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Viroqua Food Co-op Blog

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The VFC Experience: Viroqua Food Co-op prepares for the next chapter


At the Viroqua Food Cooperative, we take planned and measured steps to ensure the long-term financial health and well-being of our Co-op. We’re big on building a strong foundation of preparedness so when opportunities come along, we’re ready.


Equal Exchange: A P6 Cooperative Trade Co-founder


Greetings from Equal Exchange and Happy P6 Month to all P6 Store members and staff!  We’re so proud of everyone’s commitment to honoring the 6th Cooperative Principle:  Cooperation Amongst Cooperatives… and what better way to celebrate than by designating August, P6 Month!

P6 National Update

Shop Your Values P6 v2

The Principle Six (P6) Co-operative Trade Movement isn’t only an initiative seen on store shelves at Viroqua Food Co-op. P6 is a national movement that distinguishes co-ops in the marketplace and leverages our collective impact. As national coordinator, I’d like to share what’s happening with P6 beyond the VFC walls.


Vernon County Farm to School Successes


Vernon County Farm to School (VCF2S) is wrapping up our fifth year of successful programming. VCF2S started in 2008 in three school districts in Vernon County and since then we have continued to expand and improve our program throughout the county. In 2012, with the help of our F2S partners, we received a $50,000 Transform Wisconsin Grant through the Center for Disease Control. Through this increased funding we were able to hire an education coordinator and an outreach coordinator, reach all six school districts in the county, and provide equipment and kitchen staff trainings for many of our districts.

Produce Geeks at the Viroqua Food Co-op

Linda Gallardo

I love to learn and so does Team Produce! There is so much to know, keep up with and be awesome at, when it comes to life…and fresh produce!


Bike the Barns Driftless - June 29

describe the image

Have you noticed? Warmer weather is officially here. That means it’s time to start bicycling and eating fresh local food! On June 29, you can do both, while learning about local farms that supply produce to the Viroqua Food Co-op and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), by riding in the 2nd Annual Bike the Barns Driftless!

Saving the world one drink at a time

Cold Press Coffee

It had been a hard winter for Chief Woksis and his tribe of Iroquois.  Spring came upon them with the smell of new life in the air and a fresh energy.  Chief Woksis threw his tomahawk at the closest tree with a hoot, he couldn’t believe the luck his hunting parties had this morning.  They had more meat than they had seen in months, there would be a feast!  As he pulled his tomahawk from the tree and walked away, his wife touched the thin sap that came out of the tree’s wound.  It was sweet! She quickly gathered enough of the liquid to boil her meat in that night, creating a maple aroma that permeated the camp.    When it came time to eat the sap had become thick syrup!  All of the water had boiled off during the day.  The Iroquois knew they had stumbled on to something monumental this day.
The Arabs had banned the sale of fertile coffee beans for over a hundred years before this day, but the Dutch trader Pieter van der Broecke had a plan.  It was 1616 and he was not going to deal with these Arab traders anymore, he had gotten his hands on some of the closely guarded coffee bushes from Mocha in Yemen.   He would get them to Amsterdam where they would thrive in the Botanical gardens there.  Within forty years the beans from these plants would start a thriving industry that spread to Sri Lanka, Java, and Suriname….and eventually these beans would make their way to Viroqua.
The sun was just beginning to rise when Steve finished milking the last of the 50 cows in his herd.  He was ready for the truck to come pick up the new batch of organic milk this morning; he was the first stop on this route.  He started back towards the house to get some breakfast before starting another day on the farm, his work was never done.
When you buy a Cold Press Maple Latte from the VFC Deli, or encourage some else to buy it, you aren’t just getting one of the most delicious drinks you’ve had in your life.  You are keeping your friends and neighbors in business.  You are telling the world you can make it happen in your own backyard.  You are keeping history alive.  This isn’t just a drink, this is a statement - loud and proud - shouted to the whole world.   When you buy this you are making Local, Fair Trade, and Organic a reality.
Don’t let the spirit of Chief Woksis down.
Waleed Mahmoud, Viroqua Food Co-op Deli Manager

Open Book Management at the Viroqua Food Co-op

Open Book Management

The Viroqua Food Cooperative is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way we run our business and it relies on all the heads in the room.  

A year ago I traveled with two other members of the VFC Management team, Jan Rasikas and Eric Speck, to Zingerman’s Zing Train in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We participated in a three day training based on the principles of Open Book Management. This concept was developed and implemented by Jack Stack at SRC Holdings and expressed in his book The Great Game of Finance. Zingerman’s Delicatessen implemented these same practices in the 1990’s and by 2003 was a completely Open Book Business.  

My assumption walking into the training was that we were going to learn about creative ways to understand balance sheets, read profit-loss statements, and interpret financial statements. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was completely wrong.

Open Book Management is a system in which everyone in the organization takes responsibility for the effective operation of the business, financial and otherwise.  

This means the business is not being run by a solitary lone figure sitting in an office pulling strings like a puppet master and issuing commands. It also means that our financial information isn’t kept under lock and key and analyzed only by the select few in the inner circle. Instead, the creative forces of all the individuals performing the work are empowered to understand how the business works, why it works and most importantly, what we can do to make things better.

Sounds good, even revolutionary, but is it really possible? If Zingerman’s is any indication of the kind of success that is possible then the answer is a resounding YES! Currently the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses is a 45 million dollar industry with the same small origins as our own dear Co-op.

How does Open Book Management work? It starts with principles we call
 The Three Steps to Great Finance: Know and Teach the Rules, Keep Score and Share the Success.

Know and Teach the Rules

Every game has rules. If you don’t know the rules, it’s like sitting on the sidelines to a game of Punkin Chunkin or Bun Climbing (look it up, these are legitimate sports) and wondering what the point is. That’s why we have a Finance 101 Training for all staff that covers the 10 Rules of VFC Finance and our games. We are playing two games: Margin Minus Labor (MML) and Net Income.We report on the MML game every quarter and the Net Income at the end of the year. Understanding the rules is essential to creating success and winning brings great incentives!

Get ready to garden: VFC has local/organic seeds

seed saver

As the growing year approaches we send out blessings for all the seeds we plant. If you didn’t save your own seeds, we hope you’ll come to the VFC for your fresh stock. Ninety percent of our seeds are certified organic this year! And three out of four of the flower and vegetable seed companies we carry are P6 producers! Let’s give you a little run through.

For 39 years, Seed Savers Exchange, a P6 Producer from neighboring Decorah, Iowa has been on the forefront of the heirloom seed movement, working with gardeners to preserve our food heritage. All their seeds are open pollinated, meaning the seed can be saved and planted again, and have not been genetically modified in any way. They maintain a seed bank with thousands of varieties. Each one has a story behind it—you’ll be connecting more deeply with history as you work with these plants. While we carry a relatively small selection of their collection, we order often and can special order anything in their lovely catalog for you!

Inspired by the intrigue of living forces, Kathy Shepherd from Gays Mills (P6) has brought her seed saving experience to the public this year. You’ll find her Seed Shepherd packages on our racks (which are organized by like seeds together… roots, greens, brassicas, etc.).

We proudly round out our fine selection of certified organic seeds with packages from the reputable and successful company, High Mowing Organic Seeds from Vermont. We’ll have some specialties like fava beans (to be planted when cool outside), Kaboko napa cabbage, and Kaitlin white cabbage (which are great for kimchi and sauerkraut respectively). All in all, we’ll have a total of 23 kinds of tomatoes, 7 kinds of peas, 12 kinds of lettuce, plus 4 different salad mixes for your growing pleasure and fresh eating delight! And all at below catalog prices!

As if all that isn’t exciting enough, this will be the first year that some seeds will be in our Basics program. Most of the plain white packages from Fedco, a seed co-op from Maine, are only $1.99 each, while still being certified organic AND from a P6 producer! Please note there are a few exceptions, like larger sized “B” packages and special varieties not found from other companies, like parsnips, baby white turnips and cutting celery (a parsley-like plant that tastes like celery).

Can you say “13 varieties of potatoes?” They’ll be arriving soon from organic certified growers Vermont Valley Community Farm in Blue Mound, Wisconsin… another P6 producer!

We gardeners know that healthy food comes from healthy soil. So in our efforts to help you build soil we will again carry some bulk cover crop seed! Varieties will include white clover, red clover, rye and buckwheat.

We are pleased to bring you organic and P6 choices for all your gardening needs. If you’re looking for more help, feel free to consult our laminated ring-bound informational packet, or just ask me—Arwyn!

P6 Tailgate Party - with Local and Cooperative Food producers

P6 taligate tent


Shake off those cold winter blues! Come celebrate spring with a variety of our local, cooperative and small farmers/producers at our 2nd Annual Principle Six (P6) Producers Tailgate Party on Saturday, March 29, 10am - 2pm. We’d love to have you join us to learn about P6, sample P6 products and have a P6 lunch from our patio grill.

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