Wisconsin Growers Cooperative (WGC) was founded in 2006 to help 20 local Amish families maintain ownership of their farmland and collectively market their fresh produce. Now comprised of approximately 36 small family farms in western Wisconsin, the farming co-op’s members are dedicated to using approved organic farming methods and practices. Their pay-it-forward philosophy centers around building and maintaining soil health to grow high-quality produce. More than 40 acres of the co-op’s land is farmed without fossil fuels, instead using horses, horse machinery and hand tools. They use an icehouse and cold storage area to hold winter storage crops and to cool summer crops before deliveries to stores. Read our Q&A below with Sales Manager Al Weinrich, who has been with WGC since 2008.
Can you tell us more about how Wisconsin Growers got its start, and what makes it so unique?
WGC started so the growers could have work at home and spend more time with their families. Every member of the group — along with myself — works together, from communicating what produce is available to getting the orders to each grower for them to pack.
Each farm has its own packing area and produce can be packed in whatever box weight a store needs. Greenhouses are constructed from repurposed barn wood and used rafters, then greenhouse plastic is purchased to go over top.
Wisconsin Growers’ philosophy revolves around building and maintaining soil health. How do you do this?
Raw manure crops like rye, buckwheat, peas and soybeans are planted and then plowed under for weed suppression and to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. Manure is also used per organic rules.
How has the pandemic impacted WGC? What is the biggest challenge local farmers face right now?
The pandemic has probably impacted Wisconsin Growers less than some farms because each farm family uses only the family labor to operate the farm. The biggest challenge right now seems to be the input costs, such as produce boxes, fertilizers, seeds, etc.
How can co-op shoppers best support you?
Shoppers can best support us by purchasing our produce, as the growers do not accept any government subsidies or grants.
What are your/the farmers’ favorite ways to enjoy the produce WGC grows?
Zucchini is ground up, eggs and oatmeal are added, and then it is made into patties and fried. Another favorite is the small sweet potatoes — baking them in the oven and adding your favorite toppings. Our watermelon is often enjoyed from the field or front porch.
Watch for these WGC items at the co-op this spring:
- Green garlic
- Salad greens
Wisconsin Growers’ salad greens are one of the things we look forward to every spring. Dress them with one of these easy, homemade recipes!