Written by: Dale Woodbeck – General Manager
Lakewinds’ involvement with local organic farms is taking a big step forward this season with Big River Farms of Marine-on-St. Croix, MN. Big River Farms is a certified organic farm and is the brand of the Minnesota Food Association (MFA). Many Lakewinds owners will recognize MFA as a recipient of a grant from Lakewinds Organic Field Fund for the past few years. Lakewinds provided funds to support the Immigrant Farming Program of MFA at Big River Farms. Until this year, Big River Farms has operated solely as a CSA, providing produce throughout harvest season to subscribers.
This season is different–Big River Farms invited Lakewinds to be its first wholesale account! It’s their first foray into this form of selling produce. Big River and Lakewinds met over the winter to discuss Big River’s planting schedule and Lakewinds’ volume requirements for a variety of vegetables. Big River is now delivering those veggies to Lakewinds. They are for sale in each of the three Lakewinds stores.
This is a great story about the impact that our co-op can have on local and organic agriculture. Our Lakewinds Organic Field Fund helps sustain the farm as it grows. We then get to support the farmers a second time by purchasing some of what they grow and selling it at retail to all of you. That gets us to the idea of a financially sustainable farm.
When we talk about sustainable farms, we need to include the farmers’ financial success as one element of sustainability. If the farmer isn’t making a living, the farm can’t really be sustainable. Almost all farmers in our region need an off-farm income (another job in most cases) to survive. Grant funds are great as far as they go, but the real relationship is when Lakewinds can purchase from a farmer at a price that allows the farmer to succeed financially.
When you pay a little bit more for that organically grown local produce, or that pasture-raised pork, or that grass-fed beef, think about the farmer behind the product. These types of farmers don’t have price supports or subsidized crop insurance. They are outside of that system. The extra dollars that we spend on their products allows the co-op to pay the farmer a fair price, a financially sustainable price. We’re working hard at Lakewinds to have that kind of relationship with Big River Farms and every one of our local producers. That’s part of the co-op difference.