Category: Willy Street Co-op

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.

Four Elements Organic Herbals

A version of this post by Charlene Elderkind appeared on Viroqua Food Co-op’s website.

Four Elements Organic Herbals is located on Jane Hawley Stevens and David Stevens’ 130-acre farm, set in the pristine Baraboo Bluffs of Wisconsin. The farm is surrounded by 9,000 acres protected by the Nature Conservancy—an international, environmental conservation NPO. Certified organic since 1990, she grows diverse species from which plants are carefully selected to produce herbal products from the fields, prairies and woodlands of the farm.

Located just one-hour northwest of Madison, freshly harvested herbs are handpicked at peak potency and processed on the farm to insure nature’s constituents are truly represented in every product. The herbs are hand-processed to create a line of herbal products including teas, moisture creams, facial hydrosols, lip balms, soaps, bath salts, body oils and tinctures. The balanced formulas are intended to increase your beauty and wellbeing. And the energetic preparations will fortify your trust in nature.

Four Elements Herbals began in 1987 as the pursuit of Jane’s dream to establish a family farm and continue her horticultural career while raising a family. After completing a B.S. in horticulture, she began specializing in growing a diverse variety of herbs. She and her husband David began supplying stores with organically grown DSC_0100potted herbs and developed an extensive herb collection. Herbs became a way of life, from cooking and crafts to body care and healing. It is from tried-and-true experience that Four Elements products were created.

In 2012, the USDA awarded Four Elements a $300,000 grant to process its herbal teas into tea-bag form. The funds have allowed the business to grow more herbs for teas, hire help to process and promote the products, and potentially move manufacturing operations to the center of town. Four Elements Products are labeled P6 at Viroqua Food Co-op, Seward Community Co-op, Willy Street Co-op, and Eastside Food Co-op.

Cooperatively Baked in Madison

Nature’s Bakery in downtown Madison, WI, makes bread, granola, trail mix, pita, veggie burgers, calzones, and something more. They make an example of what a cooperative business that enriches its surrounding community can look like. They make eight good jobs for their worker-owners. They make an opportunity for people to participate in a local food system, right in their own neighborhood.

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I spoke with Nate Olson, one of eight worker-owners at Nature’s Bakery. In a worker cooperative like Nature’s Bakery, the business is entirely owned by its employees, who each own an equal share. Potential new members apprentice for six months before being voted in by the existing members. Nature’s Bakery has been around for 44 years and all the original founders have moved on. The most senior worker-owner has been there for 20 years. Nate joined four years ago. The co-op operates on consensus decision-making. Each worker-owner knows how to do everything from deliveries to making each product to packaging. There’s some division of labor — Nate is the Marketing Coordinator — but in general, the worker-owners help each other out and can cover for each other if needed. (more…)

The Future of Authentic Fair Trade Bananas: A Conference

Equal Exchange founded P6 in 2009 with a group of six committed consumer co-ops. The vision for P6 sprouted out of Equal Exchange’s deep commitments to creating an alternative, more equitable and just food system and years of leadership in building authentic fair trade supply chains. Equal Exchange has worked for over two decades to transform the coffee, tea, and chocolate industries, and more recently, Equal Exchange has expanded work into one of the most historically exploitative international food industries- bananas. Many P6 member stores are now proud to offer their customers Equal Exchange bananas. This past weekend, Equal Exchange created an opportunity for retail co-ops to meet face to face with leaders from the farmer co-ops that produce the bananas that arrive in our produce departments, and with other industry experts from across the world working to change the face of the banana industry. (more…)