Category: Seward Community Co-op

Local Beekeeping with Beez Kneez LLC

“Everyone knows something about bees. What most people know is that they sting, and they’re in trouble,” says Beez Kneez co-owner Erin Rupp. “What we try to do is give people a hands on opportunity to learn new things about bees. We want people to understand why they might sting, and why they’re in trouble.”


Beez Kneez is a small business based in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. Owned by  founder Kristy Allen and Erin Rupp, the LLC has three main components: honey production through 70 hives spread throughout eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin; educational programs about bees and beekeeping; and services offered at their new “honey house,” like rentals of their bike-powered honey extractors. In addition, the business has spoken up to advocate for bees and beekeepers in the face of our broken food system. (more…)

The Perennial Plate at Thousand Hills Cattle Company

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 Thousand Hills Cattle Company, a grass-fed beef producer in northern Minnesota. Thousand Hills beef is available and labeled P6 at Viroqua Food Co-op, Eastside Food Co-op, and Seward Community Co-op.  This video is an interview with founder Todd Churchill about his philosophy on raising cattle in a healthy, humane way.


Bringing P6 to the Wellness Aisle

P6 month is successful because of the efforts of employees at P6 co-ops. This week we’re profiling Seward Co-op employee Jared Peterson, a buyer in the Wellness Department, who, along with his coworkers in the department, went above and beyond to make P6 month great in Wellness.


P6: What have you done this year to make P6 month visible and successful in the Wellness Department?

Jared Peterson: We started out by focusing on our local producers. We were in communication with those small and local companies to make sure they understand the P6 program and how their company fits into it. We see if the companies want to participate by offering a discount that we can pass on to consumers. There’s a lot we do in-store in terms of fliers, Sprout [the Seward Co-op newsletter], and putting up displays and endcaps to promote these products.

P6: How about wellness companies that are cooperative and support small farmers, but aren’t local? I’m thinking of Alaffia, in particular.

JP: We love working with Alaffia! They actually happened to have a discount going on for the first half of August through the National Co-op Grocers Association, which negotiates discounts for all the grocery co-ops nationally. I got in touch with the owner about extending their discount at Seward for the whole month, which they were happy to do. The owner is a great guy. He was just in town, actually, and did a training for about 75 or 100 people from Wellness Departments at stores all over the Twin Cities. He does this amazing Togolese lunch and tells us about the company and how they support small farmers across Africa.

P6: What are some successes you’ve had this year for P6 month?

JP: We’ve had a lot of participation from our vendors. There’s a lot of support among these small, local companies on having a whole month dedicated to P6. They are excited about coming in to do demonstrations. Right now, we have Robb from Four Elements demo-ing their products, which are not only locally produced but also locally grown. We get a lot of customer engagement with those demonstrations, and it’s exciting because the products are also on sale. It seems like we have fewer P6 products than other departments, particularly in supplements, so we really want to support and promote the ones we have.


P6: How is P6 month going this year?

JP: It’s going really well! Our sales of P6 products are already up 14% over P6 month last year. We have a department goal of reaching a 19% increase, and that’s really motivating.

P6: What do you think other stores should know about running a successful P6 month in Wellness?

JP: It’s so important to make sure the vendors understand the P6 program and how they fit into it. Bringing people in to demonstrate their products is crucial. We like to have a lot of literature available. We’re lucky that we have some brochure holders on our counter and people are always taking that information to learn more.

P6: What do you want customers to know about P6 month in Wellness?

JP: I want them to know that these smaller companies are out there. It’s easy to recognize some of the bigger brands that you can get at any co-op, and people tend to have a lot of brand loyalty around Wellness products — I think folks are more likely to try a new brand of pasta than a new shampoo. I encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and try something new.

After our conversation, I spoke with Robb Clasen of Four Elements Organic Herbals about his experience as a vendor working with Wellness during P6 month. He said, “P6 has allowed our local, hand-made, homegrown product to have more exposure. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in sales. There’s more presence for these local products. It allows the patrons to see how great our local products are.”

The Perennial Plate at Whole Grain Milling Company

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 Whole Grain Milling Company. Whole Grain Milling Company is a cornerstone P6 producer at Eastside Food Co-op and Seward Community Co-op. In addition to their famous corn chips, they provide many of the bulk P6 items, they produce everything from garbanzos to millet flour to bread and pancake mixes to plain old all purpose flour. This video shows interviews with farmer Doug Hilgendorf about his family farm’s change in direction to organics and a guided tour of the storage facility by his grandchildren.

Organic Produce from Harmony Valley Farm

A version of this post by farm co-owner Andrea Yoder first appeared on Viroqua Food Co-op’s website.

Harmony Valley webHarmony Valley Farm (HVF) is located just outside of Viroqua, Wisconsin in Newton Valley. HVF was founded by Richard de Wilde who has over 40 years of experience growing certified organic vegetables. Richard started farming organic vegetables in Eagan, Minnesota at a time when the University and Extension Services told him it couldn’t be done. He went on to prove them wrong and today HVF grows over 150 certified organic vegetable varieties on 100-120 acres!

HVF places great value on soil fertility and plant nutrition. Richard has developed a system of cover cropping and applications of compost and minerals to promote healthy, mineral balanced soils which results in vegetables with exceptional flavor, color and nutrition. They also plant and maintain year round habitat that provides a place for songbirds, bats, bees and beneficial insects to take up residence and become allies in pest control.

HVF has been supplying vegetables to the Viroqua Food Co-op since the very early days of both the farm and the Co-op! Richard remembers delivering orders to the original food Co-op building that existed before the current location. As an integral part of the community, Harmony Valley Farm has been working with restaurants, food co-ops and their CSA membership for years to promote a local, seasonal diet. HVF products are now available in a number of P6 co-ops. Long before the word “Locavore” was ever used, HVF was exploring ways to extend the season of availability for vegetables in order to feed Midwesterners through the long winter.

Over the years HVF has become known for supplying a variety of root crops well into the winter including parsnips, turnips, beets, rutabagas, celeriac, sunchokes, burdock and winter radishes. During the summer months, HVF stocks our shelves with their salad greens, spinach, arugula, & baby kale, as well as cilantro, parsley, dill, dandelion & mustard greens, radishes and baby bok choy.

Richard de Wilde will be the first to tell you that it takes many hands to raise vegetables and he couldn’t do it alone. Co-owner, Andrea Yoder has been with HVF for eight years. She enjoys managing greenhouse production, packing shed operations, and her weekly communication with buyers, including Linda & Arwyn at the VFC. HVF has many long-time employees that continue to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. Everyone at HVF works together to uphold a reputation for producing tasty, nutritious and beautiful vegetables.

Despite a cold, wet start to the season, the HVF fields are filling up and it won’t be long before we start to receive the bounty of the summer. Over the years, Andrea has learned more about some of the crops our customers enjoy. One of our favorite times of the season is when the melons start rolling in. Andrea assures us there will be delicious French orange melons, seedless watermelons and possibly even a taste of a new Japanese green cantaloupe this summer.

Harmony Valley Farm products are available and labeled P6 at Viroqua Food Co-op, Eastside Food Co-op, Willy Street Co-op, and Seward Community Co-op. You can learn more at their website.