Friday, April 17, 2015

Reaping the Harvest of Community Support

Some of you might have noticed products from Wintergreen Foods available for sale this past fall and early winter.

Like these ready to eat carrots.

Or these vending machine snacks.
If you missed them, no worries. You'll see plenty more products from Wintergreen Foods on the store shelves this coming season. Last fall was just the beginning.

We started with a soft launch of a few products, most notably Crinkle Cut Carrots, Coleslaw Mix, and Fruit and Flax Leathers, to figure out the logistics of this new aspect of our business and determine the smartest way to proceed. This year we'll increase production of the three products we began selling last year (Expect to see Fruit and Flax Leathers available year round starting this September!) and launch a few new ones, including Baby Greens, the first round of which is already growing in the hoophouse.

The baby arugula looks like this right now.
It has been just over a year and a half since we (made what some have described as a crazy decision and..) purchased an old restaurant and began the process of turning it into a produce processing facility. We're thrilled to be over the initial logistics hump and ready to expand our product availability, but we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before we achieve the objectives that led us to take on this (crazy?) project.

As produce farmers, we do not wish for the fruits of our labors to become luxury items. We grow good food that everyone should eat more of. At the same time, we do wish for ourselves and our food growing colleagues to earn a living wage for our hard work. At first glance these two objectives, affordable healthy food and better pay for farmers, might seem to be in opposition, but we don't think they are.

We think that businesses such as Wintergreen Foods, businesses which aim to pool the fruits of regional agricultural production and provide an avenue for growers to share resources when it comes to marketing products, are the key to making a greater variety of affordable healthy foods available to everyone and get consistently higher pay for farmers.

And we are by no means the only folks who think so. It seems that even John Cougar Mellancamp agrees with us. 

But what does all of this produce processing and wholesaling mean for Wintergreen Farm? Will anything change for our market customers and, most importantly, our CSA members--who have supported us from the beginning and are a major factor in the success we have enjoyed thus far as farmers in the Upper Peninsula?

The answer is mostly no.

But before I get to the small things that have and will change on the direct sale side of our business, I'd like to make something clear. We are eternally indebted to the core group of CSA members that has grown with us as we have built Wintergreen Farm. We could not be farmers without you and we never could have undertaken the somewhat lofty project that is Wintergreen Foods without your support.

The major changes that Wintergreen Foods will bring to our CSA program have already taken place. Last year we added a winter share option, something that was only possible because of the cold storage space at Wintergreen Foods, and this year we've seriously streamlined our CSA pick-up locations so that all of our CSA distribution will take place on one day each week. As Wintergreen Foods product distribution expands in the next few years, Wintergreen Farm CSA members are likely to see more changes similar to the changes that have already occurred: more CSA season options (we're toying with the idea of an early spring share) and more streamlining of CSA distributions.

With those small changes, in the forseeable future we will continue serving our CSA members as we have since 2008, and we humbly hope that our members will continue to appreciate and support our efforts as farmers so that we can bring healthy food to not only them, but the region as a whole.

1 comment:

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