Category: Ozark Natural Foods

P6 Producer: Roots In Bloom

This article about Roots in Bloom by Andrew of Ozark Natural Foods originally appeared on their website

roots in bloomOnce upon a time you could find Mee McGill sitting at the Owner Services Desk, smiling wide at everyone who walked through the door. Mee has since moved on to become the Assistant Wellness Manager, but you can still see her throughout the store with her signature smile and perpetual cheer.

In addition to her position at ONF, she and her husband own and operate Roots in Bloom Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown farm and homestead nestled in the Boston Mountains in West Fork, AR. Roots in Bloom is an off-grid, sustainable teaching farm dedicated to providing naturally grown food and wellness products to the community and world. Roots in Bloom is passionate about healthy values, nutritious food, sustainability, and helping others in need. They provide Certified Naturally Grown produce and herbs to ONF, in addition to local nurseries and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. They also offer workshops, DIY kits, and other value-added products such as all-natural bug sprays, healing salves, and sunscreen. We sell many of Roots in Bloom’s products at ONF, and I can personally attest that their products work very well. I was duly impressed with her bug spray when I went for a hike one day back in mid-summer. RIB sunscreen is also recommended for protecting your sensitive skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays. We will also soon be carrying their Baby Bum Heal diaper rash cream, in addition to an all-natural ConChest rub to battle the nasty congestion one gets during cold and flu season. One of their most exciting products is their Sustainable Lifeline DIY Tincture Kits. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making your own tinctures, then these are for you.

roots in bloom

In addition to her work at ONF and Roots in Bloom, Mee is also a doula, a medical assistant, CNA, and Master Herbalist. According to Mee, “I am a mother of two wonderful young women who I provided home education to for several years. Following this stage of my life, I felt it was time to expand my skills and offer assistance to the community who supported my choice to home school. I followed my dream and received my certification as a Master Herbalist. I was so interested in the things that I learned that I wanted to further my education in the medical field. I felt this would give me a better understanding of “conventional” medicine and the differences between that and “alternative” medicine. I received my nurse assistant certification and became a medical assistant as well. After spending some time figuring out where I wanted to aim my focus, I went back to work for the natural food co-op in my area and began the development of this farm. I have become more passionate about natural wellness and healthy food. It is my desire to share the knowledge and abilities I have gained with others. Currently, I offer doula and in-home care services, herbal consultations, workshops which teach about home herbalism, and working hard to develop Roots in Bloom to create a healthier future for my community.”

Roots in Bloom currently has a Crowdfund campaign to purchase a waterwheel that will be used to produce electricity. Any remaining funds will be allocated to improving the wellness aspect of their business. You can also find Roots in Bloom on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Their website is www.rootsinbloom.weebly.com.

As you can see, Mee is a valuable asset to our food co-op and Fayetteville community, and we are so grateful to have her on our team!

 

A P6 Fall in Arkansas

The Tour de Farms and the Farmer Appreciation Dinner were cornerstones of Ozark Natural Food’s relationships with their customers and producers before they ever joined P6. Upon launching P6 in fall 2014, the ONF staff re-envisioned these events with a P6 perspective. The new P6 Tour de Farms is bigger and more inclusive, bringing ONF members to breweries and coffee roasters as well as farms, and the P6 Appreciation Dinner is open to all 120 P6 producers who make or grow products for the co-op. Here’s reports from ONF’s Pauline Thiessen about these exciting events.

P6 Tour de Farms

Core Brewery 20115 Tour De FarmsThis past October Ozark Natural Foods hosted its second annual P6 Tour de Farms where owners and guests could tour over 20 participating Principle 6 farms, breweries, coffee roaster shops, a soap business, and one winery and vineyard.  Following the precedent set in its first year, Tour de Farms continues to be the most popular event in terms of owner participation, with over 300 registrants in 2015!  Originally borrowed from New Leaf Market, ONF organized the first set of tours in 2014 as a way for its ownership to connect directly with regional farmers who grow food to sell through the coop.  After the launch of P6, the event grew to include area P6 businesses who sell their value added products through the store.

Ozark Pasture Beef 2015 Tour De FarmsUp from 8 stops to 21 stops in its second year, the event was organized into 6 different teams, or suggested routes.  The stops were clustered in Fayetteville, AR where the co-op is located, and around neighboring towns that ranged from 10-70 miles away from the store with average driving time at 1 hour to locations in surrounding counties. One route went to the neighboring sister city, Springdale; another south of Fayetteville; 2 routes spread out east around rural Huntsville and the historic city of Eureka Springs; and the furthest one away took attendees to a different growing region outside of the Ozark hills that is referred to as the River Valley. The closing event was held at the educational farm to school garden in the lot adjacent to the coop with tours of both Ozark Natural Foods and our organic chicken and livestock feedstore, Ozark Natural Feeds.

Plentygood Farm 2015 Tour De FarmsOn the tour, farms promote two-hour tour windows, while businesses arranged for group tours at specific times so each team could easily organize in terms of a suggested driving route. Registrants receive a “passport” containing all of this information, as well as addresses and maps, prior to the start of the tour weekend. This year folks could start signing up a month before the event and come back to the store to pick up their passports two weeks early.  People who visited 9 or more of the 21 stops could return their stamped passports to the store and be entered to win one of 2 shopping sprees or a Farm and Garden giveaway valued at $100. Each stop has fun things including organized tours, prepared samples of food from the farm, refreshments provided from the coop,  various demonstrations like How to Build a Cold Frame or No-Till Farming, and farms and businesses are encouraged to have their product available for purchase.

Ugly Bunny 2015 Tour De FarmsThe event is free, open to the public, and paid for by ONF’s Farmer Committee with a budget under the store’s Marketing and Outreach department.  ONF started the Farmer Committee over 7 years ago with the aim of providing additional support to farmers actively growing produce for the coop.  The Farmer Committee is a volunteer group of owners, farmers, and staff of ONF dedicated to educating and supporting local farmers and encouraging the transition to organic farming practices by offering resources and assistance.  The committee also envisions a vibrant network of local organic food producers that increases the availability of organic food for the Northwest Arkansas community.
Saddlebock Brewery 2015 Tour De FarmsAfter just one year, the tour became popular enough that both farmers and owners were already looking forward to 2015.  ONF is planning to continue the annual tour in 2016. Last year we averaged over 40 attendees per stop and this year, with more stops, the average was in the mid-twenties. Based on feedback from our first year, we added the suggested routes and posted directions on the website for some of the harder-to-find stops.

White River Creamery 2015 Tour De FarmsThe New Leaf farm tour has grown to over 1,400 participants with over 40 stops and offered workshops.  We are excited to see our P6 Tour de Farms grow as a regional event that connects people with the farmers who grow their food at their community coop.  P6 events like the tour have already created positive results. We had owners come back to the store just to buy Spence’s chicken because they got to go to Across the Creek farm and understand just how much effort it takes an Iraq war vet to raise pasture poultry on non-GMO feed on a land trust in south Fayetteville, and our community wants to support family farms like that.  You can see that understanding and awareness grow in a tangible way when folks can share food from the farm with the farmer who grew it, right after a personal farm tour.  To me, that is P6 in action, that is the importance of the cooperative business model.

 

P6 Appreciation Dinner

DSC_0127This past December, Ozark Natural Foods celebrated and took a chance to say thanks to all of the store’s P6 producers at our 6th Annual P6 Appreciation Dinner in Fayetteville, AR. Invitations were given to all 120 P6 farms and businesses that work to produce and add value to food for the co-op. Over 90 producers were able to make it to the dinner held at the Garden Room on Thursday, December 3rd.

The dinner started at 5pm with appetizers and donated beer from P6 producer Core Brewing Company.  The guests enjoyed the food trays DSC_0133and lager while a slide show played with pictures of every P6 producer the dinner formally began. The dinner is emceed each year by me, Pauline Thiessen, Fresh Foods Manager and the store’s fresh foods P6 Liaison. I opened with greeting everyone to much applause and introduced the other staff presenters for the evening. Representatives from throughout our store’s P6 program spoke about their experiences working with producers. The store’s prepared foods department catered the event and served made from scratch food like Roasted Lamb & Chicken, Savory Winter Squash Stuffing, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Roots, a Fresh Winter Salad, and Maple Spice Cake, all featuring local ingredients from P6 producers.

DSC_0142We organize the dinner a little differently every year with a different focal point for the event.  We’ve had presenters who’ve created food hubs in their area and other sustainable food systems advocates, we’ve premiered a documentary we produced, we’ve done an awards dinner, and this year we wanted to have a discussion with our producers about competition planning. Between March of 2015 and March of 2016, both Natural Grocers and Whole Foods will have opened their doors less than 3 miles from the co-op.  With direct competitions and other traditional stores stepping up their game on the organic and local foods, our store, like many other co-ops across the country, is noticing the impact. We’ve spent years now doing competition prep planning, had board and owner visioning, staff input, and talked to other coops, and thought we should get some feedback from our producers.  We saw this year’s dinner as an opportunity to have a conversation with our producers about their ideas for thriving in the face of competition and specifically how P6 and the direct vendor relationship can help strengthen our store as well as their businesses.

DSC_0148The competition discussion was led by Mike after short presentations about how P6 works in the different departments and a P6 year review and farmer committee report. Since this was our first full year of being a P6 coop, we really wanted to have staff members talk about the program in action in their different departments, to give the producers an idea of what the staff are doing with P6, its impact, and new aspects of the program that we’ve developed this past year. Debbie spoke about how the cashiers use P6 to engage customers and the store’s New Leaf program, a way that customers can round up their purchases and donate the amount towards a specific need or project from the store’s P6 producers. Zee talked about it from her perspective during nights and weekends and what she was doing to source and promote P6 beer & wine. Mee talked about the tools she developed for tracking crop agreements, shopping P6 in packaged products, and her new liaison position before I presented.

DSC_0150I was excited to review our first full year of P6. We’re doing a lot more P6 events now and I wanted everyone to know how our collective involvement with the national trade movement was impacting our local store. I thanked everyone from the host room and servers to ONF staff and board, and then of course, the producers. Part of the intention of the dinner is to help our producers develop a sense of being a distinct group within our community. We had some really fun things to report, like Mee’s new liaison position, sales data from events like our P6 Shindigs, and the things everyone waits for in the farmer committee report: who our top producer was (Sycamore Bend Farm) and the total dollar amount of fresh foods purchased over the past year.  In 2014 we purchased over $167,000 of local fresh fruits and veggies. This year we sourced over $201,000 of P6 produce and plants!

DSC_0141I think this is due to two things: our new approach with fresh foods and increased participation with P6.  I was completely amazed and so thrilled that the number had increased so much and despite a slump in overall store sales. I think it’s an healthy indication of the resilience of our producers and ours store, and like I told them, it almost brought a tear to my eye.  It’s great to know and be able to share this information.  People can get down after years like this one where torrential rains caused 50-75% crop losses for 3 of our top producers and people are waiting to compare us to Whole Foods. Things like the dinner just lift everyone’s spirits for an evening and remind us all of the bigger picture. Our producers look forward to ‘the dinner’ every year and it’s had a tangibly positive impact on vendor relations, something I view as a core part of P6. With 2015 coming to a close we’re all looking forward to 2016 with crop planning, new tools for P6 vendors created by the staff, and of course, to next year’s dinner.

P6 Profile: War Eagle Mill

This post by Mariah from Ozark Natural Foods originally appeared on their website

War Eagle Mill is our local P6 mill located in Rogers and “organic, natural, and non-GMO” are their favorite words! “Our flour comes to you the War Eagle way – stone ground slowly to preserve all the nutrients and the deep, rich taste. Our farmers are committed to maintaining a natural, organic, and non-GMO environment for growing grain, and work hand-in-hand with us to shorten the time between the field, the milling process, and your table.  Since 1832 to today, we remain committed to you and your family’s health. You are our first priority.” Sounds like some good Arkansas family to me!

Let me start by giving a short history of this beautiful place. Sylvanus and Catherine got married at a young age and when they decided it was time to get a place of their own Sylvanus went out west from Tennessee in search of the perfect spot. He found this spot, a beautiful valley next to the War Eagle Creek in Arkansas. Through floods, the Civil War, and many other obstacles, this family has kept the mill going!

We carry a wide variety of their amazing products. In bulk you’ll find brown rice flour, rye flour, unbleached bread flour, wheat bran, and a few others. These are the perfect ingredients for your personal family recipes. In packaged grocery we carry their honey-nut bread mix, hot roll mix, biscuit mix (my personal favorite for a hardy serving of biscuits and gravy), and yellow cornbread mix. You won’t find a more lovely addition to your holiday meals!

War Eagle Mill reminds us of our roots; there’s an Arkansan ready for some homemade and homegrown soul-warming comfort breads in all of us. A mouthful I know, but that’s exactly what you’ll want when you try these rich, local products. I highly recommend that you look up the history of this mill; it’s truly interesting considering that it’s right down the road! This holiday season, fill your family and friends (literally) with the love from War Eagle Mill!

 

Producer Profile: Apple Seeds Teaching Farm

This post by Julie from the A La Carte Department at Ozark Natural Foods.

apple-seeds-and-onf-600x253

When I started working at ONF nearly three years ago, there was a giant empty field next to the co-op. I remember thinking that it was odd that a huge lot was sitting empty in the middle of town. Then I learned that it was to become a teaching farm operated by Apple Seeds, a non-profit organization focused on the Farm to School movement. Here local school children can learn about gardening, cooking, and the healthy benefits of eating fresh vegetables. Having resided in Berkeley, CA, where Alice Waters began the first teaching garden in the United States, I was already familiar with the benefits of this educational format, not just for the children but for the community as a whole. I was thrilled that the concept was catching on right here in Northwest Arkansas.

With the support and hard work of local businesses, community members, school partners, and of course kids, they transformed that empty field into a thriving teaching farm. Now it is home to more than 5,000 square feet of gardens, an outdoor classroom, and a team that provides garden-based programs to students. Their farm programs, including Farm Lab and Farm to Table, are hands-on, fun, academically rich, and inspire young students to make healthy food choices.

Since 2014, they have grown more than 3,000 pounds of produce. The veggies have found their way to local school garden markets and their burgeoning Farm to School program, as well as their annual fundraisers and to Ozark Natural Foods, a long-standing partner and neighbor. Some of the produce that ONF sells from Apple Seeds are tomatoes, bok choy, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant. Apple Seeds is passionate about their mission of inspiring healthy living through garden-based education. By building Apple Seeds Teaching Farm in the center of town, they can better serve the needs of our growing community.

Apple-Seeds-Teaching-Kids-600x253

Now, when I take my breaks at work, I go outside and see teachers and children roaming the gardens, leading and learning. I can actually hear the excitement in their young voices as they volunteer for a task. I see the staff tending to the rows of plants, pulling weeds, and covering them when the weather turns. I’ve watched the garden beds transform from rows of soil into tall sunflowers, lush tomato plants, and other delightful veggies. I’m so grateful for this beautiful view, but even more so that Apple Seeds is providing the next generation with the knowledge and skills to grow and be healthy.

Apple-Seeds-Garden-Beds-600x253

 

“My Asian Pears Are Something Special and Here’s Why”

This post, by Guy King Ames, originally appeared on Ozark Natural Foods’ blog.

I’m Guy King Ames, owner of Ames Orchard & Nursery here in Northwest Arkansas. I’m also a horticulturist with ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (www.attra.ncat.org ), a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Fayetteville office. In the latter capacity, I write bulletins and give presentations on organic production of fruits for the whole country (go to the above-linked site to see these publications, webinars, etc.). The reason I mention this is that I have a pretty good handle on organic fruit production in the various parts of the United States.

If you’ve ever wondered why most of the organic apples and other tree fruits at ONF come from Washington, Oregon, and California, it’s really quite simple. The commercial fruit growers in those states, organic and otherwise, are growing fruit in what is essentially the irrigated desert. In that environment there are very few diseases, and if they are present, they occur with much less severity. Same for insect pests: fewer and less severe outbreaks. In such an environment, organic culture of fruit is relatively easy…relative to the eastern half of the U.S., where the higher humidity and rainfall fosters a plethora of diseases and pests.

Organic (or Certified Naturally Grown, as is my farm) fruit culture in the East is quite difficult. It’s even more difficult in the South where the higher heat favors fruit tree diseases like fire blight of pears and apples, black rot of grapes, summer rots of apples, brown rot of plums and peaches, and the list goes on. And there’s a similarly daunting list of insect pests.
So, you might think, why not just grow the tree fruits organically out in the West and truck them back East? Ah, go back and re-read your copy of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-omnivores-dilemma/)! The “food-miles” for such a system are insane and represent a huge cost to the environment, including a large contribution to global climate change. Moreover—and something I don’t remember Pollan spending much time on—the irrigation for the thousands upon thousands of acres of tree fruits in eastern Washington and elsewhere in the West comes from the many dams on the Snake, Columbia, and other important rivers. Important for whom? Salmon. It’s truly not a stretch to say that the ease of organic culture of tree fruits in the West comes at the cost of salmon habitat. It’s an ugly truth that most of us don’t want to face.

I’ve spent almost all of my adult life trying to grow fruit in an environmentally-sound way here in Northwest Arkansas. Nature has kicked my butt from Yellville to Fayetteville, but I’ve figured out a few things along the way. One of those is that I can grow certain pear varieties, including Asian pears, without any sprays whatsoever! I still suffer large losses to insects and diseases, but I can bring delicious Asian pears to Ozark Natural Foods with just a minimum of cosmetic imperfections—and I hope you’ll take those few dings and dimples as a sign that these are pesticide-free and yummy.

I really hope you will try some of these locally-grown pears. The small, yellow-gold ones are Shinkos (from Japan) and have a sprightly sweetness with a touch of citrus. The large, dark orange-bronze ones are Korean Giants and they are big sugar bombs! Both are crisp and refreshing. And they’re grown right here in your own neighborhood!