Produce Department News - July 21st, 2015

Greetings Tri-States! We have been so busy down here in the Millwork District and boy, has it been an exciting growing season thus far! I’ll be talking about all things local for the most part, because let’s face it—we have such awesome farmers in our area and they really deserve some recognition! Because we have access to such clean and local food, I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite summertime recipes!

Local Produce News

Kate from The Kitchen Garden in Mt. Carroll, Illinois has been dropping off some of the most beautiful veggies! She is our second Certified Naturally Grown producer and we’re proud to able to carry her products. Kate’s snap peas have that crunch to them that makes you reach for another before you’ve finished the first one! Also coming from The Kitchen Garden are beans (green, yellow and purple), fennel, and cucumbers. Speaking of which, we’re now carrying slicing and pickling cucumbers AND in our bulk herb section we carry pickling spice. Stop on down and get going on those pickles you’ve been dying to make!

The carrot season is rolling along nicely as well. The Dubuque Food Co-op is proud to carry bulk and 2 lb. bagged carrots from Two Onion Farm located in Belmont, WI. Adam’s Garlic in nearby Cassville, WI just delivered their first round of dragon carrots. But hey, don’t let the name scare you—they’re purple and flashy, with a great crunch to them. They’re great with dips or any other dish you’re looking for some color!

Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI has been producing like a champ! We’ve had their cherry tomatoes in the store for a couple of weeks now and we just love ‘em! Their first round of broccoli came in last week as well. If you haven’t had freshly picked, local, organic broccoli, I suggest you come down and pick some up. It just doesn’t compare with the ‘other stuff’.  The Honey Hill family also has been providing pink radishes and green onions. In the coming weeks, we’re excited to see more from the Honey Hill family!

Other local folks are getting their first round of tomatoes in and we’ll see slicing tomatoes hitting the shelves very soon! King’s Hill Farm located in Mineral Point, Wisconsin has been supplying us with petite celery, zucchini and cucumbers. The quality is flawless and you can tell they put so much love into growing their produce!

Other Produce News

What about the stuff that comes from further away? Avocados are starting to creep up in price as we start to see the California avocados supply dwindle. According to market reports, the Californian avocado season will finish sooner than anticipated with a lull before the fruit starts arriving in from Mexico. Mango production is going extremely well and we’re seeing great prices which means we’re running a mango sale until prices increase, so come on down and grab a couple. You won’t be disappointed.

The fires in California have been calmed by record rainfall but unfortunately it’s not enough for the golden state. Farmers are consistently having challenges growing the lush produce that we’re used to. Along with that comes price increases. I believe we’ve moved into a new era of food prices because of this drought out west and the damage it has caused all of the hard working farmers. California supplies a majority of the US with produce and we’ll likely see that reflected in prices in the years to come.

Because we’re in the height of our local season, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out just what to do with some of those veggies. I’ve included some links to some of my favorite recipes below. Go ahead, check them out, print those bad boys and make some delicious summer food for friends and family!

-Leah, Produce Lead

Produce Department News - June 23rd, 2015

Happy summer everyone! As we all know, the rain and sunshine have been plentiful and we’re grateful for such great growing conditions, and we’re starting to see more and more local items on our shelves (woo hoo!) Below, you’ll be able to read about our awesome local growers, the certified naturally grown products we’re now carrying and what is going on with our neighbors out west. Please, read on!

We received a shipment in of garlic scapes from our friends at Adam’s Garlic located in Cassville, WI. Scapes are the long, wispy greens that have yet to flower from the garlic plant. There extremely versatile and can be used in stir-frys, made into a fabulous pesto that stores well in your freezer (who doesn’t want that taste of summer in the middle of winter?) and can be substituted for use in recipes that call for green garlic, chives, or even onions. Two Onion Farm located in Belmont, WI has gotten off to a great start as well. We now have their lacinato kale and summercrisp lettuce on the shelves. By weeks end, we’ll be carrying their carrots in bulk and in bags. If you’ve never had a carrot from Two Onion Farm, come in and try a sample, you will not be disappointed (nor will you ever want a carrot from anyone else). Next week we’ll be receiving our first shipment in of greenhouse cherry tomatoes from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI. Nothing says summer like tomatoes! Also next week, we’ll see pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers and other goodies such as salad turnips, baby kale, fennel, zucchini, and green onions all coming in from our dedicated local producers.

Garlic Scapes from Adam's Garlic

We’ve expanded our roster of local producers by now carrying Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) products. What is this all about you ask? The certification is very similar to the USDA Organic certification with a couple of minor differences. First, growers pay lower certification fees and less paperwork. That is a big win for our local growers whose time is so limited because of lack of labor and let’s face it, they need to be in the gardens and fields giving love to those fruits and veggies! CNG inspections are peer-reviews carried out by fellow farmers and others in the community. This technique fosters trust and direct relationships that support learning and networking. Don’t fret, CNG doesn’t skimp on their guidelines. In relation to the USDA Organic certification, CNG farms are managed to foster biodiversity and ecological balance and the standards require firm commitment to farming without GMOs and synthetic inputs. You will see CNG producer items on our shelves that are clearly identified. If you would like to read more about this certification (or lookup a farm) please click here.

We’ve been seeing broccoli prices rather high from out west as of late. This is in response to the Bagrada bug. It enjoys feeding on young cole crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips and radishes. They say we’ll see relief in July. By that time, we hope to have access to local broccoli here at the co-op. The remaining citrus is also declining, tending to drive prices higher than the norm. Lemons will be gapping soon, meaning we’ll have limited supplies at the store until imports get going. Apples and pears out of Argentina and Chile are plentiful and we’re seeing prices decrease slowly. As we all know, we’re in the height of berry season, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are all coming in beautiful! As for stone fruit—it’s looking pretty excellent. Some of the sizing is running small. Pluots are in as well as some gorgeous nectarines that are so juicy. We’ve had cherries in from Washington and Northern California and with the excess rain the pricing is beginning to go down.  Avocado prices are also increasing slowly as California wraps up their season and we transition to Mexican avocados.

Stay tuned folks, you’ll see another blog before you know it. It’s the best time of year in the produce world! 

Produce Department News - May 30th, 2015

We’ve made it! There is a lot to celebrate down here in the Millwork district. First and foremost, we just turned one year old. What a wild and fun ride it has been, and we are excited about moving into our second year as your local, community owned food co-op. We’re trucking along right into the local growing season and words cannot express how thankful we are. The rainfall has been plentiful and we’re enjoying great growing temperatures as well. Spring really is the best time of year here; it signals the end of long, wintery days and brings about new life everywhere you look. Below, you can read all about our local producers (our list is a-growing) and what’s up with the national produce scene.

What’s up locally?

I love asparagus, partly because it’s one of our earliest local veggies and the other part—it’s simply delicious (and healthy of course). Did you know that asparagus has been consumed since ancient times and works as a natural diuretic? It contains vitamins A, C, E, and K and folate. We’re continuously receiving shipments in from Charlie at South Slope Gardens here in Dubuque, IA. Additionally, to meet demand we’ve added another producer to the roster: Kings Hill Farm in Mineral Point, WI who has also surprised us with the most amazing PURPLE asparagus. This variety is more tender than the traditional green asparagus and it contains much higher levels of antioxidants.

Honey Hill Organic Farm has been delivering their radishes and slicing cucumbers. Fortunately, they have a greenhouse so we’re able to provide goodies a tad earlier than outdoor growers. I received word that it won’t be long before sungold tomatoes are ready to come into our store. We also have baby kale from Honey Hill. The leaves are young and tender and are so versatile. Looking for a healthy addition to your salad, sandwich, or stir fry? Baby kale is an excellent fit! Next week, the local supply of spinach will be much more plentiful and we’ll see it in the bulk bin here.

Has everyone seen the rhubarb we have in this year? It’s gorgeous and screaming to be put into a pie, desert bar, or some other recipe you have lying around (right along with some strawberries). King’s Hill Farm has been bringing in the most lovely of rhubarb that you can see was harvested with such care and it’s so fresh!

Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI has been rocking their spring like no other! We have numerous varieties of tomato plants (heirloom, paste, slicing and cherry). We have seedlings that include onions, kale (3 types), broccoli, cabbage, mint, hyssop, basil, strawberry hanging baskets, zucchini, cucumber, parsley, cilantro and more! This week we’ll also see our first shipment of crimini mushrooms in the house! Soon after that, oyster mushrooms will reclaim their spot on our shelves.

Two Onion Farm in Belmont, WI will be bringing their (long-awaited) lacinato/dino kale in for the first delivery of the season on Friday, May 29. I cannot wait to say goodbye to California kale and welcome in our local supply! Along with the kale delivery will come fresh heads of lettuce. The quality of these items is second to none and I applaud Two Onion on their attention to quality. The McGuire family really has it going on!

National Produce News

What’s up out West? The stone fruit is moving in. Everything from peaches to plums to pluots have found their way back. To refresh your memory from last season, Pluots are a cross between an apricot and a plum. Sometimes they’re referred to dinosaur eggs because of their dappled skin. Pluots are a staff favorite here at the co-op, you just can’t go wrong with such a juicy piece of fruit! The apricot supply has been a little shifty but hopefully we’ll see more steady supplies. We have two varieties to choose from, white or yellow. What’s the difference you ask? White peaches tend to be sweeter and contain low levels of acid. Their taste is best when either soft or firm. As for the more common yellow peach, they contain higher levels of acid and are best when soft. Both are excellent eaten out of hand and the jury is still out on which variety is better to bake with as both are used interchangeably in dishes.

The U.S. apple supply has been exhausted and we’re seeing imports come in from Argentina and Chile. We’ll likely see the imports until the fall when local supplies (and those from Washington) amp up. In the meantime, check out our berry selection. The berry production is moving full steam ahead and we have lots of great deals right now! Come on down and check us out if you haven’t!

Produce Department News - May 12th, 2015

Greetings tri-state area! We’re moving full steam ahead into the growing season and have much to share with you. Many of the crops are transitioning back to U.S. farms and we’re seeing less and less come from international suppliers. Our local farmers have been busy during the last few weeks for which we are grateful. Below, we’ll be discussing what is going on with the local and not-so-local scenes, ugly fruits and vegetables and some other random produce news.

LOCAL FARM NEWS

Tree of Life Gardens down the road in Cuba City, WI has been working against the clock. We’ve received in numerous varieties of tomato plants from cherry tomatoes to large slicing heirlooms—we’ve got ‘em. Also, we have many types of herbs and other veggies that are screaming to be put into your garden or containers so come on by and check out the selection. As always, these plants are certified organic. We don’t stop there with planting; we also have all your soil needs covered. Need compost, potting mix, or tomato GRO? We’ve got you covered there also!

A new local farm we’ve added to the roster, Hideaway Gardens in Durango IA, has delivered their first round of local veggies. We have local bulk spinach and Easter Radishes. For the last week or so, we’ve had local asparagus in as well, coming in from South Slope Gardens from right here in Dubuque. The asparagus is picked twice a week so you can bet it’ll be fresh, tender and a great addition to any meal! Next week, we’ll have local slicing cucumbers in from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI. Other local growers, from a little further north in Viroqua, WI have also been busy. Keewaydin Farms has sent us some beautiful watercress and Harmony Valley has harvested the most beautiful ramps. It is an exciting time of year for local produce and this is just the tip of the iceberg!

SEASONAL UPDATES

'Tis the season for the end of citrus and the beginning of stone fruit! Who’s ready for peaches, nectarines, and pluots? WE ARE!! We’re seeing decreasing supplies of oranges, grapefruit, and mandarins but have no fear—we’ll still have them on the shelves, just not as many. White peaches arrived in last week. We’ll see other varieties of peaches this week as well as some nectarines. Following that, will be the Pluots (or apriums). What is a pluot you ask? Pluots are a cross (not a GMO) between an apricot and a plum. They are sweet, fragrant and juicy. They’re a staff favorite around here so we’re all super-excited about their grand arrival into the co-op.

The best piece of fruit I can remember eating was also the ugliest. It wasn’t too long ago, my counterpart Linda, Produce Manager at the Viroqua Food Co-op, handed me a bruised and browed pear. This particular pear had been removed from the sales floor due to aesthetics and rightfully so. It just wasn’t pretty. I’ll admit it, when I took my first bite, fireworks happened—in my mouth. Sweet and juicy it was. So juicy, I had to wipe my face off. It truly amazed me that something so ugly and unwanted to could taste so succulent and contain that much flavor. So why tell this story? We’re conditioned as consumers to choose the most beautiful produce from the store shelves. Whether organic or conventional, growers strive to meet these high standards. With the drought out west and other factors effecting quality, we as shoppers need to be more accepting of “ugly produce”. In the organic world, where traditional pesticides and fertilizers are banned, farmers face more hurdles in order to ensure the most beautiful of products make it to the store shelves. Let’s take grapefruit for example. All winter, our supplies have come from a producer in Texas. Unfortunately, the winds down in that region affected the skins on the grapefruit, making them not so pretty. But how about the taste—out of this world! So the next time you’re considering which fruit or veggie to choose on the store shelves—the uglier the tastier! 

Produce Department News - April 25th, 2015

Whoa! Spring is here folks! Plants are coming up, animals are on the move, and how about this sunshine? The sounds and smells of spring time make the winter almost seem long ago. It is the harsh winters that make spring here in the tri-states so deserved and welcomed!

Here at your community owned co-op, we’re starting to see signs of spring within the produce department. The first few deliveries of Micro Greens from River Root Farms (right down the road in Decorah, Iowa) have arrived in. We’re seeing pea tendrils, micro kale, micro arugula and a tiny greens mix from those folks. Another sign of spring—Mushrooms! We have a new producer on our roster this year, James Rang from right here in Dubuque who will be providing many varieties of Shiitake mushrooms. We’ve all heard the talk of shiitakes and we know they’re healthy, but just what kind of benefits do these bad boys pack? Well, for starters they’ve been used by the Chinese for at least 6,000 years. Shiitake mushrooms are very high in iron which is great for folks not consuming regular amounts of meat. The mushrooms also have high concentrations of B vitamins, niacin, choline, and folate. Additionally, they are concentrated in minerals, being an excellent source of selenium and copper, a very good source of zinc, and a good source of manganese. Nutritionally, shiitake’s provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits along with providing immune support. These powerhouses are great in any kind of dish that calls for mushrooms. But if you’re looking for a recipe that is specific to the variety, check this one out

Of course with spring here, it wouldn’t be complete without certified organic seedlings from Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI! The first week in May we’ll have a comprehensive selection of vegetables and herbs. We’re not stopping there either! It is scientifically proven that without good soil, your plants will not thrive. We’re proud to announce that we’re the only spot in Dubuque providing you with Purple Cow Organics potting soil and soil additives from down the road in Middleton, WI. We’ll be carrying a great selection including potting mix (great for containers and pots), activated compost (manure free) and Tomato GRO (a soil improver with higher levels of calcium, magnesium, and potassium that not only helps tomatoes but peppers and eggplants also). All products from Purple Cow Organics are OMRI certified and contain only ingredients approved by the USDA for organic certification/production.

On a national level, produce growing regions are transitioning from Mexico and other South American areas back into the U.S. With that, we’re seeing some price increases for domestic items—especially those grown in the drought-stricken regions of California and don’t forget Washington!  Recently, during a personal trip to California I was able to see first-hand just how devastated the landscape really is. Driving through the Napa valley where millions of tons of grapes are grown for their famous and sought after wines, I saw dry, crumbling land for as far as the eye could see. My friend who I was with, simply said “this is spring in Napa”. I was astonished! Spring to Californians has been hit or miss over the last five years. There are talks of how to move water into the central and southern valleys. Will it be a pipeline from the great lakes or will involve the desalination of ocean water? With these questions swirling around in farmers, politicians and consumers minds, it brings up the ever so important conversation of relying on our own growing region year round and how to accomplish such.

  

Produce Department News - March 10th, 2015

The snow has melted, the snow has melted! Spring must be right around the corner. At least that’s our mindset here at your community owned co-op! Spring is such a great time in our area!

We’ve got our seed rack out, carrying local seeds from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. The rack is filled with the best sellers from our region so you’ll see some familiar and no-so familiar varieties.  Stay tuned because soon we’ll have in local seedlings from Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI. All seedlings will be certified organic which means no GMO’s!

Throughout the long winter, we’ve been fortunate enough to have carried local carrots until just last week. What a milestone! Tree of Life has done the most magnificent job providing local bulk and bagged carrots to us here. A big thanks to Tree of Life and Small Family Farm for their dedication to our community and our store! Way to go!

One thing that keeps us, and our local farmers on our toes are conferences during the winter months. Last week, I was able to attend the largest organic farming conference in the U.S. with our Grocery Lead, David Kolck and one of our foundation farmers, Carrie Post from Honey Hill Organic Farm. We all jumped in Carrie’s van and headed to the MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) Conference in La Crosse, WI for two days of learning and networking. We attended workshops on everything from fermentation to new rules pertaining to the organic standards. We ran into countless familiar faces and were also fortunate to meet new farmers that are interested in selling their organic goodies to us here in Dubuque. We were noticed frequently by folks, curious to know what is going on in Dubuque for good food. We proudly told them of our co-op, our community, and of course our mission. Below is a photo of Carrie thanking C.E.O. George Siemon of Organic Valley and David speaking with Patrick from the Organic Consumer Association. We had a great time!

Now let’s talk store shelves…We still have some pretty excellent citrus coming in from California. Mandarins are EVERYWHERE! We also have some tasty tangerines!  You might run into a seed or two, but every bite is worth it! There are numerous varieties still available here, so come on in and check them out. Now is an excellent time to make orange marmalade for when you’re craving that citrus in the middle of summer when citrus prices soar!  Or how about sliced kumquats to give that salad of yours a kick?

We’re excited to see berries on the shelves! Whether you’re looking for strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or blueberries—we’ve got you covered. We’ll likely begin to see the prices decrease soon. Most berries are coming in from Mexico but we’re seeing some varieties transition back to the U.S. which is a good sign!

Interestingly enough, fruit and vegetable production is moving out of the desert regions and back into the valleys of California. With that, we’ll be seeing a shortage of grapes. As of right now, I’m only able to find red grapes with small seeds in them. Surprisingly, the seeds are mellow in taste and not bitter in the least, so you can crunch right through them with no trouble at all. According to industry specialists, we likely won’t see organic grape supplies until April/May.

Before we know it, we’ll be in the depths of summer with so many local, organic produce items  to choose from! Here’s to a smooth start to spring for our farmers—Cheers!

-Leah

Produce Department News - Feb 15, 2015

As we are knee deep in snow and waiting for spring (very impatiently) we want to share with you all of the good things that have been going on in the ever-changing produce world!

We still have local supplies of spaghetti squash from Honey Hill Organic Farm in nearby Potosi. Over this past winter, these have become a personal favorite of mine. The squash can be easily baked and the inner flesh is perfect as the main course or as a side dish that even the pickiest of eaters will love! Just the other night, I made spaghetti squash alfredo—one of the easiest dinners I’ve ever put together.

Other local items include onions from Two Onion Farm in Belmont, WI and we also are lucky enough to have brand new 2 lb. bags of carrots in from Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI. We’re also still receiving in rutabagas, red beets and those delicious bulk carrots in from Tree of Life also.

Rumor on the street is that citrus season is beginning to wind down. Have no fear! There is still plenty of fresh, vitamin C-laden fruit on our shelves. Luckily, we have mandarinquats, kumquats, blood oranges, valencias, navels, mandarins (seedless of course), lemons and limes. A recent customer and staff favorite are the blood oranges. These beauties come from our neighbors out west in Cali. They pack a flavor punch like no other and it’s hard to eat just one! We’ve been sampling them frequently, so come on down and try some!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to sit down with the local farmers that did such a great job filling our shelves last season. We’ve been busy planning, discussing seed varieties, and season extension. To say I have love for these farmers is an understatement. Their dedication and enthusiasm is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever been a part of. The love, attention, and hard work they give to ensure the cleanest fruits and veggies are accessible to all the folks in the Tri-States area is inspirational!

Because we’re so ready for spring, in the following days you’ll see our brand new Seed Savers Exchange seed rack in the store. Our friends at Seed Savers in Decorah have provided us with fruit and veggie seeds that grow excellent in the area. If you’re unfamiliar with these folks, please check them out. If you’re looking for heirloom, open pollinated and/or organic seeds—they are the most excellent option!

Stay warm out there Tri-states and have no fear, days will be getting longer soon…In less than a month. Don’t forget about daylight savings time on March 8. Before you know it, we’ll be enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and spring veggies!

-Leah

Produce Department News - Dec 29, 2014

Fa la la la! Happy holidays from our family here at the co-op to yours! We’ve been busy in the produce department as of late and cannot wait to share all the latest and greatest with you. We are rolling into the peak of citrus season (thank you Florida, California and Texas!). When I think of citrus, the first thing that pops into my mind of course, is an orange. But there is so much more! We’re pulling in some of your more rare citrus here at the Dubuque Food Co-op. This week we’re seeing kumquats, mandarinquats, blood oranges and cara cara oranges arrive. All of which have arrived beautiful, ripe and ready to eat! I put together a handy little guide about these rare (and not-so rare) citrus that now grace our store shelves:

  • Kumquats: A little larger than a table grape, these little flavor bombs are eaten whole, peel and all. They’re fabulous in marmalades or in sauces vinegarettes. The peel is actually sweeter than the flesh. So when you eat them, it’s a combination of sweet and tart.
  • Mandarinquats: These interesting fruits are a cross between a kumquat and a mandarin. Like the kumquat, they too can be eaten whole—peel and all! They are larger than kumquats and have a much deeper orange color. They can be eaten raw and also cut up and put into salads or pair nicely with cheese. Cooked they are excellent in sauces, preserves and purees.
  • Cara Cara Oranges: A variety of navel discovered in 1976 in Venezuela Cara Caras look like traditional navel oranges on the outside. However, looking inside shows a beautiful pink flesh that offers a cranberry-like taste and the fruit is seedless! The oranges also contain less acid.
  • Blood Oranges: One of the tastiest citrus out there! The skin of these showcase orange and red blushing. Open them up and you’re in for a treat, literally! The flesh is bright to deep red and the taste is tart-sweet with berry-like undertones. Blood oranges are best eaten fresh and  look beautiful accompanying cocktails.

FARMER UPDATES

Locally we still have ample squash supplies. Honey Hill Organic Farm stopped by last week to show a couple new ways to whip up easy and healthy squash recipes. One was as simple as this (be warned, it’ll make you hungry just reading it):

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 4 colored mini sweet peppers
  • Your favorite cooking oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Butter
  • Shredded parmesan cheese (as much or as little as you like)
  • Garlic powder

Quarter the spaghetti squash and clean out seeds.  Place face up on baking sheet or dish and rub flesh with oil to cover.    Dice the colored peppers and place them inside the curve of the squash.  Bake for 45-55min. at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to fork the flesh out of the squash, add butter, cheese, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.    

Small Family Farm CSA in La Farge, WI is sending over their cipollini onions. Wondering how best to bring out the flavor and add a little ‘fancy’ to a meal? How about Cipollini onions braised in red wine? Check out this 5 ingredient recipe that will wow your friends and family! 

As we near the close of 2014, I’d like to express my gratitude to the farmers and community members that have supported our mission at the Dubuque Food Cooperative! We’re all greatly looking forward to 2015. Cheers and Happy New Year to everyone!

Produce Department News - Dec 7, 2014

Howdy everyone! What a lovely winter we’re having so far in Dubuque and the Tri-state area! The snow has held off and temps have been cold but steady. Because of this, we’re still fortunate enough to be sourcing as much local produce as possible despite the weather. Some of our farmers have transitioned into their greenhouses in order to extend their growing seasons. That means that yes, you can come on by the co-op and pick up some cherry tomatoes or mini sweet peppers that were grown right down the street in Potosi, Wisconsin.

This is also the time of year when produce prices start to increase. Why is this you ask? Numerous reasons, but it all boils down to the season we’re currently in. As winter begins to blanket most of the United States, we’re left to rely on our friends out West in California. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the drought that California has been experiencing is the worst in 1,200 years according to a study completed by the University of Minnesota. You can read about it here. With that being said, produce is arriving from all over the world to fill the U.S. demand. It is due to this, that we as a community need to rely more on the area we live to eat locally.

FARMER UPDATES

It’s time for Brussels sprouts everyone! We just received the last and final local shipment of delicious, organic certified Brussels sprouts in from The Thimmesch Farm in La Farge, WI. I’ll warn you, they’re an amazing hue of green and so tasty! Whether roasted in olive oil, boiled and slathered in butter, or blanched and put into your fave side dish, they’re awesome and so versatile!

Honey Hill Organic Farm stopped by this week (as previously mentioned) to give us some goodies that are so rare this time of year. Cherry tomatoes and mini sweet peppers are back on the shelves folks! They won’t last long so come on in and pick some up! Don’t forget about the squash—spaghetti, acorn and butternut are still plentiful and there are so many ways to “dress them up” the possibilities are endless. Let’s not forget that roasting and baking helps keep your house warm J

Two new farms have shown up on the radar as of lately also. We’re excited to welcome Small Family Farm CSA from La Farge, WI on board as well as Kings Hill Farm located in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Both are certified organic operations and are run by small families. Small Family Farm CSA is providing us with celeriac (also known as celery root), 2 lb. orange carrot bags, red onions, and cipollini onions (sweet and excellent braised in red wine!). Kings Hill is supplying us with red and gold potatoes that are perfect for mashing, roasting and of course baking. After all, who can resist a baked potato with all of the fixin's?!?

To say winter months can be a struggle while farming is an understatement. Growing up on an organic farm, there were no shortages of challenges during the cold and snowy months. I remember water systems freezing up and animals needing water meaning we had to run hoses to the chickens, cattle and others that needed it. Storms, freezing rain, outrageous amounts of snowfall and the like can be a cause for numerous challenges for farmers. For all of the work our farmers do and the conditions they endure, I ask that you thank your farmer next time you see them. It will mean the world to them…trust me :-)

Produce Department News - Nov 19, 2014

As Thanksgiving approaches, I consistently reminisce about what I’m thankful for. I am fortunate to be working with a small and tight knit group of folks that I can no longer call my “co-workers” because to me, they are my family. We have all worked together for nearly eight months and I couldn’t ask for a better work environment. The dynamic team I am apart of strives every day to bring healthy, local and organic food to the tri-states area with such dedication and hard work. I am also thankful for the community support we’ve received and those that believe in us and the mission we work so hard to achieve. Last but of course not least, I’m thankful for our hardworking farmers that work meticulously to bring fresh, organic produce into our store. The farmers we partner with work days and nights no matter the ever-changing weather patterns we so frequently see here in the Midwest. It is our farmers who we rely on for so many things. Aside from the food they produce, they keep our land fertile and increase biodiversity and most importantly, they keep family farms going. In a world dominated by big agriculture and corporations supplying us with “franken-foods”, keeping families on their farms is a top priority. It doesn’t matter what time of year you thank a farmer, because they work year round. So sometime soon, please thank a farmer!

Farmer Updates

How about the dustings of snow we’ve seen in the area as of lately? I hope everyone is starting to pull out their winter recipes and getting ready for that comfort food we all love to enjoy during the winter months! We still have a supply of orange and white fleshed sweet potatoes from Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City. These delicatable taters won’t last long folks! The season is ending quickly!

This Saturday, November 22nd, come on down to the co-op and meet some of your farmers that finally have some free time! Tree of Life Gardens, Two Onion Farm and North American Black Garlic will be in the store sharing their winter recipes with the shoppers and offering up tips on their products. It’ll be the perfect time and place to warm up and learn a little more about cooking seasonally and of course, sample some goodies!

Recently, we brought in carrots from Jillian and her growing little family at Small Family Farm, in La Farge, WI. We now have their 2lb. bags in stock and they’re quite a hit amongst staff and shoppers alike! We’ll be carrying bulk carrots and rutabagas from Tree of Life as long as we possibly can. Don’t forget about squash! We’ve got you covered from acorn to butternut to spaghetti all coming from Honey Hill Organic Farm right down the road in Potosi, WI.

This week, we’ll be seeing some local Brussel sprouts come in from the Thimmesch Farm in La Farge, WI. Interestingly enough, these folks are neighbors and share a ridge with our carrot growers! The Brussel sprouts look amazing and taste the same. Just in time for your holiday meals!

Produce Department News - November 1, 2014

Greetings everyone! Thank you for checking out our blog. We have some exciting news in the produce world and are eager to share. The local is season wrapping up quick (man, it got chilly quick!) but there are still excellent options for eating seasonally. Did you know that’s one of the easiest ways to keep your produce costs down? If you eat items that are in season, you’ll save quite a few bucks. However, with the advent of chain grocery stores, we’ve forgotten how to buy and eat seasonally. But we’re here to help you at the Dubuque Food Cooperative whether it be finding out the difference between gold and red beets or how to prepare delicata squash, we have the details to help you out!

Farmer Updates

Locally we’re seeing a good selection of root crops and squash still and will continue to do so throughout the winter fingers crossed. Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City WI is still hooking us up with red and gold beets, carrots, onions, white and orange fleshed sweet potatoes and celery. We’ve been so fortunate to have carried dino/lacinato kale from Two Onion Farm located in Belmont WI throughout the summer and fall. It’s coming to an end unfortunately, as all good things do. Stop in today and stock up! This kale is so fresh, nicely packed and crisp. It’s fabulous for sautéing or putting into a salad. Local lettuce from Two Onion will also be wrapping up shortly as well. Although the season is ending, we’re so thankful to have been able to carry these products from such awesome farmers!

Honey Hill Organic Farm is still providing their delicious mini sweet peppers. These are so handy, everyone should have a package in their fridge! They’re colorful and a great in any meal. Whether it be adding them to get some color in your dish or stuffing them and baking for a little bit, they’re extremely versatile! Also coming in from Honey Hill is squash and lots of it. Organic spaghetti, acorn and butternut squash are all priced at $ 0.99/lb you can’t beat it!

Season Updates

We’re still enjoying apple season here at the store. Whether dipping them into caramel sauce or having Andie’s Apple Gouda ‘Wich in our deli we have your apple craving handled! We currently have 11 varieties of apples in the department and there are info cards to learn about each one.

  • Fuyu and Hachiya Persimmons are in full swing from out west. To simply say they’re delicious is an understatement. Never had one before? Either had I…Now I have a mild obsession with them!
  • We’ve missed these gals but Pink Lady apples are back in the house!
  • We’ve expanded our fresh cut section: Diced onions, diced carrots, coleslaw, broccoli florets, and sweet potato fries now grace our shelves. For those of you in a hurry but want fresh cut organic produce, to incorporate into your meals, this is for YOU! It’s so convenient!
  • Bosc pears just arrived in from Washington. These are best for those that like a crisp, firm pear. They are ideal for poaching and baking and retain their shape well.
  • We have citrus! It’s the beginning of citrus season. Yesterday, we welcomed in tangelos (a cross between a grapefruit and tangerine) and tangerines from the sunshine state.
  • Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are in from Harmony Valley Farm, located in Viroqua WI. What are they, you ask? They’re similar in nature to potatoes and turnips but belong to the sunflower family. They’re awesome roasted simply with olive oil and your choice of herbs.

Produce Department News - October 16, 2014

Fall greetings to our Owners and non-owners alike! It’s that time of year to be pickling, canning and preserving all of the luscious, local summer produce that has been so bountiful over the last few months. As we move into fall, we’re starting to see a whole new array of products being offered locally and from afar. It’s an exciting time for produce!

Farmer Updates

I am consistently reminded of how extraordinary our local farmers are. The diversification in their operations has been able to provide the tri-states community with so many different products! I stopped by Little Maquoketa Organics last week to check out their wide array of squash and pumpkins. To my surprise, there were delicata, kabocha, winter luxury, New England pie pumpkins, and last but certainly not least, the Queensland Blue. All varieties have made it to the co-op’s shelves with the exception of the Queensland Blue—these bad boys are heavy, starting around 20lbs. each! We’re looking at bringing them in soon, stay tuned! We also are offering up squash from Honey Hill Organic Farm. Butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash have been making their appearance around the store and these are amazing! Roast ‘em, bake ‘em, make ‘em into soup—it’ll help keep you warm and add some warmth (and mouth-watering aromas) to your house!

Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI had a nice surprise last week, local celery and carrots are now in the house! In addition, we have gold and red beets. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the sweet taters--Tree of Life is also providing white and orange fleshed sweet potatoes. What’s the difference you ask? Well, white sweet potatoes are sweeter than orange fleshed ones and also are better for baking, and they retain their shape more so than the orange fleshed ones. If you’re looking to mash some sweet potatoes you’ll want to use the orange fleshed ones (they have a different, more pumpkin-like consistency).

Apple season is in full swing! Here at the store, we were ecstatic to meet Mike Manogue from Tippy Top Orchard. Mike has been growing organic apples and pears for over 20 years. Located in the driftless area near Dodgeville, WI he grows apples, pears, berries and herbs. Apples are one of the most (if not *the* most) difficult to grow and manage. Some trees take years to produce their first crop, and pest and disease management is ongoing regardless of season. Weather and climate also can make or break a crop. I spoke to one Iowa apple grower this fall who lost his entire crop due to hail storms earlier in the year. Tippy Top Orchard has just delivered freshly picked Fuji and Jon-a-gold reds yesterday and they’re crisp, delicious and excellent for so many recipes. If you’re looking to buy in bulk (who doesn’t love fresh apple pie or crisp in the dead of winter?), then please reach out to us at the co-op and we can order them in for you.

Season Updates

  • Local cherry tomatoes are all done, except from Honey Hill Organic Farm. Their greenhouse is keeping sungold cherry tomatoes nice and warm.
  • Cucumbers and zucchini are hard to come by. We’re working with our distributors to locate the freshest and closest product.
  • Local lettuce from Two Onion Farm will only be available for a couple more weeks, provided mother nature keeps the frost away.
  • Jujube fruit will be arriving today in the store. This will likely be around only for a week or two. These little bad boys pack a bunch of health benefits.  They’re also known as Chinese or Korean dates. You may eat them whole, like an apple. The don't rot so you may can dry them at room temperature on your counter.
  • Persimmons have arrived in from California. We currently have the Hachiya variety in. The Fuyu will be in the store soon.
  • Berries will likely not be in the store for some time. The prices are sky high and the quality is poor.
  • We’ve expanded our fresh cut section to include more seasonal items like cranberries from Necedah, WI, cut butternut squash, cut and cored pineapple, pecan date rolls (these are to die for and clearly a staff fave), medjool dates, deglect nour (pitted), and cut mango.

 

 

Produce Department News - September 19, 2014

Farmer Updates

Greetings from the produce department! Despite the cool weather in the area we’ve been extremely busy sourcing new local and organic products. The weather has reduced all quantities of local produce. Farmers in the area have reported zucchini and cucumbers are done for. Unless you stop by the co-op and pick up Honey Hill Organic Farm’s greenhouse grown cucumbers that is.

Yesterday, I visited River Bluff Prairie Farm near Sherrill, Iowa to check out some concord grapes. It was a beautiful day and I was grateful to be able to visit such an amazing and magical place. Pulling into the drive I finally saw the vines and jumped out of my car to meet the family. I later learned these grapes grow on vines over 100 years old and have never been sprayed. When I asked about fertilizer I was informed it was merely grass cuttings that came from the rows after mowing. I was immediately given a sample of the grapes and I can only imagine what my face looked like once taking my first bite. The pleasant sweet shock was written all over my face! I looked at the farmers in amazement that such a little, plump grape could cause such excitement! After taking a tour and learning more about the farm, I was on my way back to the co-op with a car that smelled like grape jelly. Although these grapes are seeded, don’t let that deter you. The recipes you can use these bad boys are in are worth every bit of work. As it turns out, I was advised on how to make grape pie. It turns out to be one of the simplest things in the world. If you’d like to hear more, or grab a recipe from the co-op, please stop on by and ask the produce department for one and we’ll be glad to share! Don’t forget these grapes are ideal for jelly, juice and wine making!

Besides the beautiful landscape that transcends this area during the fall, we’re also fortunate for a bounty of fall root vegetables and squash. We’ve brought in two varieties of sweet potatoes from Tree of Life Gardens. All the squash in the store is also coming exclusively from local farmers. We are carrying butternut, acorn and spaghetti and we’ll see more varieties arriving in the coming weeks. ‘Tis the season for beets as well! This week we will begin exclusively carrying only local beets as well. Adam’s Garlic from Cassville, WI delivered a second shipment of purple carrots that are not only vibrantly colored but pack a major beta carotene punch! Little Maquoketa Organics will have their Pumpkins and varietal squash in soon also. There is a rumor around town we’ll be having a pumpkin carving contest here in the store so please stay tuned!  

Season Updates

  • Apples and pears are now coming in from out West. Here in the Midwest some early varieties are being harvest. We should be seeing local apples in soon.
  • Pears are also in full swing in the western U.S.. Around the time of frost is when we’ll see the local ones arrive here in the area.
  • Berries have been difficult to source. The U.S. berry season is wrapping up quickly. We have strawberries and raspberries here at the co-op but they’re going fast! Come and get yours now!
  • Citrus is extremely limited here in the U.S. In November we’ll start to see more availability from our neighbors in the southern U.S.
  • We still have a large supply of melons. There is nothing like a seedless watermelon to remind us of summer!
  • Pomegranate season has begun! We have an ample supply in the store and we all LOVE them!
  • Peppers are coming in full force, especially locally. Here at the co-op we’re carrying red bells, yellow bells, green bells, Italian frying peppers, poblanos, jalepeno, banana peppers and serranos.
  • Brussels sprouts have arrived! These are usually best after the first frost as it sends the sugars straight to the Brussels making them so tasty!
  • For those of you on the hunt for parsnips, we’ve been hearing rumors the harvest is starting shortly, as soon as I see them they’ll be arriving!
  • Local lettuce is in short supply but we’re crossing our fingers that Two Onion Farm will have some available to get our hands on.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower markets are still tight. The spike in pricing will continue according to commodity reports. Bugs and weather have unfortunately impacted the season.
  • Tomatoes are still plentiful but winding down. If you’re looking to make salsa, tomato sauce or do any canning please keep us in mind. We encourage members to take advantage of our case discount program.

Produce Department News - August 24, 2014

Farmer Updates

Organic, local sweet corn is in the house! We recently received our first shipment in the store from the Wilson family out of Cuba City, WI and we’ll be looking forward to also having some in from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI as well. This corn is amazing, the kernels look like pearls! If you’re looking to freeze corn for the winter, whip up a batch of corn salsa or throw some on the grill we’ve got you covered.  I bet many of you are asking—why is this organic sweet corn so late in the season? The answer is interesting. Organic farmers plant their corn later than conventional farmers for a few reasons. First, there is less potential of GMO contamination from neighboring conventional fields due to differences in the time of pollination. Planting later also helps with maintaining the seeds have a warm enough soil temperature to assist with uniform seedling emergence, and it’s easier to use mechanical weeding systems as well. Lastly, it also prevents common seedling diseases. With all of that, it’s no wonder that organic sweet corn is so beautiful and tastes like summer!

Organic colored potatoes anyone? Not only do we have yellow, red and russet potatoes, but we recently brought in adirondack red and blue potatoes from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi. These hearty taters are colorful and make a great addition to any meal. Both are have swirled colors inside that make them really stand out, especially in red, white and blue potato salad!

A recent new addition to our produce list, Josh Huberty from Holy Cross, IA owns Son of a Bean Gardens and has been bringing us his latest bounty of veggies. We’ve brought in pickling dill, bunched arugula, heirloom purple/green beans and heirloom golden wax beans that are delish!

Season Updates

  • The first shipment into the co-op of U.S. grown apples arrived today. They’re organic ginger golds. These apples are one of the first varieties harvested and pack a sweet, sharp taste. Their primary uses are for cooking and eating raw.
  • Locally, we’re seeing cabbage, ground cherries, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and MORE tomatoes. We’ve brought numerous types and sizes of heirloom tomatoes in.
  • The blueberry season is winding down. We’re still seeing some come from northern climates.
  • The demand for lemons is very high and the supply is low, the market is trying to stabilize but we likely won’t see that happen until after September.
  • Melons from the Midwest (and locally) are showing up. We’re now carrying Yellow Dolls (yellow fleshed watermelon), honeydew, cantaloupe, red seedless watermelon, piel de sapo, and snow leopard melons (like a white fleshed cantaloupe). Try one you haven’t had before!
  • We’re trying to patient at the co-op but we’re dying to get some Tree of Life mushrooms from Cuba City, WI! These folks are in their second major harvest of the season so look for their mushrooms (white button, crimini, and Portobello) in our bulk bins or in their new conveniently packaged options. They’ll be arriving in a few days!

Other News and Information

A question I frequently hear is 'why do produce prices change so often'? The reason for such fluctuations is that items in the produce world are commodities. A commodity is a raw material or agricultural product that can be bought and sold. Other examples of commodities are cattle and coffee. Although there are many variables that affect commodity pricing, the biggest are supply and demand, and climate/weather. With that, we consider the drought in California that hasn’t been only going on recently, but much longer than the average person remembers. It’s been going on for the past three years. A new report from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences has found that the drought will cost California $2.2 billion in revenues and result in the loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs. Because we rely on so many products from California, that will translate to the store shelves in relation to pricing. Not only is California on the radar but here in the Midwest we’re starting to have weather that’s impacting our growing seasons as well.

Since we believe in being stewards of the community and its health, we’ve been committing ourselves to some sustainability efforts in the produce department. We frequently donate any produce that isn’t worthy of gracing the store’s shelves any longer or it goes into compost buckets that make their way to local farms and to the community garden right here in downtown Dubuque! We also save boxes from our distributors and offer them up to our farmers to help keep their costs down. Some of the boxes also travel up to the front of the store for you to use for your groceries. We strive to keep waste to a minimum and always recycle. 

First post!

Farmer Updates

As many of us know, it’s the busiest time of year for our farmers—harvest time! It has been magical lately to see the bounty of all the local farmers come into our store. There have been numerous local, organic items coming in throughout the week. Within the last seven days, we’ve brought in summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, numerous varieties of heirloom tomatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, yellow onions, eggplant, and Cossack pineapple ground cherries (Kalee’s taste buds screamed they taste like fruit loops). Every farmer that is on board with us right now is happy and loves coming in to deliver their produce. It’s pretty easy to spot one of them coming or going with a big smile on their face! One of our farmers, Delia from Little Maquoketa Organics informed me that she sat outside all of Sunday and only sold $4.00 worth of produce. It made me realize the sad reality of just how difficult it can be for farmers in today’s world. She was extremely grateful that they are able to sell to the cooperative and loves seeing her produce on display. There have been many similar stories I’ve heard from other DFC producers. Not only are these farmers a part of our mission, but we are a part of theirs.

There are two more farms I will be visiting in the next week. One farmer will be providing us with shelled peas and the other farmer has ORGANIC SWEET CORN! In addition to those folks, we have two more farmers that have reached out to me today. It’s amazing to see just how many organic farmers are in the area!

Seasonal Updates

It’s been fascinating learning about the seasonality of produce. Although we all know about the Midwest and what does and doesn’t grow and when, what about out West where a large percentage of our food comes from? As we learn through the seasons, I want to keep folks in the know on this. Who would’ve thought that cherry season is over?

  • Apricot season is winding down.
  • We’ll be receiving our last shipment of dark sweet cherries Thursday. There are wildfires in Washington that have decimated cherry trees. It’s rough out there.
  • We’re still a ways out from the U.S. apple season. Currently, most apples are coming from Argentina or New Zealand (what a journey huh?)
  • Plum and Pluot season is in full swing. We have red and black plums now as well as dapple dandy pluots and green pluots.
  • Peach season is winding down. If you’re thinking of freezing them for the winter (peach cobbler in February, yes please!) get ‘em now!
  • Melons are in full swing now. They’re coming from California but we should start to see the local melons in the co-op soon. We have quite the variety, come over and try a sample!
  • Grape season is also in full swing as you’ll notice by the price. We expect local grapes to be coming in a little bit down the road.

New Product Spotlight

It’s so difficult to just pick one! Kalee recently spoke to a supplier and discussed the ample availability of pluots. What is a pluot? I didn’t know what they were up until about a month ago. It’s a cross between a plum and apricot. You might hear others refer to them as plumcots, or apriums. These little bad boys pack a major punch of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium and a low in calories. We currently have two kinds of pluots in the store, the dapple dandy (aka dinosaur eggs) and green pluots. We’ll be doing quite a bit of sampling in the upcoming week so don’t forget to stop by and have a taste!

-Leah