PrimitiveProvider Brings Local
A conversation with Sarah River
Sarah River: Amy, the owner of The Village Hive, encouraged us to try grilling some of our brats out front during the Spring soccer season in the town of Amherst. They had been carrying our pork & beef since early Spring of 2016. She knew this would be a great way for folks to sample our products and get to know us. This experience gave us confidence to step in when the Stevens Point Winter Farmers Market couldn’t find anyone to serve breakfasts for our second season (November 2017- March 2018). Having seen the excitement from patrons over having hot breakfast at market, we knew SOMEONE had to! As a small growing farm, the winter market filled an essential part of our income (for all vendors including ourselves) and felt we had to do this for the market’s long term growth! The Village Hive & the Winter Market were our opportunities, but we knew we had to find another way to value add our own products to even attempt reaching a livable wage from our farming income. We were also emboldened by our fellow Wisconsin Farmers Union members- fellow farmers and food systems educators (and simply people who eat) whom advocate for stable farming communities and advocate value-adding products to create additional revenue streams. We chose the name “Primitive Provider” the week before we began the winter market breakfasts in Nov of 2017. Primitive, along with our farm name “Primitive Pastures”, is a reference to getting back to the basics. It is a reminder that good food, sustainable food, comes from healthy soil, clean water, healthy animals, healthy ecosystems.
Lyn C.: What was your reason for starting Primitive Provider? How long have you been in business?
SR: In June 2010, we moved up to Stevens Point from Richland Center, a small town in the Driftless, to continue our studies in natural resources. We were apart of a program at UW-Richland (a two year college with more close-knit classroom environments and more affordable tuition) that allowed us to take the bulk of our undergraduate credits and then transfer seamlessly to UW-Stevens Point. One of the biggest considerations for the move was where are we going to get our food? In the driftless, we had lived in the country neighboring friends who had a hobby farm and prairie preserve. We ourselves had a large garden and ample foraging opportunities- we were definitely not going to move to a food desert! On our first trip to the area, we were thrilled to find a beautiful farmers market and a thriving local Coop! We joined right away!
The SPA Coop is an integral part of the local food economy. I ran for the Coop BOD in May 2017 with the encouragement of our friend Oren. I hoped to learn more about cooperative management and to serve the Coop with my knowledge as a local farmer and food advocate. I found myself working with a diverse group of passionate, bright folks with shared love for our Coop. A regular question came up from fellow members: “Why don’t we have hot food?”- “Why don’t we have a deli?”. There HAD been at one time... At home, we thought that maybe we could be apart of trying to figure out how to make this happen again. I had been getting to know Margaret & Mary of Earth Crust Bakery over the previous year from using their awesome buns for our grill outs. We started with the question of whether or not they would consider renting us kitchen space. Then I approached the board. Why couldn’t we try this out?.....All the pieces slowly came together during 2018 and we started with a trial run of hot food on Sundays late Oct ‘18 and some cold deli items. The hot food only lasted about a month and a half. Long story short, the ultimate road-block to growing this option is the lack of a sitting area within the Coop. We are very pleased that the deli salads have been well received. We have learned a lot in a short amount of time and hope to continue growing here.
LC: What are Primitive Provider’s core values? How do you follow these values in your business?
SR: I can’t speak to what exact role we fill in our community currently, but our mission is to help promote local grown & made foods. We buy from numerous fellow farmers and only buy local bakery. When there is a local option, we use it. We love supporting people who use sustainable growing practices: organically grown, no-pesticides, managed grazing, composting, cover cropping, buffer strips, no-till, local grown feed, plant pollinator plots, crop rotations, etc. In other words, supporting folks who take the stewardship of the land very seriously! Our slogan is “Supporting Our Local Farmers” - it’s not just a marketing gimmick, it’s a way to remind folks to think about where your food comes from! It opens up a dialogue. We have been able to reach community members outside of farmers market patrons to discuss sustainable practices and the importance of thriving local economies where money STAYS within to provide stability. When you buy from Primitive Provider you can be rest assured that you are supporting the incomes of dozens of local families along with our own, supporting agricultural practices that protect water and soil resources, supporting folks that are proactive in the community, and support one another in network. It’s supporting a growing knowledge base for the future. Most of us are beginning farmers (10 years or less) who believe climate change will continue to destabilize the larger US food system. It is a necessity to create a highly interconnected and stable way of growing our own food right here in Central Wisconsin for the people who live right here! It’s not just a gimmick, its returning to a better way of life for us all and a more sustainable future. This is our small contribution to that greater goal.
LC: What role does Primitive Provider fill in our community?
SR: We have many events booked for this year including: Stevens Point Farmers Market breakfasts, Village Hive grill outs, Levitt Amp concert nights in Point, The Energy Fair in Custer, Waupaca County Arts Board concert nights in Waupaca, Bluegrass in the Pines, The Portage Co Fair in Rosholt, a fundraiser for Farmshed along with other private events. We are looking to fill out our calendar with events. I would love to see the Coop expand with a sit down eating area. Every other Coop I have ever visited has this option and serves as a wonderful meeting place. My highest hopes would be to serve hot food again and stock an expanded deli as a way to serve members, attract new interest, and create another revenue stream for area farmers.
LC: How do you want to see Primitive Provider grow?