Category: producer profile

“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!

 

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!

 

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.