We’ve heard it before, you left town on a big, fabulous vacation and realized when you got there that you forgot “something” and couldn’t find anything like it where you were. Or, you arrived and there was nothing for you to eat that didn’t have meat or cheese in it. To that end, our Co-op Services department has compiled a few producers and their products that may help you out in your travels, wherever they may lead you. Bon Voyage!
By Liz Hawley
Whether you’re climbing the quartzite at Devil’s Lake State Park or backpacking across Isle Royale, Macrobars are the perfect nutrient-packed snack to refuel while enjoying the great outdoors this summer. Macrobars, made by GoMacro, are a handy food for people on the go-they’re fresh and every ingredient is included for its nutritive qualities following the principles of macrobiotics. “Our products are made fresh for our customers as they’re ordered,” explained Jola Sonkin, co-founder of GoMacro. “The ingredient combinations are designed to meet an individual’s nutrition needs.”
Macrobiotics focuses on nutrient-based ingredients, with an emphasis on whole grains and seasonally available vegetables. The GoMacro website (www.gomacro.com) includes a brief history of macrobiotics but perhaps could best be summed up with the core principles of moderation, eating whole unrefined foods, and living in balance with one’s environment. These principles are the foundation upon which co-founders Jola and her mother Amelia Kirchoff built their company.
GoMacro, a woman- and family-owned business, operates in a barn-turned-certified-kitchen on Amelia’s farm in Viola, Wisconsin. With the help of four bakers, Amelia oversees the production of all the GoMacro products. Her focus on recipe development includes an experimental garden where she grows produce to test in new recipes. And from her home in California, Jola spreads her passion for macrobiotics through sales and marketing of the products she describes as having “a delicious taste and made with lots of care.”
Their hard work and passion for bringing delicious and healthy snacks to people has definitely been a success, as their business continues to grow each year. In fact, they recently purchased a building in Viola that will better support their expanding production needs. However, their growing company started with very humble beginnings. It all began when Amelia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, and Jola discovered macrobiotics in her search to find alternative and nutrition-based therapies to aid in her mother’s recovery. Amelia prepared her meals according to the macrobiotic principles during her radiation treatment, and as her health improved, her appetite for sweets also increased. Not wanting to abandon the macrobiotic principles, she began experimenting with baking cookies and bars using natural sweeteners, grains, and fruits that she grew on her farm.
The products of Amelia’s baking experiments were so delicious that Jola wanted to share them with others. Amelia agreed to bake some cookies for Jola to bring to her local health food store on the north side of Chicago. Demand was immediately so high, Amelia and Jola realized their fledgling business was on the right track. “We wanted to provide people with something we didn’t see on the market that was really, really healthy,” Jola said. “We wanted to create something that tastes great without one bad ingredient. It’s hard to create something that tastes this good with only healthy ingredients, and my mom did that. They really taste great.” And now, seven years later, GoMacro products are sold nationwide and are also exported to Canada and Japan.
Willy Street Co-op carries a variety of the Macrobar flavors, all of which are macrobiotic, vegan, gluten-free, and organic. So remember, when you’re planning summertime activities, whether it’s a day on the beach on Madeline Island, canoeing the backwaters of the Mississippi, kayaking the Kickapoo River, or camping in the Porcupine Mountains, these nutrient-dense bars made fresh in Viola, Wisconsin are a quick and healthy way to replenish your body’s energy reserves.
NORTH BAY TRADING COMPANY
By Dawn Matlak
North Bay Trading Company is a family business that began about 300 miles north of Madison in Brule, Wisconsin in 1987. For about 10 years, the business focused primarily on selling organic Canadian wild rice. Eventually, North Bay expanded to incorporate soup blends, then dehydrated vegetables and fruits.
Willy Street Co-op features a handful of North Bay products in the beloved bulk aisle. These items include soup mixes such as 32 Bean, Wild Rice, or Spicy Southwest. Look for their Dehydrated Vegetables, specially noted in a “Campsite Mix.” Besides the colorful contents within the bins, these products are also distinguishable by the bright slips of paper hanging outside each of the bins. These handy tags contain convenient take-home information for shoppers, listing preparation and usage instructions, along with shelf life, yield, and ingredients for each product.
My own interest in dehydrated items has increased since I began to facilitate monthly “No Secret to Savings” bulk aisle classes for Owners. Many of us are looking for that magical combination of affordable, convenient and healthy. Since dehydrated foods are often touted for their versatility, I wondered if or how they might fulfill these criteria. Used as long-term food storage, and for travel, emergencies, camping, outdoor recreation, and astronauts, they seem to have the potential to fit many niches. I am happy to report that my recent experiment with North Bay’s Campsite Mix expertly fulfilled that elusive standard of inexpensive, easy, and healthful.
Beginning with slightly less than a cup of the dried veggie mix, I approached the register and handed over the 78¢. Not one to follow directions, I mistakenly thought I could just add about a cup of hot water, despite the clear directions on the slip of paper that I took from the bin. [It said: “Soak one part veggies with three parts water for 15 minutes. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Add additional water if necessary.”] After soaking the veggies in hot water for 10 minutes, I decided to transfer it all to a pot, add about 1 1/2 cups more water, and began to heat it on low for about 10 more minutes. Salt and pepper made their obligatory appearances. When I went to transfer the veggies back to the bowl, I was amazed—it all just barely fit. (Apparently I had spaced the part where, with the addition of water, the reconstituted item would expand in volume....!)
I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The veggies were nourishing, and a bit spicy (probably from my excessive use of pepper) and left me satiated and imagining all the possibilities. Reconstitute with bouillon or stock? Take some of this on next train/plane/road trip? Add to rice or soups? Conduct a magical veggie re-hydration experiment with my niece?
With the return of the many bountiful farmers’ markets, and all the local produce making its way into our homes and mouths, it might be easy to overlook North Bay’s stellar bulk products. Perhaps you might introduce them as a pantry staple in your kitchen, or think to pick some up before your next camping excursion or space shuttle launch.
By Lynn Olson
Jane Hawley Stevens and her Four Elements Herbals in North Freedom, Wisconsin, specialize in growing herbs and creating herbal remedies from her 130-acre organic farm. In our native Wisconsin climate, Four Elements Herbals cultivates a cornucopia of organic herbs from astragulus to echinacea to St. John’s Wort, which enhance the body’s functioning and improve our lives.
After studying botany and horticulture at the UW-Madison in the late ‘70s, Jane continued her lifelong exploration of plant life and how herbs can help us to live better. Recognizing the growing need to revisit practical ways to treat illnesses, Jane built a greenhouse and began helping herself and friends through herbal remedies. “I had over 100 types of herbs on the farm, and in the ’80s, when antibiotics were really being abused, I felt it was so ridiculous, and I was amazed at how great herbs healed. I started using herbs on my family and started my own herb library.”
One of their newer products, Herbal Insect Repellent, is a plant-based, non-toxic repellent that combines a base of witch hazel with catnip, lavender, basil and sage. “The very nature of some herbs are sometimes as good as any insecticide,” Jane said, “which made it easy to put something together.” With only natural ingredients used in its production, the Insect Repellent is reportedly safe to use on small children as well as pets.
Another good camping/traveling product from the Four Elements Herbals garden, their shampoo bar, is made with entirely biodegradable ingredients and because it’s not a liquid, it won’t spill or be subject to air travel liquid regulations. Made from nettle, burdock, sage and rosemary, the shampoo bar leaves the hair with a shiny, beautiful look. Jane recommends scrubbing the bar on your hair and saving the world from another plastic container!
Still managing all of her own marketing and promotions, Jane is tirelessly committed to making a great product and keeping a small community of people employed. “Having small businesses in a community is so cornerstone because I can offer jobs to people who have families and they can still be flexible,” Jane said.
For more information or to see the complete line of products offered by Four Elements Herbals, see their website at: fourelementsherbals.com