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Getting Ready

Whether you're preparing your weekly meals or what you're going to have for lunch today or perhaps that party in a couple of weeks, we're here to help. Willy Street Co-op is Madison's largest consumer-owned natural foods store, offering the finest organic and locally-produced foods, including:

  • Produce - the finest and freshest in the Madison area.
  • Dairy - milk, yogurt, and cheese, including organics.
  • Frozen foods - juice, vegetables, pizza, convenience meals.
  • Baked goods - fresh bread and other goods delivered daily.
  • Juices - full selection and fresh juice at the Juice Bar.
  • Deli - fresh homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, dips and dinners.

Buying Locally

We use three different purple tags to denote how local a product is. (We define "local" at anywhere in Wisconsin or within 150 miles of the state capitol building.)

locally prepared

locally grown

100% locally grown

Products above this tag are made locally—and may be made with local ingredients—but they do not meet the criteria we use for our ‘“Essentially Local” designation.
Products above this tag have an insignificant amount of non-local ingredients added to a locally grown product required to meet product standards or quality (i.e., palmitate, carageenan, citric acid).
Products above this shelf tag are entirely local. If the product has multiple ingredients, all of them are local and the product is baked, cooked, mixed, etc. locally.
Photo of grapes, kiwi, strawberries, apples

Organically Produced Foods

Sales of organic foods have been growing across the country as people realize the importance of a clean, healthy diet and as more farmers switch to sustainable and organic methods.

Organic and Sustainable Farming

Wisconsin Organic farmers rely on farming practices that have been used for thousands of years. Rather than seeking to control the natural environment, organic farming practices seek to work with the environment. Natural composts, for example, rejuvenate the soil, just as in nature: plant and animal materials replace the nutrients and microorganisms taken by the growing plants. Organic means of pest control mirror nature in practice and when, occasionally, organic crops are sprayed against insects and disease, these organic sprays are biologically based and they break down quickly.

Organic foods are not treated with preserving chemicals after harvesting; transporting, packaging, processing and storage of organic foods are all done without the use of chemicals, artificial additives, preservatives and without food irradiation.

Is organic produce safer?

Absolutely! Many pesticides used by conventional farmers have been shown to be carcinogens. Chemical farming continues to threaten our water systems, depletes our soil of valuable nutrients, and poisons all living things. We cannot expect our government agencies alone to clean up the environment or to set safer regulations. The public will ultimately set the standards for food safety in relation to the demand for clean food.

Does organic produce taste better?

Many restaurant chefs across the country are using organic produce because they think it tastes better. Organic growers often select varieties to grow for their flavor, not only their appearance.

Is organic produce more nutritious?

There is no conclusive evidence at this time to suggest that organically-produced foods are more nutritious. However, well-balanced soils grow strong healthy plants which many believe taste better and contain more nutrients. Fruits and vegetables commercially grown and produced are harvested early, may be irradiated, stored for long periods of time, or waxed to prevent dehydration and display an artificial shine. Organic fruits and vegetables that stay on the vine longer and ripen naturally absorb more sunlight and provide greater nutrition and flavor.

The shelf life of organic fruits and vegetables can be shorter than chemically-sprayed conventional produce and is brought from the field to the Co-op more quickly, providing members with a fresher product.

Why is organic food more expensive?

  1. The price of organic food more accurately reflects the true cost of growing, harvesting, packing, and shipping foods to market. Furthermore, the price of conventional foods is misleading in that the damage caused to the environment and health is not factored into the price of these conventionally raised goods. Separate price tags are attached to cleaning our waterways polluted with chemical fertilizers, soil remediation, and health care. 
  2. Organic food production is management and labor intensive. Organic certification requires extensive record keeping, an organic system plan, and annual inspections. In addition, organic farmers build up the organic matter in the soil using manure, compost, and cover crops in lieu of less costly chemical fertilizers and sewage sludge. Synthetic herbicides and pesticides are not allowed in organic farming; therefore, farmers use cover crops and crop rotation to manage weed growth, and when necessary, manual weeding is done by hand. 
  3. Since organic farming and production are very labor intensive, it is typically not a realistic option to increase production due to time and financial constraints. Because of these limitations, organic production is usually limited in size, and economies of scale are most often not achievable.
  4. Demand for organic produce is still greater than supply, which renders prices higher. Economic principles dictate that until supply catches up with demand, prices asked for organic produce will remain at a premium. 
  5. Government subsidies are not available for organic produce. Agricultural subsidies largely support farmers who grow conventional crops—namely corn and soybeans, among others. These subsidies artificially lower the price of these goods for the consumers while guaranteeing the farmers top dollar. Government spending on conventional agricultural subsidies far outpaces monetary support for organic and local foods.