email-sign-up download-our-newsletter

Browse by Tag

Coop stronger together

Viroqua Food Co-op Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Continued VFC and Driftless Folk School Education Collaboration

Driftless Folk School

This past spring, we partnered with local non-profit the Driftless Folk School giving VFC owners a discount on 11 culinary based courses in their Spring/Summer 2014 Course Catalogue as a way to further educate our owners about food and cooking. We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with them once again with their Fall/Winter 2014/2015 Course Catalog. This time there are 19 courses, about 1/3 of their course offerings, are available to VFC owners at a discount. Classes range from homeopathy to building your own cold frame for growing greens in your garden. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to support this growing nonprofit and learn about sustainable agriculture and culinary arts from some great instructors in our community. Discounts for VFC owners are $10 off full day classes and $5 off half day classes. See below for a full listing of DFS classes offered at a discount to VFC Owners. Pick up a course catalogue, download it (, check it out on their website (, or contact DFS at to learn more.

Class: Herb Drying and Beyond       
Instructor: Megan Pierce & Johanna O’Tigham
Date: 9/13/14
Description: Dried herbs are a safe and accessible way to provide incredible food and medicine for yourself and your family. In this workshop we will explore how to get the most of out your herbs once they are harvested. Topics include drying methods, processing, storage, and a survey of culinary and medicinal uses for your high­quality dried plants. We will make a tea blend or herbal condiment for you to take home. Community Herbalists Johanna and Megan are your local herb drying experts, glad to have this opportunity to share years of hands­on experience in growing, drying, and using local herbs. Stay tuned for the Spring 2015 course, “Teas from Seed to Table,” a two­part course that will focus on growing and harvesting high­quality medicinal and culinary herbs, and on tea blending for health and pleasure.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Register Here:

Class: Preserving the Harvest with Fermentation
Instructor: Laura Poe
Date: 10/4/14
Description: With the bounty that the harvest brings, finding delicious and creative ways to preserve the plenty can be a challenge. Fermentation is a wonderful way to not only preserve food, but also add nutritional value and delicious variety. In this class, you will learn how to make your own fermented foods at home, such as sauerkraut and brined vegetables--just like your ancestors used to do!
Course Fee: $45/$40 for VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $15
Register Here: 

Class: Fermented Beverages for Kids Ages 1-111
Instructor: Megan Pierce
Date: 10/5/14
Description: This class focuses on teaching the basics of making live, fermented beverages at home. We will delve into the questions: why is it good for the body, what happens in fermentation, and how do we do it. Our focus will be on learning about using one fermented culture, the ginger bug. We will learn how to catch the bug, make fizzy juice, an alcoholic brew and vinegar. Participants will bring home samples.
Course Fee: Pay what you can ($5 off for VFC owners)
Register Here:

Class: Fall Management of Your Hives
Instructor: Jordan Bendel
Date: 10/11/14
Description: We’ll discuss how to check the general health of your hives and how to prepare them for winter. The class will participate in winter­wrapping a hive, installing reducers and how to feed the bees if needed. This class is meant to be interactive so please bring any questions as well as protective equipment for working with the bees.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Register Here:

Class: Four Seasons of Greens
Instructor: Heidi Krattiger & Bjorn Bergman
Date: 10/25/14
Description: Participants will be inspired to eat delicious, fresh greens during every season. We will discuss the differences of sprouts, microgreens, and baby greens. Students will have an opportunity to explore different methods, materials, and tools needed to start greens early, keep greens during a frost, and grow greens in the dead of winter.
Course Fee: $75/$65 VFC Owners
Register Here:

Class: Eating Year Round from the Garden 
Instructors: Larisa Walk and Bob Dahse
Date: 10/18/14
Description: Take eating locally to a whole new level. Two seasoned organic gardeners will share their strategies for homegrown and home-cooked meals throughout the year. Learn how to extend the just-picked, fresh harvest, then move beyond that with energy-wise food storage and preservation. “Live food” storage includes root cellaring, windowsill gardens, sprouting, and fermentations. And lastly, preserve some of the harvest utilizing time-proven methods in updated ways that save energy. Learn about building and using the Walk solar food dryer (designed in 1985 and in use world-wide) as well as steam canning/juicing. Stainless steel screen for purchase and books for sale ($20) for those who wish to purchase one.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Register Here:

Class: Extend Your Growing Season with Cold Frames
Instructors: Andrew Gorrill
Date: 11/1/14
Description: Even in Wisconsin you can enjoy tasty spinach and other greens in early March or late November by using a simply constructed cold frame. Growing vegetables in a cold frame is a great way to extend the gardening season. You can start earlier in the spring, grow later into the fall and give your garden transplants a protective start. Participants in this class will design and build a cold frame using locally harvested, rot resistant hard wood to fit their needs. Design options, materials, basic construction methods, vegetables used, and timing of planting will all be covered. Each participant will go home with their own affordable, season-extending cold frame that will be ready to use. No building experience necessary. Material cost will vary.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Register Here:

Class: Wholesome Holiday Baking
Instructors: Laura Poe
Date: 11/15/14
Description: As the holidays approach, so does the holiday baking! This class will focus on creating delicious desserts for the holiday season, using natural sweeteners and grain-free flours for a healthy spin on family favorites.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $15
Register Here:

Class: Herbal and Milk Based Soap Making
Instructor: Linda Conroy
Date: 11/28/14
Description: Join herbalist Linda Conroy for this fun day of soap making. We will start by learning about the herbs that can be incorporated into soap and how to best prepare them. We will learn the qualities of the herbs and what they lend to soap. As a group we will make both hot and cold process soap and learn the benefits of each. Into the cold process we will learn to incorporate goat milk for a luxurious moisturizing effect.We will end the day by learning how to both wet and dry felt soap. Felting soap creates a built in wash cloth, with a mild exfoliating effect. Participants will take home the soap that we make, soap that they felt as well as recipes for future use. Course is appropriate for ages 12 and up.
Course Fee: $75/$65 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $15
Register Here:

Class: Home Cheese Making
Instructors: Linda Conroy
Date: 11/29/14
Description: Join veteran cheese maker and whole food cook Linda Conroy to find out how simple it is to make cheese in your own kitchen. This introduction will offer an opportunity to explore this lost art. We will create and sample several simple styles of cheese that can be easily cultivated at home. We will make cultured butter, feta cheese, mozzarella and several varieties of soft cheese. After learning to make kefir, we will transform this fermented milk beverage into soft spreadable cheese and a soft condiment that can be used in place of sour cream. You’ll also learn some cooking ideas for whey, a byproduct of cheese making. Students can build on this introduction to create many varieties of cheese at home. Class includes: light lunch, samples, cheese to take home, recipes and a cheese culture to get you started.
Course Fee: $75/$65 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $20
Register Here:

Class: More Cheese Making: Cheddar and Gouda
Instructors: Linda Conroy
Date: 11/30/14
Description: Join Home Cheese Maker Linda Conroy as we focus on 2 styles of cheese (Cheddar & Gouda) that you can easily make at home. Participants will be guided through the process of making each cheese, with a focus on details. From curd to press, you will be inspired to go home and try these yourself. Making a “home” cheese cave will be discussed, although it is not necessary to enjoy these styles of cheese. Participants will leave with recipes and cheese curds that we make in class. Samples will be provided during lunch and during the presentation.
Course Fee: $70/$60 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $20
Register Here:

Class: Healing from the Hive
Instructors: Charlie Koenen
Date: 12/6/14
Description: Explore honey bees, pollination, community dynamics, and the healing nature of bees and the products they create. Charlie will share special treats from the hive. Everyone will work together to make lip balms and salves from beeswax, propolis, and single­press sunflower oil from the Driftless area. Perfect course to learn how to make balms and salves for yourself and as gifts!
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners 
Register Here:

Class: Youth Traveling Cooperative Institute
Instructors: Emily Lippold Cheney
Date: 12/6/14
Description: The Youth TCI is a free peer-to-peer cooperative entrepreneurship training for folks in their late teens to early thirties. Through this training, you will get to workshop a cooperative business idea with peers and through the guidance of cooperative development experts. If you have a business idea in mind, you can bring it to the workshop to take it to the next step and get connected with folks who can help you see it through to the end, or you can use one of the sample case studies we have prepared. Email with any questions. No registration or previous training required, just show up!
Course Fee: FREE 
Register Here:

Class: Making Ring Sausage
Instructors: Vince & Dawn Hundt
Date: 12/13/14
Description: For generations, people of German ancestry in the ridge country near La Crosse have made what they call “woosht” or “wurst,” which simply means “sausage” in German. These are large pork/venison ring sausages which are stuffed into natural casings and smoked in a backyard smokehouse. Come and be a part of a joyous early winter tradition and go home with some delicious homemade charcuterie. A great first class for would be sausage makers.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners 
Register Here:

Class: Baking Sourdough Bread
Instructors: Jacob Hundt
Date: 1/31/15
Description: Learn the art, craft, and science of baking bread with a wild sourdough culture. The air around us and the skins and leaves of many plants are full of wild yeast cells. Under proper cultivation, this natural bounty can be used to leaven breads and pastries in the same way humans have done for thousands of years. In this class you will learn how to capture, care for, and use your own wild sourdough culture. Participants will learn how to knead dough and shape it into several types of loaves and how to bring to moist and flavorful perfection in the oven. Each participant will receive a sourdough starter culture to take home.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners 
Register Here:

Class: Cooking with Organ Meats
Instructors: Laura Poe
Date: 2/14/15
Description: Organ meat cookery can be a scary task to tackle, but have no fear! Liver, heart, bones and other organ meats can be easy to prepare and delicious enough for the whole family to enjoy. This class is perfect for those who are interested in eating organ meats for their superior nutritional value, but are unsure about preparation, and even taste. Perfect for cooks of all skill levels and anyone with an adventurous palate!
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $15
Register Here:

Class: Gluten-Free Baking
Instructors: Sarah Bratnober
Date: 2/21/15
Description: In Gluten-free Baking, students will be inspired and equipped to prepare and enjoy breads, pizzas, pies, cakes, and cookies that are made without the gluten protein found in wheat. The requirements for a gluten-free pantry will be covered, including recommended flours and leavenings to have in stock. The pros and cons of imitations vs. alternatives will be explored, as a number of recipes are analyzed, prepared, and sampled in class. Students will receive valuable hand-outs that include recipes for the prepared items, plus GF pantry tips, shopping tips, and coupons. Bring a thermos of coffee or tea to enjoy with the goodies!
Course Fee: $50/$45 VFC Owners 
Register Here:

Class: Homeopathy
Instructors: Jim Young
Date: 2/21/14
Description: Homeopathy is one of the five major schools of medicine. It is a European based system codified by Samuel Hohnemann in the late 18th century. Its principles go back thousands of years to India’s Ayurvedic medicine and Greece’s Hippocrates. These principles include: “treating like with like”, the existence of a “vital force” which animates and drives the person and focusing on the person’s response rather than their symptoms. The purpose of this class will be to give an overview of the different schools of medicine and show how homeopathy can be used as complementary to other therapeutic approaches. This will be taught as a first-aid class. However, experience has shown that, if the principles are practiced, one will be able to treat a variety of ailments that we normally go to a physician for.
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $5
Register Here:

Class: Alternative Beekeeping Methods
Instructors: Charlie Koenen
Date: 3/14/15
Description: Explore honey bees, pollination, community dynamics, and the healing nature of bees and the products they create. Charlie will share special treats from the hive. Everyone will work together to make lip balms and salves from beeswax, propolis, and single­press sunflower oil from the Driftless area. Perfect course to learn how to make balms and salves for yourself and as gifts!
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners 
Register Here:

Class: Fruit Tree Grafting
Instructor: Rikardo Jahnke
Date: 3/28/14
Description: Come learn the magic of fruit tree grafting! With this versatile skill you will be able to make your own apple trees at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them and have the tools to clone any apple tree you happen to fancy. In the class we will discuss and demonstrate whip-and-tongue and cleft grafting in detail. The basics of bridge grafting, bud grafting, and topworking older trees will be covered. The care and protection of young trees, selection of rootstocks, sources of grafting scionwood and general apple orcharding will also be discussed. Each participant will have the opportunity to graft three apple trees to take home (Additional rootstock and scionwood will be available for purchase).
Course Fee: $45/$40 VFC Owners
Supply Fee: $18
Register Here: 

Mission of the Driftless Folk School: The mission of the Driftless Folk School is to support healthy, sustainable communities and personal development by providing creative and meaningful educational opportunities and inspiring lifelong learning for individuals and families. Learn more here:

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!

All Posts