October is National Co-op Month and, with that, we offer this compendium of cooperative vendors that serve our co-op and who qualify for inclusion in the new Co-operative Trade Movement.
Creating awareness for Owners is a major objective for most cooperatives. Whether we’re promoting awareness about the food, the farmer or the cooperative model, they’re all a part of our grocery cooperative’s mission to promote sustainable living. And we’re able to continue carrying out that mission each day because a growing majority of our community understands their role in that economic paradigm. Combining our need for quality food with farmers, producers and other workers striving to earn a fair wage, we recreate that democratic economy each time we shop the Co-op.
Representing our highest values, products from local farms or producers have been highlighted in a variety of ways over the years, including the Co-op’s newest purple local labels that identify goods that are 100% locally grown, mostly local or locally prepared. In this month’s article describing the dawning of the Co-operative Trade Movement and the Principle Six (P6) educational campaign, we introduce yet another tool for Owners and other shoppers to choose from small, local or cooperative farmers and producers. Through our collective support for small farms, companies or cooperatives, we are building stronger routes of trade and greater economic opportunity for newcomers and old-timers in sustainable agriculture.
To clarify: to qualify for the P6 label, representing the Cooperative Trade Movement, a product must meet two of the three following criteria.
The foods or products are: 1) from small farmer or producer; 2) from a local farmer or producer; 3) from a cooperative farm or producer cooperative or non-profit organization.
We will be using a variety of methods to identify P6 products in the Co-op in the coming months, so look for more information as the Movement grows to support sustainable businesses.
Fair Trade skin care products
Supporting sustainable growing practices in Western Africa, Alaffia products include a wide range of plants commonly used in skin care products. The difference here is the way the plants are grown, harvested and used to empower the people of the areas where they’re grown. According to the Alaffia website, “Through our direct involvement in the entire process—from gathering the wild shea nuts and crafting the butter, to distribution locally and abroad—our members receive fair and steady incomes. In addition, 10% of sales always go directly back to our community empowerment projects. We believe combining fair wages and prices with community projects can lead our communities out of poverty and make our world a healthier place.” For more information log onto: www.alaffia.com.
With farms ranging in size from 11 to 150 acres, the 28 farmer-members of Big Tree Organic Farms Co-op organized in 1998, but many of the farmers began sustainably growing almonds decades beforehand. Today they are the leading supplier of organic almonds in the U.S. Log onto: www.bigtreeorganic.com.
Organized and founded in 1899 to serve area dairy farmers, the Brunkow Cheese Co-op still serves 32 farmers in the southwestern area of Wisconsin in Darlington. Greg Schulte serves as the current cheesemaker for the many varieties produced there, including a new organic line of cheeses. For more information see: www.pcmli.com/cw_bk.htm.
“The sandy-loamy soil and cool, dry temperatures in Wisconsin are a boon to ginseng cultivation,” said Mike Burmeister in his 2006 interview with the Reader. “American ginseng has been cultivated in my area for the longest time, and through selective breeding we are sure we have the best seed stock. Our ginseng has been testing to over 12 percent ginsenosides for over eight years. That’s five times as potent as the average American ginseng grown in Canada and China.” To read more about Burmeister Ginseng growing methods and the family’s history with ginseng, go to: www.willystreet.coop/Newsletter/Newsletter_Archive/0607/producer.html.
Smoked Baby Swiss, Limburger
Most notable as the last and only traditional cheeesemakers of Limburger cheese in the U.S., Chalet Cheese Co-op of Monroe, Wisconsin also produces a signature Deppeler and Smoked Baby Swiss, which can be found in the Willy Street Co-op cheese case. Myron Olson, an award winning Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, holds tightly to the traditional cheesemaking methods using the milk from their cooperative of farms.
Look for good things to come from this historic and sprawl-challenged farm on Madison’s south side. Drumlin Community Garden has found new life and has been incorporated as Drumlin Community Farm Producer’s Cooperative and Willy Street Co-op is happy to be featuring their locally grown produce. The farm, still threatened by advancing development, is very much alive, and now revenue generated from the Co-op will aid them in securing the land they’ve farmed on for decades to foster a new and self-sustaining community.
Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, tea
One of the first and most prolific Fair Trade purveyors, Equal Exchange products have been a mainstay for the conscientious consumer for nearly 20 years. From coffee to chocolate, tea and now tropical fruits, Equal Exchange was instrumental in helping to form the Co-operative Trade Movement and it was their commitment to promoting sustainable businesses that has pushed this initiative to a new level. Read all about their mission at: www.equalexchange.coop.
Fair Trade coffee
Just Coffee’s fresh-roasted coffee is still delivered using their the three-wheeled and truly revolutionary bike cart to the Willy Street Co-op, and other nearby businesses. As their worker co-op has grown, Just Coffee has also added a bio-diesel vehicle for trips outside the 5-mile radius around the Williamson Street neighborhood.
At Just Coffee, they believe that fresh is best, and of course bean quality is important. A significant element to remember about this coffee is that it never leaves the hands of a co-op. It starts by being purchased through a cooperative and in some cases grown by a cooperative.
Though a grower’s beans are harvested just once per year, each coffee bean crop is held in climate- and temperature-controlled storage to preserve the beans until they’re needed, then shipped and roasted just before packaging and delivery. For more information about Just Coffee, see the website at: www.justcoffee.coop.
Also a member-owned and -operated cooperative, each of the traditional family-operated farms produces high-quality goat milk to make an assortment of award-winning goat cheeses. Although their Creamery is located in Wisconsin, their farms are spread out across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Testing of the milk is conducted at each farm before the milk is pumped into the truck to make certain it is consistent with the cooperative’s high quality standards. With 20 farms currently in the cooperative and herd sizes ranging from 100 to 175 goats, the co-op is able to pool enough milk to produce an impressive line of goat cheeses. For more information about their cheese or the co-op, go to: www.buygoatcheese.com.
Breads, granolas, grain burgers
Willy Street Co-op might not be here today had we not had Nature’s Bakery to call our first “retail” space in 1973-74. The worker-owned cooperative now uses nearly all of the available space in their Willy Street bakehouse and offices to manage their regional and national markets. Their growth as an organization over the past 40 years has been no small feat for the collective, which makes all of the cooperative’s decisions together. Their website can be found at: www.naturesbakery.coop.
There are currently 1,652 small farms supplying the Organic Valley label and each of those farms belongs to the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). Their mission statement includes the need to support rural communities by protecting the health of the family farm—working toward both economic and environmental sustainability. Farmers in the Organic Valley cooperative of farmers have a role in setting their own prices and an opportunity to be elected to their Board of Directors. While not every one the Organic Valley products qualifies to be listed as “P6” and be included in our Cooperative Trade Movement, some of them are grown here in Wisconsin or within a 150-mile radius of the Capitol and on small farms. You can find a wealth of information about this cooperative at: www.organicvalley.coop.
Farmer-direct, Fair Trade coffee
The first and still the only farmer-direct cooperative directly supplying U.S. and European retailers with roasted coffees. Originally featured in the October, 2008 Reader, Pachamama (Mother Earth) Coffee Co-op represents 140,000 small-scale organic coffee farmers in five co-ops across five countries on three continents.
Farmer board members meet regularly to manage the democratically controlled cooperative’s affairs aided by their U.S. staff members in California and Madison.
To read more, go to: www.pachamama.coop.
Formed in 1998, this five-family cooperative in Southern Minnesota produces organic, 100% grass-fed butter. Each family farm shares the philosophy that grass-based farms are a better at maintaining good health for people and animals. To read more about the farms and families, go to: www.pastureland.coop.
Butter, cottage cheese, sour cream
Originally founded in 1903, Westby Cooperative Creamery now boasts fourth- and fifth-generation farmers among their 100 farm families in the Co-op. Located in the heart of Wisconsin’s dairy land in Vernon County, their farmers refrain from using any growth hormones and also run a certified organic processing facility. More information about their co-op and products can be found at: www.westbycreamery.com.
Deli, Bakery and Juice Bar items
In 2005, the Willy Street Co-op Kitchen, located at 1882 E. Main Street, started serving the needs of the Co-op and now employs over 25 people operating in two shifts per day. Josh Perkins, Kitchen Manager, has added several new products and programs to the Willy Street Co-op line-up, including a robust catering program. Josh’s attention to utilizing local, organic and quality ingredients only enhances the mission of the Willy Street Co-op and what better way is there to deliciously put your money where your mouth is.
In addition to the amazing selection of foods made for our Deli and Bakery, see what more you can order from our Catering department by visiting: www.willystreet.coop/catering.