July 2014 Produce Parable
Adam Calder, Produce Manager
The local season is off to a tumultuous start this summer. We had a great spring with plenty of rain spaced out between sunny, warm days which got the local produce off to a great start. As we have moved into the summer season, there have been less and less gentle rains and more and more heavy, hard hitting thunderstorms. Between the driving winds, six inches of rain falling in just a couple of hours and the golf ball to soft ball sized hail, some local crops did not fare well.
Meadowlark Flowers in Radcliffe, Iowa, only managed to make one delivery of flowers to us this season before their entire flower garden was flattened by strong wind gusts and hailstones. We are going to have to wait a couple of weeks and see if the flowers pull through, or if that is the end of our local bouquets for the summer.
Small Potatoes Farm in Minburn, Iowa, reports that the high winds and driving rain have set back their lettuce, cilantro and arugula crops significantly and they will likely require replanting. The tops to their onions were also blown over, and usually onions stop producing a bulb when their tops get knocked over so here again we will also have to wait and see if they come though.
Luckily, the weather hasn’t been bad for all the Iowa produce. Tomatoes have really been enjoying the one to three inches of rain a week we’ve been getting pretty regularly all season, as well as the hot sunny days in between. We are up to our eyeballs in local red tomatoes, local gold tomatoes, and local organic red tomatoes. Don’t forget the plethora of grape tomato pints we have available from Salama Greenhouse in Boone, or the sun gold grape tomato pints from Hassevoort Aquaponic Farm in Leon, Iowa, if you are looking for a super sweet little treat.
We’ve also got a great selection of local cucumbers, local green and gold zucchini, local organic cucumbers and local organic zucchini. Check out our huge piles of green curly and lacinato kale, which happen to be right next to equally large piles of red Swiss chard and rainbow chard. We’ve even been getting some broccoli from the Student Organic Farm right here in Ames. It’s all fresh, it’s all local, and it’s all raised organically. If you don’t want to wait until the weekend to get farm-fresh produce at a farmers market, then stop in to the Wheatsfield Cooperative Produce Department today!
June 2014 Produce Parable
By Adam Calder
This June marks my ten year anniversary of employment at
Wheatsfield Cooperative. I’ve been here
so long, in fact, that when I started I was technically hired by the non-profit
business Wheatsfield Grocery, as at that time we had not yet become an official
When I look back at the past decade, I can hardly believe
it’s been so long if it weren’t for all of the changes I’ve experienced over
the years. The cooperative has grown
much since I started as a weekend cashier.
Back then, the produce department was right next to the cash registers,
the wellness department was right next to the cereal and bulk aisle, and there
was no deli, marketing department, meat department, loading dock, or parking
We had about twenty staff then (and about 63 now!), and many
of those twenty or so people I started working with are managers today. If you would have told a 24 year old me back
then that I would someday be the produce manager, he would surely have scoffed
at the idea of getting out of bed before noon, let alone being there to open
the store every morning. In the old
store the produce staff were the first there in the morning, and it was our
duty to unlock the doors and let everyone else in. Not only did I grow to love this, but I also
liked being the first to greet the co-op every morning. “Good morning Wheatsfield, are you ready for
another great day? I am!” Maybe it was silly, but it was just me and
the co-op in that first hour of the day, working together as part of a team,
and I wanted to make sure the co-op knew I was excited to be a part of that
So many faces have come and gone since I’ve been here. The staff graduate from college and move
away. Members get a new job, move away and take their families with them. They
might show up from time to time in the co-op when they are back visiting friends
and family, or they might not. Some
members are dead and gone forever, their smiling faces now just an echo in my
mind, a footprint on my heart. But they
all affected me, each and every one.
They all taught me, changed me and helped shape me into the man I am
I’m proud of who the co-op has helped me become. I started here very much a naïve, ignorant
kid and have grown into a successful produce department manager with a wealth
of knowledge, experience and insight into the world of local, organic produce
and cooperative values. I’m proud of how
beautiful our department is, of how hard the produce team works to keep it that
way, of the effort my co-workers put into this place each and every day to make
it so special.
I’m humbled by all I’ve learned from the farmers in
Iowa. So many of them are grace under
fire. They only know hard work, dedication and determination, and their
attitudes are infectious. How fortunate
I am to have been able to work with these men and women, to be in the presence
of so much integrity, so much passion, such wisdom. There are many a keen mind under those
sweat-stained farmer hats, and also usually a person happy to share a piece of
that mind with you.
We’ve come so far, and yet the journey is not yet over. I don’t know what the next ten years hold for
our cooperative, but I do know that I will be here to continue to be the best
steward for local, organic produce and for our community owned business as I
Our Produce Department has been struggling the last few months to keep bananas in stock. Why? There is a very real problem with global banana supplies due to pest pressure and delivery issues. The situation is hitting organic bananas the hardest. We've found some great articles on the internet and recommend this article from economist.com.
Currently, there is also an issue sourcing strawberries. We expect that issue to resolve in mid May, but you can read this note from one of our produce suppliers to learn more.
April Showers Sure Did Bring May Flowers
May Produce Parable
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
Kevin Hassevoort delivers hanging flower baskets.
Turns out there is a bit of wisdom to that old nursery rhyme. It rained nearly every day the last week of April, and May brings with it a flood of flowers!
Currently, we have hanging flower baskets from Hassevoort Farm in Leon, Iowa. These baskets are overflowing with geraniums, verbena, vinca, heliotrope, bacopa, petunias and herbs. They will bloom all summer and fall, and I actually have the three baskets I bought from last year! They got a little scrawny during the winter months on my front porch, but I applied a little plant food and set them outside this spring and they are verdant and blooming once again. These baskets really have a long lasting value.
On Friday, May 2nd we will get a shipment of peonies from Horsefeather Farms in Lamoni, Iowa. These are a perennial favorite, and they sell fast so stop in and get yours soon. They come in lovely shades of white, red and pink and are certified organic.
On Thursday, May 8th we will get a shipment of fair trade roses from One World Flowers, the same flower company we get our Valentine’s Day roses from. They will come in a variety of colors and will be as exceptionally beautiful as they were when we had them in February.
On Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11 in case you forgot) we will give away one rose to the first fifty mothers that come into the cooperative. Bring your mom in for a nice breakfast, lunch or dinner and treat her to a free rose, compliments of the cooperative. We know how hard so many of you moms our there work to feed your families, as we frequently see your smiling faces shopping our aisles and loading up your carts with great food. We also know how often that work gets overlooked, and we want to show you how much it means to us. So please, if you are a mother, come in for a free rose on Mother’s Day. If you aren’t a mother, bring yours in for a nice surprise she will be sure to love.
April Produce Parable
Adam Calder, Produce Manager
Spring is here, technically, and while the weather is still unpredictable but leaning toward chilly there are some fun spring flavors already showing up in the produce department.
Try some organic mini seedless watermelon. When you take a juicy, crisp bite, you are pleasantly reminded that yes, it is indeed warm somewhere! Or have a crunchy mouthful of asparagus, if you can tear yourself away from its verdant beauty long enough to do so.
We’ve even got some local produce coming in already! Lee’s Greens in Nevada has some stunning turnips and multi-colored radishes available this month, and they really are a sight to see after this long, cold gray winter. If you’ve never dined on turnip or radish greens, then you’ve been missing out on a very delicious and quite nutritious meal.
We carry basil year-round from Mariposa Greenhouses, but as the daylight hours increase the basil takes on more and more of that pungency it only carries during the spring and summer months. If you are in the mood for fresh herbs, you might also want to try some of their mint or lemongrass to add a delightful twist to a beverage or stir-fry.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the first Onion Creek Farm seedlings of the 2014 growing season. I’ve been contact with Lonna, and she said she has been tending to another growing green army of seedlings for our customers. She is concentrating on tomatoes and peppers only this season, so we can hopefully supplement our seedling selection with some herbs from Lee’s Greens. Be sure to check out the Wheatsfield website, facebook page and Instagram feed for all the current produce department information.