By Kelli Wickard
Before you go to Walmart, Target, or any other big-box store, think about the impact of your purchases—think about helping your city grow.
Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and it’s important that we support them and inform people that they are there. An example of a small business that survives off of the support of the community is a food co-op. The initial reason that food co-ops were formed was for the community to have access to healthy, fresh and delicious food with less environmental impact and reduced waste. Co-ops are able to interact with the community and build strong relationships with the member-owners and customers that frequent the store.
The Rainbow Food Co-op, located in small-town Blue Earth, Minn., is an example of this type of business. In a city with only 3,211 people, it is crucial that their locals are supporting the store in order for it to be kept afloat. “Our customer base is extremely loyal,” stated Connie Johannsen, assistant manager and board secretary. “Many customers have been shopping here for years and now the next generation of the family is carrying out the tradition.”
by Kelli Boylen
Country View Dairy is not only consistently gaining new customers, they are also now helping to feed the hungry in Northeast Iowa.
County View provides yogurt to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo that is sent out weekly to the 16 counties they serve in Northeast Iowa. Their partnership with the Food Bank ensures a fresh, continuous supply of yogurt to many people who may not otherwise have a source of this nutrient-filled food. Country View provides the yogurt to the food bank at the lowest price possible, just slightly above cost.
They also donate additional yogurt to food pantries if it is getting too close to the expiration date to send out for retail sale.
“Country View products are now available in more than 120 stores in seven states, 20 public schools, 11 colleges, several health care institutions and restaurants,” says Bob Howard, director of marketing and sales. “And it’s available to Google Headquarters and the O’Hare Airport.”
He added, “We are also expanding markets into Wisconsin, concentrating on Madison and Milwaukee. That is new for us in the last year. Another small yogurt producer went out of business there and we have been able to step in and fill that niche of artisan small batch farmstead yogurt for many of their former customers.”
In Rochester, Country View yogurt can be found for purchase at People's Food Co-op, and as an ingredient at both Nupa locations and Tonic Local Kitchen & Juice Bar.Read more
by Kelli Boylen
University of Iowa athletes are now powering up with O’Brien’s Own Granola!
O’Brien’s Own Granola received a vendor contract from the University of Iowa Athletic Department to provide new, single serving 2-ounce bags of granola. In addition, their energy bars are now offered at the fueling stations across campus.
“What a treat that our granola is helping fuel our student athletes at the University of Iowa. We feel privileged that we are a part of their training routines!” said Rick O’Brien.
In 2010, Rick and Belinda O’Brien started making granola with an original recipe in their own kitchen for themselves. They were soon making it for family, friends and co-workers.
In early 2011, they decided to go retail but needed a commercial manufacturing kitchen so Rick converted their basement into what they needed. After only a year they outgrew that space and in October of 2012 moved production into a commercial facility.
“It’s amazing how far we have come by keeping things simple. We use only the finest ingredients with no preservatives and trade shows like Feast! and local farmer’s markets have been a huge blessing and a catalyst for our growth,” shared Rick and Belinda. All their oats and honey are locally sourced from Iowa.Read more
by Kelli Wickard
|Pete Gengler — "out standing" in his field.|
Who doesn’t like to treat themselves to some fries every once in a while? Sno Pac’s crinkle cut fries offer a healthier option that can be purchased in the freezer section of your local grocery store and made at home in minutes.
Sno Pac Foods was established in 1943 by J.P. Gengler, and for the past 70 years, they have been a family owned and operated business. Now on the fourth generation of Genglers, Pete Gengler has stuck with the family tradition and has continued to keep the farm completely organic. Throughout the decades they have strived to be the best in frozen fruits and vegetables that are organically grown and processed. The quality of their products is what has kept their customers coming back for so long.Read more
by Kelli Boylen
Five years ago when Eric and Sarah Underberg started making fermented foods most people had never heard of the idea.
|Sarah was interviewed on WHBF-TV on September 20, 2017 and snapped this selfie.|
Nowadays, most people have heard of kombucha and sauerkraut, but there are many other products including fermented hummus, kimchi, pickles, salsas, and traditional sourdough bread.
Eric started exploring fermented foods to improve his own health. “My husband started making fermented foods to heal his body after years of abuse from college football and working as a master carpenter,” shared his wife Sarah. “He began making milk kefir and sauerkraut and eating it every day. I was not interested in the beginning, however his passion for spreading the truth about food was so profound that I jumped on board. After about six months of Eric consuming these foods and the almost immediate bounce back, he talked to me at length about how we needed to share this information and food with others. That is when we decided to put everything we had into this business,” says Sarah.
They founded Agri-Cultured in 2012 in Dallas Center, Iowa with a small, licensed kitchen. They started making five-gallon batches of sauerkraut and kimchi.
“It was so important to us that we make the transition to whole food eating so easy, that people didn’t even realize they were eating ‘healthy.’ That’s why we offer the flavors that we do,” she said, adding, “Our company is the “gateway” drug to fermented foods...ie...easy on taste, pairs well with so many other foods and it gives us the opportunity to plant the seed of cultured food.”Read more
by Kelli Boylen
Julie Parisi, founder and owner of Zaza’s Pasta, is not only making local food, she is using local sources for the raw ingredients whenever possible as well!
“We're using only Minnesota and Iowa grown wheat in all of our products. Throughout the whole process we're supporting local farmers along the way,” she shared. All of their garlic, herbs and vegetables come from Frontier Natural Cooperative out of Norway, IA, whose mission it is to support and strengthen rural communities around the globe.
Zaza's Pastas started in 2010 in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Iowa City, selling at local farmers markets. Zaza’s Pastas has been working out of a commercial kitchen since 2012. In 2015 they started working with some local food wholesale distributors. This has allowed their product to reach farther than she could have ever anticipated.
“We pour our heart and soul into each batch of pasta,” expressed Julie. “We love the ingredients, we love the process and we want you to love what you eat!” Her pasta includes only local, organic and non-GMO flour.Read more
by Marlene Petersen
Scouting Local Food Talent at Feast! Local Foods Marketplace
When it comes to buying local, Nicci Sylvester, owner of Tonic Kitchen and Juice Bar, puts her money where her mouth is. Literally. Okay…not literally. But pretty darn close. A fervid advocate for delicious, regional fare, Nicci refuses to compromise on quality and spends her time, talents and resources scouting out the best.
Committed to Local
“I have a passion for fresh, local food,” Nicci says. She started Tonic in November 2013 to fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant committed to sourcing locally. “I buy local because it’s about living life as a whole package. It’s better for the environment, doesn’t poison my staff with chemicals, supports area farmers and tastes better.”
With local food comprising 75 percent of Tonic’s summertime menu—and 35 percent of its winter one—procuring ingredients is a daily, if not hourly, venture.
“I’m constantly buying something,” says Nicci. “Today it’s honey from Bee Shed [Oronoco, Minn.]. Tomorrow will be chicken and turkeys from Larry Schultz [Owatonna, Minn.]. Right now, I’m going to the farmer’s market and asking around to find a grower who does carrots and beets.”
Creating menus for Tonic involves more than just purchasing inventory from a foodservice distributor like other restaurants do. It’s a commitment to eating in season and constantly examining fresh lists—an inventory of products farmers have to sell now, what’s coming up, and what’s over for the season—to see what’s even available. If Tonic runs out of carrots in the middle of lunch rush, Nicci doesn’t place an urgent order with Sysco or head to Cub Foods. She calls her farmers and hopes they have more. And if they don’t?
“When I’m out, I’m out.” She shrugs.Read more
In case you didn't notice, Feast! is not just another food show. It's local, and it's innovative.
As the name says, Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is very much about LOCAL foods, and all that that implies. For regional economic vitality, for transparency in the food system, and for environmental considerations like food miles, Feast! carries with it a strong emphasis on supporting local and regional food businesses in their efforts to follow a sustainable model that incorporates LOCAL sourcing of ingredients.
Starting a food business is complex and costly, and it has always been important to Feast planners that we keep the costs of attending low, in order to foster our regional food businesses that are striving to grow and watching every dollar. Enter our sponsors.
Whether it's a major premier partner like Mayo Clinic (full list here) or one of the many smaller and in-kind sponsors, all of them have expressed support for the Feast mission. They have dedicated resources — both financial and staffing — to help us work creatively to keep Feast booth costs low, provide educational & networking sessions at no extra charge, and include meals (sourced locally when possible).
Read on to see a comparison of some regional and national show costs...Read more
The 4th annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is now accepting applications for food and beverage businesses from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to attend the event at the Mayo Civic Center on Dec. 1-2, 2017.
Feast! 2017 will cap off a ‘food week’ in Rochester that includes the Feast! Restaurant Week—showing off Feast vendor products in local restaurant specials—and the large annual convention of the Midwest Food Products Association (MWFPA) that features over 150 vendors from equipment manufacturers to packaging and labeling suppliers.
Special free entry to the Feast tradeshow will be granted to MWFPA registrants, and likewise for Feast exhibitors to attend MWFPA Thursday morning (lunch ticket available for purchase).Read more
January 25, Owatonna, MINN. - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), along with its partners through the FEAST Local Foods Network, including Renewing the Countryside and Slow Money Minnesota, are happy to announce the launch of a new loan fund for small-scale, sustainable farmers. The Grow a Farmer Fund is a revolving loan fund managed by SMIF that offers lower-interest loans up to $15,000 to individuals in SMIF's 20-county region for inventory, supplies, working capital or machinery/equipment.
Fundraising for the Grow a Farmer Fund kicked off last May at Slow Money Minnesota's annual gathering and was inspired by the principles of Slow Money, which originated out of the slow food movement. Slow Money's mission is to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems, connect investors to the places where they live and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that "bring money back down to earth."