Market Musings Blog

Which CSAs drop at the co-op?

With spring in the air and this article about Community Supported Agriculture in the Star Tribune recently, we figured it was time to list the farms that drop shares at our West 7th store and near our Selby store. The days that each farm drops at West 7th is listed next to its name. If you are interested in purchasing a share from any of these farms, please contact them directly.

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Avodah Farm – Wednesday afternoon

Blackbrook Farm – Thursdays

Bossy Acres – Thursdays

Featherstone Farms – Thursdays

Green Earth Growers – Tuesdays

Seeds Farm – Fridays

Sylvan Hills – Tuesdays

Treasured Haven – Mondays

Turnip Rock – Thursday afternoons

Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) – Friday mornings

stones throw Full2Wk11smallFor those looking for a drop site closer to the Selby store, Stone’s Throw Agricultural Cooperative, which drops at Thomas Ave and Dale St. Stone’s Throw Agricultural Cooperative is a producers cooperative that is run and owned by three rural farms (Cala Farm, Agua Gorda Cooperative, and Whetstone Farm) and one urban farm (Stone’s Throw Urban Farm) in the Twin Cities region. We are a diverse group of farmers committed to working together to make farming and local, healthy food consumption more accessible to people of all backgrounds. Our CSA has many options for fresh summer and hearty winter vegetables, pastured meat, raw honey, and local mushrooms. By working together we believe we can support the growth of a stronger and more resilient regional food system. Stone’s Throw offers sliding scale payment options for our CSA. All of our members also have access to a complementary U-Pick selection of herbs, flowers, and sugar snap peas at each pick-up site.

Notes from the field – MOSES Organic Farming Conference

The Selby store's produce manager, Matt, shows a customer our selection of organically grown greens.Matt Olson has worked at Mississippi Market for 7 years and has been in his current position as Selby’s produce manager since 2011. Each year he attends the MOSES conference to connect with growers, learn about what’s new in organic farming, and be inspired by the talks and workshops.

March 1st 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) organic farmer’s conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin. What started as 90 people coming together in 1989 to talk about organic farming has grown to over 3300 attending this year. It is a great opportunity for farmers, educators, or anyone involved in organic agriculture to come together for a weekend. There is no better place for people to learn, teach, meet, and celebrate all that is happening in the vast world of organic farming.

I have been fortunate to attend a few conferences over the years with other co-workers from the Mississippi Market. Every year I come back excited and reinvigorated. The keynote speakers, workshops, and vendor showcase all offer myriad opportunities for me to learn about the latest happenings in the wide world of organic agricultural. As the produce manager in a food Co-op, it is imperative that I stay on top of the latest trends, concerns, and innovations. Quite frankly there is no better place to do this than MOSES.

Mose logosThis year I came away with new knowledge about nutritional levels in organic produce (studies have proven that antioxidant levels are generally higher), renewed passion to speak out against GMO’s (organic farming produces higher yields through floods and droughts and does not contain harmful pesticide or insecticides that are imbedded in GMO’s), and a renewed reminder that organic farming can feed the world!

While all of the scheduled events are exciting and educational, my favorite part about the conference is seeing people I haven’t seen in a while and meeting new people I have a common connection with. It is a great chance for me to see produce managers from across the region, farmers we buy from, and other people in the industry I rarely get an opportunity to talk with outside of the produce backroom or the sales floor at work. I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to work with such amazing and inspirational people. The MOSES conference is a testament that organic agriculture makes a difference and will continue to thrive, innovate, and grow no matter the obstacles.

From 90 people to 3300 in twenty-five years! No one can know what the future will hold, but I came away from the conference with the belief that in twenty-five years, organic agriculture will be bigger, stronger, and more influential than ever thought possible!

Meet the 2014 Organic Farmers of the Year, the Podoll Family. Theresa and David Podoll presented at the MOSES conference this year. At Mississippi Market, we are excited to be carrying their organic seeds at our West 7th store.

 

Celebrating Mardi Gras

A good meal can offer a transcendent experience for those who truly enjoy food. If you’ve ever shared a really good meal with friends, or been transported to your childhood just by smelling your mom’s chicken noodle soup, you understand the power food has beyond the ability to nourish us physically. I view food as a kind of social glue, it is a tie that helps bind us to our communities and our cultures.

As a transplant to the Twin Cities, often the only connection I have with my Louisiana heritage is through the creole and cajun food I recreate in my own kitchen. My cultural connections have become especially important to me as I grow older and finally understand the need to connect to my personal and communal histories. While many of us in the Twin Cities are bundled up to face another icy day, many people in my home state will already be reveling in the warmth of Mardi Gras festivities.

king cake web

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, may have some detractors because of its association with drunken debauchery but I have so many wonderful memories of this holiday that have nothing to do with alcohol or Bourbon Street. Mardi Gras for me will always call forth memories of colored beads, fantastical parades, masks of many colors, and of course, delicious King Cake covered in gobs of gold, purple, and green sprinkles.

Since I can’t make it down this year for a real Louisiana version of the King Cake, I decided that I’d try my hand at making one myself. The name of this confection is a bit of misnomer since the process of making a King Cake is less like making cake and more like making bread. I usually try to describe it as a cinnamon roll that’s been made into a ring and then covered with glaze and colored sugars. If you’re interested in turning your boring Minnesota Tuesday into a bona fide Fat Tuesday, you can try your hand at the recipe I found to be most successful. Or, if baking bread in the middle of the week is more than you have energy for then try a simple jambalya. Either way, enjoy the connection that food helps you make with cultures, yours or the many others surrounding you.

You’ll also find Jess at the Selby store’s juice bar, making things run smoothly and tasting amazing!

My co-op valentine

I first met my co-op valentine about 13 years ago.  I still remember the first words he said to me: “Hey, do you want some free carob rice milk?”  I won’t say it was love at first sight, but I think we both knew that not everyone would be as excited about carob milk as we were.

We worked the closing shift at the store on Randolph and Fairview (may it rest in peace) each Saturday and Sunday night, me with newly formed dreadlocks and him in overalls and straightedge shirts.  He stocked groceries and I cashiered, but we would both meet up in the aisles to face the shelves together near the end of the night.  It was among the Puffins and the rice noodles and the tamari that we got to know each other.

Liz & Michael

After a year of stocking shelves and facing products side by side, he started walking me home each night after work.  I found myself looking forward to each shift, just so I could see him again.

It was at the co-op that I first met my future stepsons, too.  They were just toddlers then, with squeaky voices and weird twin-speak that I couldn’t even understand. Now they’re teenagers with feet bigger than mine and hip new slang I can barely understand.  But it still brightens my heart like nothing else when they come to the co-op to see me and grab an amazake or a smoothie.

I don’t give the co-op all the credit for making my little family what it is today, but I know for certain we never would have found each other or been as well-fed without Mississippi Market and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Snow days!

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Looking out the window, watching the snow fall makes many of us at the co-op want to be home, curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

Others of us want to be outside, feeling the flakes on our faces, because we know that our homes will feel so much warmer when we go inside.

No matter which of these camps you fall into, it’s hard to deny the draw to comfort that a snowy day brings. Here, we offer some tips to make your winter warmer.

hot_cocoa_enewsOur top 5 hot chocolate mix-ins:

  • For peanut butter cup hot chocolate, put a little spoon of smooth peanut butter in the pan while you heat the hot chocolate -let it dissolve.
  • Real. Whipped. Cream. (We love Cedar Summit organic.)
  • Stir the hot chocolate with an all natural candy cane for a minty essence
  • Make your hot cocoa with 1/2 Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk and 1/2 any other dairy or non-dairy milk. It’s lightly coconutty and oh so rich!
  • For adult hot chocolate, add a splash of Knob Creek maple bourbon. Enough said.

Board_Games_enewsGet cozy!

With that cup of hot chocolate warming your hands, it’s time to get cozy. Our favorite ways are:

  • game night!
  • movie marathon
  • work a jigsaw puzzle
  • finish that knitting project
  • spend some quality time in the kitchen. Visit our recipe page for inspiration.

Winter_Carnival_Logo_ba78a4The coolest!

Ready to go back out into the snow? Saint Paul’s Winter Carnival is just around the corner. You can purchase carnival buttons at both of our stores.

And, during the carnival, January 23-February 2, you’ll receive 25¢ off any hot drink from the deli if you’re wearing your button. 

Mississippi Market at your door tileWe’ll come to you!

Remember that on days when the roads are dicey and you don’t want to take off your slippers, we can come to you, too. Mississippi Market at your door is designed to be a helping hand. Simply order your groceries online, schedule your delivery time, and we’ll bring them right to you.

Where our deli sources its ingredients

As an individual born after 1985, the power of the internet is certainly not lost on me; Instagram, Yelp, Twitter and a myriad of other distractions have become my personal tastemakers.  As a manager in a natural foods grocery store, I’ve seen my personal procrastinations begin to have a wider impact on customers in my store, and my friends’, family and colleagues purchasing habits. No longer is Facebook just a place to see the pictures from last weekend’s totally awesome party, but also a platform to build community, educate, and hold a dialogue that steers the food trends, that as a member of the food industry, I’m trying to stay two steps ahead of.

This weekend, one such dialogue addressed the use of Sysco as a vendor in Twin Cities’ food co-ops.  At Mississippi Market, we are committed to sourcing ingredients that help us to achieve our mission :

“Mississippi Market creates positive change in the community by influencing the production distribution and enjoyment of food.”

Our product policy, created to support this mission, dictates a preference for vendors that supply organic, local, sustainably produced ingredients that are free of genetically modified ingredients, and fair in price.  This last piece, so often forgotten in the discussion on what qualifies as a “clean” product, is taken especially seriously in the deli.  In our communities the delis are a food access point for new shoppers.  The smells of chili, whole roasted chickens, or fresh brewed coffee, can help to introduce new shoppers to the cooperative business model and a more healthful and sustainable diet.  In my opinion, they are also some of the most enjoyable types of food in our store!  To be able to offer things at a fair price is crucial to the continued success of co-ops.

To that end, we purchase our ingredients from a variety of vendors.  Because of delivery schedules, limited food storage space, and our high production volume we are not able to support as many small local famers as I would like, but we do our best to source from local distributors whenever possible.  Below you will see the breakdown of our deli purchases, by vendor, from our current fiscal year.

Deli purchases year to date

As you can see we do use US Foods as one of our vendors.  They are able to provide us with commercial sizing on products that are simply not available, at a reasonable price, from our other vendors.  It was disappointing to hear that they were bought out by Sysco earlier this year, and even more disappointing when Sysco purchased European Imports this past summer.  Our tangential relationship with Sysco means that their subsidiaries are able to continue to offer ingredients that fall within our product policy at a low cost that can be passed on to our customers.

More illustrative of our commitment to sourcing products of integrity is the breakdown of our ingredients by category: organic, local & organic, local & conventional, and conventional.  Below is a graph of a recent week of deliveries.  As you can see, even in the winter, more than two thirds of our incoming product was local or organic.  Of the conventional items we received that week the many were clean products that were delivered from UNFI or Alberts Organics; Applegate sliced meats, Earth balance margarine and shortening, brown rice syrup, etc.  The only conventional fresh produce we buy with any regularity are bell and hot peppers, and avocados.

deli purchases 1.3-7.14

Every day we are committed to sharing healthy and sustainable foods to our community at a reasonable price.  To do that, and remain competitive with conventional stores that are steadily encroaching on our traditional customer base, we must work with a variety of vendors and continue to source the best values to be passed on to our customers, without compromising our product policy and mission.

Written by Anne O’Gara, the deli operations manager at our Selby store. You’ll find her overseeing the Selby deli team, including the commissary cooking for the West 7th store, as they create wholesome and delicious food day in and day out.

Frattallone’s Ace Hardware on Grand Ave – St. Paul’s Kitchenwares Mothership

FrattallonesIf you live in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, you’re probably already familiar with the depth and breadth of kitchenwares at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware at Cambridge & Grand, kitty-corner from Ramsey Middle School. If you’ve instead assumed that one Ace Hardware is pretty much like another in terms of its kitchenwares, you are in for a very welcome surprise: this particular Frattallone’s/Ace, one of nineteen Twin Cities stores owned by the Frattallone family of St. Paul, is completely unlike the others. For sensibly priced, sturdy, practical cookware and kitchen tools, it is simply unrivaled; for customer service, it’s as responsive and supportive as our very own Mississippi Market. Read more …

A Vegan on Turkey Day

Have you ever been the lone vegan at a Thanksgiving celebration in Texas?  It’s not easy, let me tell you.

My Southern family includes a few types of turkeys, a ham and brisket at most Thanksgivings. Corn is swimming in cream cheese sauce and you can bet the drippings are included in every gravy and side dish possible.  And asking for the ingredients for each dish at a potluck? Forget it!

Liz's meemaw made sure that she didn't go hungry during Thanksgiving by going out of her way to prepare a few dedicated, vegan dishes.

Liz’s meemaw made sure that she didn’t go hungry during Thanksgiving by going out of her way to prepare a few dedicated, vegan dishes.

Luckily, I had a grandma who would make me a special little pan of stuffing/dressing made with vegetable broth and set aside some sweet potatoes without butter and marshmallows. She was a gem!

I know guests with special diets can be a pain for the host, but I can also vouch for us being the most appreciative when someone makes an extra effort to accommodate our needs.  Most of us with dietary restrictions know that hopes of getting an amazing meal at a big holiday celebration are likely to lead to disappointment.  So when a host goes out of the way to have a gluten free pie or a vegetarian main dish, it makes a big impression.  I’ll always remember the extra effort my grandma took to make sure I had plenty to eat. Read more …

Plastic: The Final Destination

A plastic bag – it seals in freshness, doesn’t tear so easily, weighs practically nothing and when we’re finished with it, we can just throw it away. End of story…?

Let’s see, these bags that seal in freshness also seal in bisphenol A (BPA). Even bags that are “BPA-free” can leach out chemicals with estrogenic activity (EA). In one study, researchers tested over 500 plastic products consisting of baby bottles, Tupperware containers, sandwich bags and plastic wraps. Their findings were that practically all of them leached chemicals that:

produce an increase in circulating estrogen, which in turn can cause problems such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts, altered function of the reproductive organs, obesity, increased rated of certain cancers and problems with infant and childhood development.” Chris Kresser – How plastic food containers could be making you fat, infertile and sick

Plastic bags do not tear so easily – a trait that makes their demise nearly impossible. When a plastic bag ends up in the trash, it ends up in a landfill. I recently did some landscaping at my father’s cabin and dug up some sheet plastic which had been buried 13 years earlier. If I had chosen to wash it off, it would have looked no different than it did new. Also, trash that ends up in our waterways (tossed out of fishing boats, off the side of ships, etc.), finds its way to the ocean and eventually to one of the floating masses of plastic which rival the size of the continental United States.

plasticbagPlastic bags are lightweight, and therefore the wind can take them many places: treetops, ditches, swamps, my backyard, streams, rivers… literally anywhere. Other than your backyard and mine, this world is inhabited by creatures that neither created nor use plastic, yet they are getting it shoved into their homes. “Gone with the Wind”, but by no means negligible.

So, what do we do with our plastic bags? Even if we reuse the bags for a couple more trips to the store, pack a lunch, or pick up after our dog, the bag will be laid to rest at some point. Then what? Out of our hands is into somebody else’s hands, paws, wings, or stomachs. Can we honestly not make a choice to choose a different container?

- Joe Walls, Mississippi Market Employee, “Green Team Member”, Co-op Customer and Member-Owner

Notes from the Field – MOSES organic farming conference

If I learned one thing from the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) organic farming conference, it’s that one of the most powerful and effective things we can do to further the organic movement is to tell our stories-  our stories of farming, of eating, and of changing our habits to do the right thing for our families and the earth.

While I was a health-minded college student in 2000, even looking to studying holistic health and nutrition, I was also still a teenager.  I enjoyed an average of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s a night and could drink my weight in Dr. Pepper.  I had a decent knowledge of healthy food, but wasn’t exactly putting it into practice.

My turning point came during a presentation by the Women’s Cancer Resource Center at St. Catherine University.  They pointed out that while genetics do impact our risk of cancer, focusing on genetics doesn’t exactly spur anyone into healthy behavior changes- to the contrary, it can make us feel doomed or invincible.  And the reality is that for breast cancer, less than 10% of cases are due to genetics.  That means that 90% of breast cancer cases are due to our environment.

Whether it’s our food, our water, our air or our stress levels, environmental factors of cancer are the ones we have a chance of changing.  That impacted my thinking about my lifestyle profoundly.

I returned to my dorm room and threw out my junk food.  I got rid of the makeup, perfume and household cleaning products that I now knew contained risky chemicals, many of which were actually classified as “probably carcinogens”.  I stopped using caffeine.  I stopped microwaving plastic Tupperware.  I started exercising and I started thinking critically about all of the products I used- whether I really needed them and whether I could use a less-toxic version.

And one year later, I started working at Mississippi Market Co-op and eating organic food.

I’m thankful every day that I have access to fresh, organic and minimally-processed foods that support the kind of lifestyle I envisioned that day when my eyes were opened.  Since then, I’ve been able to dive much deeper into the world of organic and local foods through my work at the co-op and my own experiences with gardening and preserving.

This weekend, my job at the co-op brought me into a room with thousands of people, from all walks of life, who gathered together to learn about organic farming.  Some were old-timers in the organic movement, sharing what they’ve learned over the years, and others were filled with new enthusiasm for changing the world, soaking up every word.  I couldn’t help but wonder what brought them here.  The young boy in a smart-looking suit, brave enough to ask the keynote speaker questions at a microphone?  The worker from a bio-tech company in the front row?  The patch-worked, dreadlocked trio in front of me?

What’s their story?  What brought them to the world of organic agriculture?  What’s your story?
Email us at kbinning@msmarket.coop to share your story about how you started eating organic. We’ll publish it on our blog!

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