but there is a lot more behind this amazing non-profit than their glossy seed packets and full color alluring seed catalog.

Seed Savers Exchange was founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy. Diane’s grandfather gifted the couple some seeds from two garden plants: Grandpa Ott’s morning glory and German Pink  omato. These seeds were brought by Grandpa Ott’s parents when they immigrated from Bavaria to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870’s. The gift of these seeds gave Diane and Kent the idea of starting a seed exchange where seed saving gardeners and farmers across America could exchange them with others, thereby preserving and making available many heirloom varieties that were disappearing.

That year, Diane and Kent, along with 30 others from around the United States participated in The True Seed Exchange, which allowed them to trade and share seeds amongst the group. This publication is now known as the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and is a cornerstone of the organization.

In 2015, Seed Savers Exchange celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and there is a lot for this organization to celebrate! In the time that has gone by, SSE has found a home at Heritage Farm, just north of Decorah, Iowa. This 890-acre farm is nestled among sparkling streams, limestone bluffs and century-old white pines, and features the SSE Lillian Goldman Visitors Center (education center and demonstration garden), Preservation Gardens, Historic Orchard and a herd of Ancient White Park Cattle. Additionally, they have become an extremely important non-profit member-supported organization that preserves and shares America’s culturally diverse, but endangered garden and food crop heritage in a variety of ways. Some of the ways include: maintaining a seed bank, offering their yearly Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, Seed Savers Exchange Seed Catalog and offering many educational opportunities.

SSE-Gardens-and-Barn

Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm is home to one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America. It houses over 20,000 varieties of heirloom and open pollinated varieties of vegetables and herbs that have been donated by gardeners and farmers across North America. SSE preserves and maintains all of these varieties by growing and saving seeds for each variety about once every five years.

Seed Savers Exchange was founded upon participatory seed preservation through their Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook. Through this publication, members of SSE may list and purchase seeds directly from other farmers and gardeners. Today, members list over 19,000 unique varieties through the Yearbook as a way to keep open pollinated and heirloom varieties circulating in the hands of gardeners and farmers today and into the future.

The most visible way that Seed Savers Exchange is preserving our garden heritage is through their yearly offering of the Seed Savers Exchange Seed Catalog. Each year, they release this 100+ page catalog that features 600+ varieties of heirloom and open pollinated seed varieties that are available for purchase by the general public. These are the same varieties of seeds that can be found on our seed racks in our seed department.

SSE-Seed-Diversity

SSE also aims to educate others about the importance and practice of seed saving and seed preservation. They do this through hosting numerous events at Heritage Farm, including a Spring Garden School, Heritage & Heirloom Apple School, Summer and Fall Seed Saving School, Annual Conference and Campout, Tomato Tasting Festival and a Fall Harvest School. In addition to their work at their headquarters, they do presentations at a variety of venues, festivals and events around the United States to get more people interested in seed saving and creating public seed libraries and seed banks.

To learn more about SSE, check out their website www.seedsavers.org and/or visit Heritage Farm this summer during one of their fun and educational events they host at Heritage Farm near Decorah (http://s.coop/1v7tz).

Customers at VFC, check out all the amazing varieties of seeds from Seed Savers Exchange on their seed racks in our produce department. You can rest assured that each purchase of SSE seeds helps support their mission of preserving open pollinated and heirloom seeds for future generations.

Seed Savers Exchange is part of the P6 program at the VFC because:

Local: Seed Savers Exchange is located in Decorah, Iowa about 48 miles from VFC.
Co-op/Non-profit: Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization.
Small Producer: Seed Savers Exchange is a member-supported and non-profit organization. Their seeds are delivered by mail to VFC.

P6 Producer: Lone Grazer Creamery

This post draws on posts from Seward Community Co-op and Eastside Food Co-op.

lone-grazer-purpleThe Lone Grazer Creamery is a new cheese producer in Minneapolis. They’re based in the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis. They’ll be selling their cheese curds at Seward Community Co-op and Eastside Food Co-op, our two Minneapolis based P6 member stores.

“We got them in on February 27. That was the first delivery,” said Scott Heard, Seward Cheese Department Manager, “and we’re very excited to have them in the store.”

Located in Northeast Minneapolis, just a 6 minute delivery drive from Eastside C0-op and twice that far from Seward Co-op, the Lone Grazer is currently one of the few urban creameries in the United States and one of the nearest P6 food vendors for both stores.

“People in the city want to know the farmer,” says Clark Anderson, one of The Lone Grazers’ grass-fed milk producers, “and the farmer should know the people in the city.”

Anderson’s milk is turned into delicious cheese by Rueben Nilsson who learned the art at the Caves of Faribault in Faribault, Minn., one of the finest cheesemakers in the country.

Cheesemaking at Lone Grazer“Cheesemaking is a creative endeavor that blends art and science and physical labor with technical knowledge,” Nilsson says. “I love making cheese.”

Right now, The Lone Grazer is producing one kind of cheese, curds. “These have a nice salty bite,” Scott Heard says of The Lone Grazer’s cheese. “They make you want to eat a whole lot more cheese curds.” Several months down the road, The Lone Grazer will produce string cheese, ricotta and aged cheeses as well. Both stores will carry the additional cheeses as they become available. According to Eastside Co-op, deliveries to that store will be on Friday, if you want to come in for the squeakiest curd possible.

“Putting a delicious piece of cheese on a crusty bread or cracker is one of the simple joys in life,” says Lone Grazer founder Kieran Folliard. “I’m drawn to the making of cheeses from fresh, pure milk.”

One of Folliard’s other endeavors is 2 Gingers (local Irish whiskey) which is located in the same building as The Lone Grazer. Mike Phillips’ Red Table Meat Co., which brings such great salumi to Seward’s Meat Department, is also located in that building and soon, Chow Girls Catering will be housed there too.

For such a young company, The Lone Grazer finds itself at the center of a superb local food-hub. They can count on support from the P6 co-ops as they grow!

Equal Exchange Beyond the Peel: Avocados

A version of this post by Jennie Msall originally appeared in three parts in the Equal Exchange Beyond the Peel newsletter. 

The Need for Transformative Trade

Fact: 120 million pounds of avocados were sold in the United States in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

That’s about 5 million cases.

At Equal Exchange, we’re also asking ourselves how our work importing Mexican avocados relates to issues illustrated in the LA Times piece about the Mexican produce industry. Reporter Richard Marosi traveled across nine Mexican states over 18 months, meeting with workers at the giant farms that export much of the produce sold in the United States. The result was a four-part series released in December that exposed the hardships that Mexican laborers endure, including poor living conditions and work without pay.

Many people have responded to the article, calling for reforms to current trade policies and practices. As we reflect on our broken food system, we want to push the conversation beyond calls for reform. Instead of just reforming the existing policies and practices, we want to talk about what it would look like to truly transform the way Mexican produce is grown and exported to the United States.

What do we mean when we talk about building a transformative trade model?  Reform means taking what already exists, and then tweaking it. It means making amendments and revisions until it is better. But when we transform something, we start from scratch, moving beyond what has worked in the past and completely reconstructing the system.  Reform is easier, safer, and faster; transformation is harder, riskier, and happens over time. 

This e-mail is the first of a three-part series that digs deeper into this topic. Over the next few days, we’ll highlight our ideas for a transformative trade model and the role that our distributors, stores, and customers play in making this vision a reality. (more…)

Wheatgrass in Arkansas!

A version of this blog post by Pauline Theissen first appeared on Ozark Natural Foods’ blog.

Winter is here! During this time of year when it’s harder to exercise due to cold, and we want to eat more carbohydrates and meat, we need to get as much nutrients through our diet as we can. Obviously, adding more fresh produce to your diet can really help you maximize on your daily nutrient intake. Wheatgrass shots are another way to get a ton of nutrients in a tiny package!

ONF-49

This week in produce we are excited to be able to introduce you to our newest Principle 6 producer, Wheatgrass Express! The business is run by Ross & Guadalupe Ferguson in gleamingly clean warehouse facility in Springdale, AR where they work to supply our store with sprouts and wheatgrass. The process of adding a new vendor for our store is fairly uncomplicated though there are things that we do to begin a mutually beneficial relationship with each of our Principle 6 producers. An important aspect of this relationship is the story about each of our P6 vendors. Telling that story will tell a lot about the type of product that a producer works so hard to provide. In working with dozens of farmers, I am always curious about what motivates them to grow a particular crop as farming is assuredly a labor that requires passion. To help us with the story of Wheatgrass Express, Ross & Guadalupe took some time to answer some questions about themselves.

ONF-38

Q: What you produce, how long have you been in production and how did you get started?
R&G: We produce wheatgrass and a variety of micro greens, and have been in production since September, 2014. We got started the idea when friends of ours opened a juice bar in town. We thought it would be great to provide them with locally grown products to juice with! (more…)