Heil Ginseng Enterprise
The Heil family has been farming near Edgar, Wisconsin for four generations, and three of those have been focused primarily on growing ginseng. On their 3,000 acres, they have ~200 acres in ginseng at any one time—which takes a lot of patience.
It takes four to five years for the plants to mature enough to harvest the medicinal roots— after that they must be chilled at 36°F for 2 weeks before being washed, then kiln dried for another 2 weeks at 100°F before being graded for different uses. Under the Heil Ginseng brand, they sell most of their ginseng as field run, wholesale roots, but for their retail line Heil Harvest, the most popular are the Ginseng Capsules and Tea Boxes.
An asset to their community, they have 13 full-time employees and 31 seasonal workers. They also process an additional 100,000 pounds for 15-20 other growers in Central Wisconsin.
Vice President Nevin Smith says, "I think that there is a great opportunity to put ginseng into more food products, especially soups/teas. We have numerous fresh ginseng buyers who own restaurants and do this already!"
In fact, Heil Ginseng will be one of several Wisconsin products featured in the 6th Annual Wisconsin Farm to Table Dinner held in Arlington, Wisconsin on Saturday, August 17. The event features the creativity of Chef Tyler Salisbury along with a farm tour, cocktails and live music. Details at wifarmtotable.com.
Joe Heil, owner of Heil Ginseng, Inc., says,
"Through conscientious farming, we are proud to raise and harvest the highest quality Wisconsin Ginseng products. A sincere, heartfelt, ‘Thank You’ from the heartland for selecting Heil Ginseng!"
Joe Heil being interviewed by a Chinese television reporter in 2018.
Did you know?
Asian ginseng has more of a ‘hot’ effect, similar to a caffeine dose, whereas American ginseng is a ‘cooling’ type of ginseng, which is great for prolonged uses to fight fatigue and stress.
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Fiddlehead Coffee Co.
Most will agree that the fern fiddlehead is beautiful—but that's not the main reason it was the perfect name for this new foodie destination in Rochester. Co-owner Sarah Phelan says, "It symbolizes growth and interconnectedness and a healthy community. A baby fern is still growing and even though it may be far away from other ferns, its connected to the same rhizome under ground and thrives in a healthy, dynamic soil. We think of our role in the community similar to a baby fern."
Sarah and co-owner Patrick Phelan (her brother-in-law) hired James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Berglund (pictured here) as culinary director to help them realize their vision:"We are trying to source as much as possible from local farms and producers. Our goal is to get to about 80% of the ingredients sourced within 200 miles. Local sourcing and committing to good ingredients takes time and money and it's so worth it."
They're doing everything with excellent attention to detail, from their handmade, fiddlehead-adorned pottery by Annie Hanks to the diverse menu, virtually bursting with flavor.
Pictured here is their butter lettuce salad with shaved carrots, all from Pearson Organics. Farmer Kristin Pearson is on staff at Fiddlehead to help manage sourcing in addition to managing her farm's CSA and stand at the Farmers' Market.
In-house baker, Sharon Su, has perfected the croissant, and Sarah admits the chocolate is her current favorite. "We have a bunch of new pastries in the pipeline and I'm really excited for those." With the bounty of farmers market season and Chef Berglund's skill, this is a spot you'll want to frequent. Watch for their special "Season & Place" dinner events every 4-6 weeks, or just stop in. You won't be disappointed.
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Midwest Elderberry Cooperative
Midwest Elderberry Cooperative was founded in 2012 by Christopher Patton, who has worked collaboratively with Terry Durham's River Hills Harvest brand to support elderberry production in the Midwest and beyond. Due to a difficult growing season in 2018, MEC now has members spread out from California to Florida and Connecticut, but still maintains the "Farmer grown, farmer owned" standard.
Throughout the group's efforts, Durham and Patton have worked steadfastly to do three things: first, they've worked with horticultural researchers, beginning with the University of Missouri and later with the University of Minnesota and MN Dept of Ag, developing varieties and strategies. Second, they've fostered additional growers to join their co-op at a level that works for them. Third, they've established processing and products to successfully market the end products.
Did you know?
Growing native Sambucus canadensis elderberry is good for the environment! This woody perennial preserves and rebuilds the soil while hosting over 60 native pollinators. Meanwhile, the berries provide antioxidants at levels higher than some of the more popular “super-fruits.” Often used as a natural antiviral, recent research has indicated elderberry’s great potential as an anti-inflammatory.
June 13-15, 2019 MEC hosted their 13th Annual Comprehensive Elderberry Workshop in Jefferson City, Missouri, which was Patton's 9th. He says it was "one of the best ever," hosting about 150 attendees for three days of presentations, discussions, and field walks. To see speakers, descriptions, and Powerpoints of the presentations, visit their website's Reports page.
For a great overview of the growing and labor-intensive processing, check out this video by the Savanna Institute.
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Contest of the Month!
How many different food businesses have attended the FEAST! event from 2014-2018?
Reply here to enter, or enter on our social media using the hashtag #LocalFeastFTW (as in, For The Win!)
The winner will be the first one to guess the actual number or the closest without going over. We'll reveal the answer along with the winner at the end of the month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be sure to catch it!
A box of ginseng tea from Heil Harvest!
The folks from Heil Ginseng Enterprise attended FEAST! in 2017 and 2018, sharing samples of their tea. They're a great example of a business that's adding value to an agricultural product that they grow while being stewards of the land and providing jobs in their community.
CONGRATULATIONS to our contest winner from May:
We asked, 'What sparks joy for you about local foods?"
Kristin said, "Talking to my favorite local farmers sparks joy in me. Also, great taste in local foods grown with love!" Kristin tells us she has enjoyed using her new 'I tomato Rochester Farmers Markets' tote bag at her local Winona Farmers Market!
Who's Fueling FEAST!?
The Post Bulletin is a pillar in the Rochester community, not only providing the daily newspaper, but also specialty publications like Agri News, Rochester magazine and 507 magazine. They've also been a sponsor of the FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace event from the beginning (2014, that is).
Photo from FEAST! 2018 courtesy of the Post Bulletin.
The FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace is a production of the FEAST! Local Foods Network, which is always open to new members. Founded by Renewing the Countryside (RTC) and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), both the Network and the Marketplace depend on collaboration with partner organizations and individuals.
The Network supports local food growers and makers by boosting access to financing, peer networking, and sales opportunities. We welcome you to share this newsletter with the buttons below.