A Greeting from Produce-Land - Melissa H.
With such a cool, wet spring we are starting to really ramp up our local produce selection at the store. You will find two certified organic community farms (farms within 50 miles of the Co-op) showcased: Rising Sands Organics and Whitefeather organics located in Custer, WI and two certified organic local farms (farms within 150 miles of the Co-op) showcased: Growing Earth Farm and Cattail Organics located in Athens, WI. All of these farms met with me one on one to discuss plans for the 2019 growing season back in January. During those meetings, we have starry-eyed ideas of how everything will go and create detailed plans of how much the store needs, how much and of what each farm will grow, when it will be ready, and many other details that allow us to provide you with amazing produce from amazing farmers.
From Planning to Produce Buying
Once it’s time to put the plan into action there are so many unpredictable things that come up throughout the season that introduce patience, flexibility, and quick decision making. Every so often I get a call from a farmer letting me know that they forgot to add an item to the availability list, or asking if the store needs this item. On the flip side I find myself giving a farmer a call saying, “it looks like my predictions were off we’ll need to double the amount of lettuce I ordered.” Unfortunately I can’t predict the weather or sales. We all use data and past experience to attempt to, and hope for the best, but when the cherry tomatoes are ready, for example, there’s no schedule that they follow. This is something that makes buying produce so unique (and interesting, for me) and why having direct relationships with our community and local farmers is so important. The simple fact that they are close by and can drop off product makes it even easier to make space for mistakes or unpredictable crop yields and store sales.
Filling the Gaps
When all is said and done I have to give some credit to our main produce distributor, Co-op Partners Warehouse (CPW) who fills in the gaps. The great thing about CPW is that they source as local as possible meaning our back up plan is usually locally or regionally sourced. I say all of this to give you a better picture of what local sourcing takes. Note that all of the departments in our store try their very best to get local items in and come up against similar obstacles and challenges. We couldn’t make it happen if it weren’t for members like you supporting the movement for a couple of months or the past 47 years.