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Local Produce

Wow, it’s hard to believe summer is almost over.  Where does the time go? I really enjoy Wisconsin summers, but love fall and winter! What I miss most  about summer, is the family’s summer schedule (or lack thereof). With the kids heading back to school, it’s time to transition from the loose schedule summer affords, to the tightly regimented, well-planned schedule of parenting (or at least trying my best) a first and fourth grader.

September is also a month of transition for the local farms and products we work with in the Produce departments. Heat-loving summer veggies are winding down. Fall veggies are ready for harvest. Local stone fruits come to an end just as the fall apples and pears start coming in. In the Produce department, large stone fruit and grape displays transition to apples and pears, tomato displays get slimmed down to accommodate for large winter squash displays. We see a transition in your purchases; sales in our storage category start to increase as sales in the fruit category decrease. Just like the seasons, it’s a natural annual cycle in the Produce department.

Why We Choose Local
This September, the Co-op is celebrating eating locally all month long! As Owners, we value local products for a number of reasons, including environmental, economical, and social. We understand that together, our cumulative efforts can help influence positive change towards sustainability in these systems.

And then, there’s the whole “It’s so good!” factor. For some local products, there’s really no comparison between the local item and its industry counterpart. I might be a bit of a produce snob, but the only similarity between local tomatoes, picked mature and ripe and tomatoes grown a thousand miles away is that they are both called tomatoes. The difference may not be as dramatic for some items, but when it comes to farm fresh fruits and veggies, you just can’t beat ’em.

Our Local Commitment to You
Each year in January, the Willy West and Willy East Produce buying teams get together with growers and start to plan. We work with a variety of farms using sustainable practices that support your values. Our purple produce signs indicate a locally sourced item. Unfortunately, we are currently restricted to the terms “organic” (green sign header) and “conventional” (yellow sign header) as production indicators. Don’t let the purple sign with the yellow (conventional) header deter you from a local purchase. We work with a number of growers who are passionate about sustainability, but are not certified organic. If you have questions regarding their practices, feel free to look them up online and inquire personally, or just ask one of our Produce staff.

September Highlights
All month long we’ll be featuring locally grown produce. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a time of transition for local produce, and because of this, we should be able to offer some good prices on those items local growers are looking to get out of the fields before Mother Nature gets the best of them. In addition to good promotional pricing, look for good quality. A lot of products are glad to see the end of summer, and welcome the cooler temperatures. The temperatures produce some of the best greens, both salad and cooking, of the year.

If you’re shopping on a budget, or just looking for a good deal, look for the following items on our weekly Owner Rewards promotions. We’ll work with the growers to secure good pricing, and hopefully, the weather will cooperate.

    • Peppers: Look for promotions on colored peppers, especially the standard Red Bell and Sweet Italian Fryer varieties. You can chop them up and freeze them in a freezer bag: they’re perfect for cooking. The Sweet Italian Fryer is my favorite, and is the primary ingredient in my homemade enchilada sauce.

    • Tomatoes: Get your canning equipment ready; it’s time to make sauce! And, there should be plenty of other local items to throw in the pot as well—garlic, onions, peppers and herbs. I like to can some whole, some pureed, and some as a base ready for pasta or chili.

    • Salad Greens: look for deals on bulk or packaged spring mix from Harmony Valley Farm, and get your end of the local season salad fix in. Once temps fall below freezing, it’s going to be gone.

    • Peaches: If we’re lucky, Healthy Ridge’s peaches from Door County will go into early September. Keep an eye out for these, as promotions last only as long as the product is available.

September is a great month for local produce. We’ll have an abundant variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables throughout the month. Stop in and get some, it’s going to be great.