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