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Vernon County Farm to School Successes

  
  
  
farm2school3

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!

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Bike the Barns Driftless - June 29

  
  
  
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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

CHEER ON YOUR LOCAL and COOPERATIVE PRODUCERS

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.

VFC Owner Benefit: Discount on select Drifltess Folk School Classes

  
  
  
100 Mile Meal Class

Cooperatives are rooted in education. The fifth (of seven) International Cooperative Principles, which the Viroqua Food Cooperative closely follows, is “Education, training and information. Since our birth as a cooperative in September 1995, we have been dedicated to educating our owners about co-ops, food and sustainable farming through a variety of classes and events hosted in our community.

On August 10th, 2013 we partnered for the first time with the Driftless Folk School, Driftless Café, Rooted Spoon Kitchen Table and local farmers to put on the 100 Mile Meal – A Pop Up Restaurant Class and Benefit Dinner. The event was a resounding success! We had 12 folks participate in the class and we had a full house at the Rooted Spoon to enjoy the meal for the benefit dinner.
Wanting to build on our first success, the Driftless Folk School and VFC have been thinking about ways for our organizations, which both have missions that overlap, to further educate those in our community through collaboration.

So, it is with great excitement that we announce a partnership between the VFC and the Driftless Folk School beginning with the 2014 Spring & Summer Course Catalogue. The Driftless Folk School is offering Viroqua Food Cooperative Owners a discount on 11 food-based courses. Discounts for VFC Owners will be $10 off full day classes and $5 off half day classes.

See above for a full listing of DFS classes offered at a discount to VFC Owners. Pick up a 2014 course catalogue, check out their website (www.driftlessfolkschool.org), or contact DFS to learn more at: registar@driftlessfolkschool.org








Second Cloud on the Left recipient of Viroqua Food Co-op Microloan

  
  
  
P6 Microlending Recipients Toril and Drew

In the fall of 2012, the VFC Board of Directors started a P6 Microlending Initiative. Through this program, an individual or farm that is currently selling their product to the VFC is eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $3,000 for a new project or infrastructure. Loans must be paid back within one year. Through this Microlending Initiative the VFC strengthens small, local farms and producers that supply the Co-op and creates opportunities to improve their operations.

We are pleased to announce that Second Cloud on the Left Farm in La Farge, Wisconsin is the 2014 VFC P6 Microlending recipient. The Committee is happy to fulfill their entire request of $1,629 for their Lettuce Mix Harvesting and Season Extension Project. Second Cloud is owned and operated by Toril and Drew Fisher who specialize in growing two specific varieties of produce: heirloom tomatoes and heirloom leafy greens. Though they have made tremendous strides in both areas, market demand is stronger in the area of greens.

Harvesting leafy greens is extremely time consuming. With hand held harvest knives and bins, one person can harvest about 6 pounds per hour and wash and pack around 12 pounds per hour. With one part of the loan, Second Cloud is purchasing a hand-held, mechanized harvester that harvests greens at a maximum rate of 175 pounds per hour. This will allow Second Cloud to complete their harvesting process in less than an hour and move field workers onto the wash and pack line, increasing their ability to move and ship more product to market and improve sales.

With the second part of the loan, Second Cloud will improve upon their season extension technologies on the farm. Season extension technologies such as hoop houses and row covers provide numerous advantages to farmers who can leverage these technologies and increase their production from eight months to 10-12 months of the year. Currently, Second Cloud has two hoop houses. Part of the VFC P6 Microloan will be used to improve their greenhouse operations through the purchase of a large roll of greenhouse plastic to maximize and extend the greens season in both hoop houses into December and January. The plastic will replace woven agricultural fabrics that provide secondary coverage for greens in the hoop houses. This cover holds and maintains soil temperatures and humidity better than the agricultural fabrics.

Time and human resource management issues are critical to the success of small farms. The VFC P6 Microloan allows Second Cloud On The Left Farm to leverage small farm technologies to improve their harvest times of green lettuce mixes and also extend the produce season in their hoop houses in order to provide more greens to the VFC and surrounding markets, year round. For more information about the VFC P6 Microlending Initiative, visit: http://viroquafood.coop/you-own-it/microlending-initiative/

Congratulations to Toril and Drew Fisher, we look forward to growing our partnership with you.



In cooperation,
P6 Microlending Committee














Storytelling: Why your story matters

  
  
  
Storytelling WFAN Crowd resized 600

This November, I had the opportunity to attend the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa, which was a three day conference attended by over 400 women and “a few intrepid men”!

During more than one session, I listened to the women presenters start their session with anecdotal jabs about how a few times during the year, they secretly wish how they could work in a cubicle, leave their daily stresses at work, and come home to relax. Instead, they are farmers or agricultural advocates whose work never stops when they are home. Despite the antagonistic quips, all of the presenters were quick to inspire attendees through never-ending passion that resonated through each of their stories and objective teachings.

Holly Carroll, both a teacher and the Oklahoma State Farm Bureau Coordinator, focused on reaching and retaining new young leaders in agriculture. She reminded the room full of women of all ages that even though you may not relate to interacting with your “target market” or peers through social media, it is where our younger generations spend their time. If you have a story to tell, but none of the time it takes to put it into a blog or website, recruit a student in the community who can make it their school project to assist you. Not only does this offer them the opportunity to work with social media (something they already excel at), but by studying your story it gives them reason to take stock in what you do by integrating them into your livelihood. It may even plant the seed for them to get involved in the sustainable agriculture movement in the future! So despite technology being a barrier that may separate us sometimes, it is evermore meaningful to connect with others by way of social media tools.

In the last session I attended at the conference, Wendy Allen, both a PR Professional for Organic Valley and a Writer/Content Editor for Edible Madison, explained how important it is to tell your story – especially when trying to bring a focus to your business, products, etc. More and more people want to feel connected to what they are purchasing. Through a writing/reading exercise, Wendy revealed how when others read and relate to your story, you give them reason to further invest in you and your products or services.

As a native of the Viroqua Area I feel quite privileged to be back here, in hopes to pour whatever strength and courageous ambition I have back into what I do here at the Viroqua Food Co-op. I have a lot of role models who take what they are good at and find a way to surround themselves with as much of it as possible- and it’s contagious (those of you reading this article most likely qualify... yeah, YOU)!

Recently, I found a way to be of service to the people/farmers who grow my food, even if I’m not working on a farm. Every week I help Linda Gallardo, the VFC Produce Manager, tell the story of what is most fresh and local in the produce department. Together, we take two to four products and feature them with a fun recipe, an educational blurb, or interesting ways other food bloggers are working with the same subject matter, and then publish it on our local food blog called “Fresh & Local”. This blog is the Co-op’s way of storytelling and spreading the great word about what our local producers are up to and how you can directly support them when you vote with your dollars here at the VFC.

Please sign up for our weekly email blog by clicking on the “email sign up” symbol in the upper right-hand corner of most pages on this website. Each email takes just a few minutes to read and updates you with what is fresh and locally available at the Co-op!

Shana Meshbesher,













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