I grew up in Cambridge on about two acres of land, one of which was dedicated to an orchard and garden. I still return home often to help, especially with the orchard. (You can’t beat a glass of fresh-squeezed cider.) The weather this spring and early summer has been interesting, to say the least. The first noticeable sign of the up and down weather patterns was the fact that the first batch of asparagus froze. That seemed to be an easy fix though, just chop off the frozen part and up it pops again. If only everything was as hardy as the asparagus patch. The peaches and apples seem to be doing alright despite the cold snaps. Unfortunately, we lost most of our plums and most of our pears. Such is the life of a small-scale farmer.
Our Delis realize the plight of our local small-scale farmers and really appreciate them and their hard work. The arrival of fresh vegetables and fruit picked just days ago rather than weeks ago is so wonderful. I’m glad we can pass that along to our Owners. In the Willy West Deli, we are afforded many opportunities to take advantage of using these small farms’ products to make dishes for our hot bar.
One of these small-scale farms is Keewaydin Farms located near Viola, Wisconsin, just outside of Viroqua. It was founded in 1976 by Richard and Mary Haucke. What started as mainly a dairy enterprise that was not certified organic has now grown. Now it is run by their son, Rufus Haucke and works together with 60 other small farms. Keewaydin has the ability to supply stores and a really good CSA. They are now Certified Organic by MOSA.
An interesting fact about these farms is that they lie in the Kickapoo Valley which has a large Amish community. Many of the farms contained within Keewaydin are Amish farms. The process of checking inventories, ordering and delivering becomes much more detailed when phones are not being utilized. This has taken Rufus a few years to figure out logistically. Basically, someone drives from farm to farm in the mornings and finds out what each farm has readily available, what will be ready in a week and what will be ready in a month. Then this information is taken and used to produce a list of available products for their customers to peruse. Then the driver returns to the road to deliver that day’s orders for each farm. Sounds like a nice job, driving the rolling hills of the Kickapoo Valley looking at crops and how nature is affecting them.
A wonderful system has arisen out of this and we are lucky enough to be receiving these beautiful products from them. We are diligently working on making more local dishes for our hot bar so by the time the Eat Local Challenge comes around (September 1st–28th) there should be a lot more options this year.
Some of the products that we are receiving are over-wintered sweet potatoes which are absolutely beautiful. We are making coconut mashed sweet potatoes, maple roasted vegetables and herb roasted sweet potatoes. The spinach we have been getting from them has also been amazing. This has allowed us to make Spinach Borek, a Turkish version of spanakopita made with flaky phyllo dough. We have also started to make quiche most days, which is kept in our service case. We have been able to purchase leeks from Keewaydin in this early season. With our spinach and leeks we made a vegan “creamy” spinach and leek soup. We’ve also received chives, oregano and thyme which are beautiful and so wonderful to have fresh.
We are looking forward to their mid-season production which will include eggplant. We’ll make many dishes from their eggplant, including Turkish eggplant, and two kinds of moussaka, one with lamb and beef and one vegetarian version. We will be getting green beans to make our roasted green beans and our green beans amandine, potatoes to make our mashed, vegan mashed and chipotle roasted potatoes and scallions to add to our scallion pancakes to give them a local flair. The list goes on, but as the season progresses we will be able to add salad bar toppings as local ingredients, such as broccoli, carrots, cucumbers and peppers.
Please look for P6 signs in our Delis and store wide indicating small-scale farms, local products and Co-op affiliation. Enjoy the warming of the season and come on out and enjoy our many local products.