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October is National Co-op Month and as if that weren’t exciting enough, this year we’re pleased to announce the launch of the Cooperative Trade Movement’s P6 Initiative as well. What is that, you ask? We’ll be printing an article to fully describe this new initiative in the October issue of the Reader, but we wanted to give you a preview of this revolution to strengthen the channels of cooperative and local trade in the United States. Local farmers and vendors, consumers and other Co-ops will benefit from this movement that borrows its name from the International Cooperative’s Principle 6, which binds us all to a commitment of Cooperation among Cooperatives.

Abbreviated, the symbol “P6” was chosen as a label to guide consumers toward sustainable food-buying choices. The three farms included in this year’s Farm Tour all qualify as P6 vendors because they provide family-farmed, local foods to our store. In response to feedback from previous tours, this year’s tour will feature less travel time and more touring time of these family farms in nearby western Dane County.

DreamFarm sits atop the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, and in the fall weather, could be one of the most breath-taking vistas on the tour. Owners Diana and Jim Murphy will lead us on a tour of the farm’s certified dairy facility and introduce us to their herd of Nubian and Alpine goats.

An artisanal cheesemaker, Diana milks 20 goats, two times daily, with some assistance from Jim, but the cheese making is a solo pursuit for Diana. After milking the goats, four at a time with a vacuum line into buckets, she hauls the milk from the milk house to the on-farm dairy where it’s pasteurized, then made into delicious goat cheese.

From cheeses to meats, Otter Creek Organic Farm in Black Earth, Wisconsin grows high quality, organic foods for their customers and their animals. Working on the philosophy that “a biologically balanced healthy soil makes for healthy plants, animals, and humans,” the Zimmer family brings us award-winning, seasonal, organic cheddars and certified organic, pasture-grazed meats through their sister company, Black Earth Meats. Gary and Rosie Zimmer, their son Nick and son-in-law Bartlett Durand have been on the forefront of Wisconsin’s organic agriculture movement and continue to find innovative ways to sustain it.

We will stop to eat lunch at the Otter Creek Farm, where we will enjoy a catered meal from the Willy Street Co-op Kitchen.

Steve and Beth Alberts’ philosophy on organic agriculture reaches far beyond the food they produce on their land; their broad approach to an organic lifestyle encompasses the health of the environment and the well-being of their community at large. The Alberts’ experiment in pasture-raising chickens began four years ago when their oldest son began selling eggs to friends and neighbors. The superior quality of their son’s eggs quickly convinced them of the flavor and nutritional benefits of raising poultry on healthy pasture where the birds can forage for insects and roam about as they please.

After a couple years of experimentation, the Albert family undertook the work needed to build the infrastructure necessary for a successful organic, pastured-raised laying hen operation, including construction of moveable pens to protect the hens from predators while on the pasture. Although over a decade had passed since any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides were used on Prairie Bluff Farm, sixty acres were officially certified organic in 2008.

Prairie Bluff Farm sells Pasture Patterns Eggs directly to consumers as part of a CSA share. The eggs are also sold in grocery stores in the Madison area, and their AA USDA rating for interior egg quality has led them to be sought after by local chefs as well.

Still a bargain at $15 for Owners ($25 for all others), including travel and lunch, we will embark on our P6 tour at 9:00am on Sunday, October 10th from the Co-op lot, and we’ll be rolling back in by 5:00pm. We’ll begin taking reservations for the “P6 Farm Tour” on September 1st, and you can register by stopping at the Customer Service desk or by calling 251-6776. When registering, you will be given an information packet with more about the tour and how to prepare for the tour.

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