Category: Ozark Natural Foods

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!

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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.

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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…)

Why are products made in-store labeled P6?

At the majority of P6 co-ops, products made at in-store bakeries, delis, and a la carte departments are labeled with a P6 sticker. A common question is, why? In a blog post for the Ozark Natural Foods website, Ozark’s A La Carte Manager Rachel McDonald explains:

A la Carte at Ozark Natural Foods is a small producer that is cooperatively owned and is local. A la Carte meets all the requirements for P6! We also support other P6 producers including Foundation Farms, Onyx Coffee Labs, Lightner Farms, War Eagle Mill, and Organic Valley. We are hyper-P6!

P6 Local keeps your dollar in the local community. We have defined local as a 100 mile radius of Ozark Natural Foods. A la Carte employs 19 people who make a livable wage. Every dollar you spend with us helps to pay our staff and support our co-op!

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I, personally, have worked for Ozark Natural Foods for 9 years. We have several staff members who have worked in A la Carte for one year or more. Sharon Reese has been your baker for 12 years. We love what we do!

We hand prepare all of the food in our kitchen! This is rare for a grocery deli these days. We clean and prepare all of our Organic Veggies, cook and cut the all-natural chicken, cook and blend our beans for Hummus, and bake our cakes just for you. Everything is meticulously sourced and prepared by people who are happy to provide you will tasty food that we can feel good about serving.

We do this because we care about what we offer our Owners and Guest Shoppers. We believe in providing a healthy alternative to fast/casual food. We eat the food that we cook. We shop our favorite items and want to tell you about them. We are respectful of dietary needs and choices, as we all have different needs and choices ourselves.

Come join us for a latte made with Onyx Coffee Labs Espresso (P6 Local and Small Producer), Organic Valley Milk (P6 Co-op and Small Producer), and prepared by A la Carte Staff (P6 Local, Small Producer, and Co-op)! We would love to talk about what makes us unique and how we can serve you!

You’ll get similar answers at other co-ops. P6 co-ops that label their in-house products as P6 are letting you know that those are products you can trust to support the economic system you’d like to see.

Producer Profile: Villines Family Farms


Villines Farm Family Photo 2014Meet the Villines family. Genevieve, Joe, and their sons live on Joe’s family farm in the small historic farming community of Boxley Valley, Arkansas. The family is living on a part of the property where Joe has envisioned a home since he was 13, raising sheep, chickens, and vegetables. I spoke with Genevieve about her farm, family, and experience with the new P6 program at Ozark Natural Foods.

Villines Family Farm began as an addition to Joe’s farm work with his father. Joe and his family started with a school bus that his grandfather had bought to make a sleeping area for his goats and turned it into a chicken coop. The family raised over a hundred chickens of various heritage breeds and sold their eggs through Ozark Natural Foods and other local vendors. After moving to a different part of the property, the egg business is on hold while the family focuses on raising Katahdin breed meat sheep and vegetables including winter squashes and tomatoes. They are still selling chicks of the heritage breeds that they raise, including Americauna and Black Copper Marans. (You can read about the egg business in this 2011 article.)

Genevieve and Joe both grew up in farming families. Joe grew up on the land the family now lives on. Genevieve is from South Arkansas. As a child, Genevieve said that she helped out with the chores, but she is working to create a more holistic look at farming as she and Joe homeschool their sons on the farm. She said, “I believe my sons are developing a good sense of what it takes to be a productive person in the world — we’re doing education during a certain period of the day but they see what it’s like to run a business. It’s different from how Joe and I grew up. We lived in farming environments but it wasn’t necessarily immersed in our everyday lives.” Genevieve says her sons are learning skills like math and customer service from working on the farm, but also about how to relate to the land as a partner and the animals as more than units of production. This includes letting the children make real decisions on the farm, like which sheep they should buy, and participating in all parts of the business.

The local food scene is still emerging in Arkansas. Genevieve could think of about five other families like hers where young people are returning to farm the land, but she said in her town, the Villineses are the only farmers under 65. Up until the 1950s, she said, many people farmed either for local consumption or to sell to distributors, but as the price of food fell, many people were driven into other industries. Genevieve said that many of the new farmers have a business mindset, but many have some farming background ties from their parents or grandparents. Joe’s father, Paul, and Genevieve’s father, Jack, are priceless sources of advice and farming information according to Genevieve. With both fathers being multiple generation farmers, many invaluable tips are passed down.rsz_lettuc_wagon

Genevieve told me about the efforts of Ozark Natural Foods to generate community among small farmers in Arkansas. Ozark holds an annual dinner for small local farmers, which this year will be the P6 Dinner, to help them get to know each other and build community. Genevieve is also doing her part by teaching chicken keeping classes and offering demonstrations at the co-op. She said “One impact I’m seeing on the local level is an increased inclination to try new things.  Many people have never tried butternut squash, lamb meat, or raising chickens. They walk by it in the stores or don’t feel like it is something they can do. But when I can be the face of the product, I see people being willing to try it. The fact that people can reach out and touch the farmer or the educator gets people to try things they wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

I asked Genevieve what she would like customers to know about the farm. Her answer: “As we are working in the field we are continually thinking of you. It gives us great joy to bend down to tend a plant or harvest a squash, knowing about you and your support of us and others like us. You are making the choice to seek us out. When those seeds go in the ground, the sheep are fed, and the harvest comes in you are always on our minds.”

Villines Family Farms products are available and labeled P6 at Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville, AR.

P6 Launch at Fayetteville’s Midtown Music Launch

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The good people at Ozark Natural Foods are excited! Why? Because they just launched their very own P6 program. They invited in their community to join them and learn about the program at the Midtown Music Festival, an annual neighborhood party in Fayetteville, AR. There was a photo booth, face painting, balloon twisting, and even a bounce house! Every dollar spent at the festival went to benefit Apple Seeds, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children how to grow their own food.

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One food truck handed out hot dogs for free, while the store provided tamales and black bean burgers. There was not only a raffle for gift cards to local businesses but also a dunk tank to sink local celebrities. The event got a ton of people to the store to come in and learn more about the P6 program. Congratulations on a great event!

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The Perennial Plate at Sweden Creek Farm

As we gear up for Perennial Plate’s video about P6, we’re highlighting some older Perennial Plate videos about P6 producers. Here’s one about Sweden Creek Farm, a mushroom farm with products labeled P6 at our newest member store, Ozark Natural Foods. This video shows their mushroom production, banjo and fiddle duets, and soup with sauteed mushrooms. Beloved farmer Curly Miller passed away in 2013. While his presence, his music, and his infectious kindness are missed in his Ozark community and beyond, his spirit and Sweden Creek Farm live on.