From their Fields to our Co-op

At the co-op, we’re committed to working with small, local farmers to provide the most delicious and nutritious foods for our customers. Our deep relationships with local farms not only bring the highest quality food to our warehouse and stores, but also nurture and support the local food economy, ensuring its health and vitality for years to come. This summer, we’re celebrating the produce farmers who deliver fresh-picked, full-flavored fruits and vegetables to our co-op daily. Here are just a handful of farms that we work with during the growing season and year-round.

Featherstone Farm Rushford, MN • Farm Farm Delano, MN • Riverbend Farm Delano, MN • Living Waters Farm Wells, MN • Mississippi Mushrooms Minneapolis, MN • Tomato King Albany, MN • Shared Ground Farmers Co-op St. Paul, MN • Sin Fronteras Farm & Food Stillwater, MN • Hoch Orchard La Crescent, MN • Whistling Well Hastings, MN • Seed to Seed Balsam Lake, WI • Naturally Northern Frederic, WI • Jack and the Green Sprouts River Falls, WI • Harmony Valley Farm Viroqua, WI • Keewaydin Viola, WI • St. Croix Valley Produce Woodville, WI • Partner/Barnard Farms Sturgeon Bay, WI

WHAT DOES “CONVENTIONAL” MEAN?

In the summer months you’ll see a lot more produce labeled conventional, but what does that mean? When we source local conventional, or not organic, produce at the Wedge and Linden Hills it typically falls into one of three categories;

1) Sourced from an IPM Farm
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced form natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.

2) Sourced from a Transitional Farm 
To become certified organic, a farm must have 3 years without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or GMO’s. A farm making the transition from conventional to organic is called “Transitional” during the three years prior to certification.

3) Sourced from a farm that does not have the financial resources (or chooses not) to undergo organic certification
We carefully vet all of our local produce vendors to ensure they meet our quality standards. We value our relationship with local farmers and we are able to visit them and their farms so we understand their growing practices. Often these small farmers grow with the same standards as organic farmers.

Here are some examples of farms we carry that are not certified organic, and how long we’ve been partnering with them:

  • Partner Farm in Door County, WI – On their IPM farm Jim and Crystal Barnard grow cherries, peaches, and plums. 7 year partnership with the Wedge
  • Whistling Well Farm in Hastings, MN – Carol and Charlie Johnson operate their apple orchards using IPM practices. 5 year partnership
  • Tomato King in Albany, MN – Jeff Skalicky grows tomatoes and makes salsa at his hydroponic farm. 8 year partnership
  • Living Waters in Wells, MN – Hydroponically grown cucumbers, basil, and tomatoes from Steve and Miriam Klingbeil are often among our first local produce each spring. They grow clean! No herbicides, pesticides or fungicides allowed. 15+ year partnership.
  • Farm Farm in Delano, MN – Heather Lewin and Jimmy Bauman harvest spinach and bagged greens grown without chemicals. They got their start in farming with the help from their neighbor and mentor, Greg Reynolds of Riverbend Farm. 2 year partnership.
  • Naturally Northern in Frederic, WI – Greg Carlin’s raspberries are always a summer favorite! They’re hand-picked for freshness and grown without insecticides. 15+ year partnership.

FARM PROFILES

Riverbend Farm – Farmers Mary and Greg purchased Riverbend Farm in Delano, MN in 1992, and it was certified organic by 1994. Riverbend grows a variety of organic vegetables, along with starter plants (which are featured in our plant sale!). Look for Riverbend’s greens at the co-op!

Farm Farm – Farm Farm is a small, two acre farm in Delano, MN. Farmers Heather and Jimmy began farming seven years ago. Focused on sustainability, they’re proud to grow over 100 varieties of vegetables, many of them heirloom. Most of their farm work is done by hand. You can find Farm Farm’s salad mixes and spinach in our produce departments!

Shared Ground Farmers Co-op – Shared Ground is a farmer-owned and driven cooperative, owned by seven small-scale, local farms in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. All farms produce vegetables sustainably and the majority of the farms are immigrant-owned. As a majority Latino-owned cooperative, Shared Ground has a social mission of supporting and creating a space in the marketplace for small, immigrant and minority farmers and works to make environmentally sustainable farming a living-wage job for anyone who chooses to pursue it. Shared Ground Co-op distributes to local restaurants, food co-ops, public schools, and through their CSA.

Whistling Well Farm – Whistling Well Farm is an apple orchard located in the St. Croix River Valley, just two miles south of Afton State Park. Farmers Carol and Charlie planted their first apple trees in 1980, and now offer six varieties of apples including Honeycrisp and SweeTango. Visit their farm on the Co-op Farm Tour to explore their orchards and check out their on-site farm store!

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Featherstone Farm has been selling produce to Co-op Partners Warehouse (CPW) since it opened in 1999.
  • Our produce teams meet with local farmers during the winter months to plan for the upcoming growing season.
  • During the 2017 growing season, Co-op Partners Warehouse purchased produce from over 40 local farms.
  • Last summer, the Wedge Co-op bought over 40% of their produce directly from small local farms! Even more local produce came from CPW and other distributors.
  • Many of the farms listed above deliver their produce directly to our doors.
  • These are all very small farms, sometimes just a family or a staff under 10.
  • The farmers establish a community and spread their knowledge to others, i.e. Greg Reynolds of Riverbend was instrumental in Farm Farm’s development.

Read Cultivate Summer 2018 articles
View Cultivate Summer 2018 PDF