By Carol Stender
The Whole Farm Cooperative is a grocery store of locally grown foods.
Apples, ground beef, cabbage, bacon, potatoes and turkey can be found in the Long Prairie-based cooperative.
The cooperative started more than 10 years ago when a group of farmers wanted to expand their markets. They sought to supply ground beef from cull cows to St. John's University, the College of St. Benedict and St. Cloud State University.
They called their proposal "Feed the Saints," and sought a SARE grant for the project, said co-op member Herman Hendrickson.
When one school suggested the term "cull"cows be changed, the farmers used "reconditioned" cows instead, Hendrickson said.
The schools did not accept Whole Farm's proposal.
"We were scratching our heads about it," Hendrickson said. "We wanted to supply healthful foodstuffs. All of our livestock was grass-fed."
Beth Waterhouse, a Whole Farm Cooperative member, said she knew people would be interested in purchasing their products.
The farmers made plans for the cooperative. They set up a food collection area in Phil Arnold's basement. Someone donated a freezer. Another person offered a refrigerator for cold storage. Farmers brought produce and frozen meat to the site and made telephone calls seeking orders, Hendrickson said.
Their model was successful. They have built a distribution system to the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Freeport and Duluth. They have drop-off sites at 17 churches, six homes, five businesses, six cooperatives and one restaurant. Each site receives food deliveries once a month.
The drop sites make up the largest part of Whole Farm's business, Bromeling said. Local customers can purchase produce and meat at the cooperative's store located in the lower level of a Long Prairie business building. The store has a walk-in freezer, several coolers, storage and display areas .
The cooperative also offers books, cookbooks and artwork.
There are more than 30 farmer-members. Each pays a $25-per-year membership and must meet the co-op's standards. Livestock and poultry receive no hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. All chickens are free range and must be kept in a poultry shelter with access to pasture for foraging. Feed must be clean whole or ground grains.
Vegetable producers can't use artificial or manufactured chemicals on plantsor genetically modified seeds.
The cooperative also sells farm-fresh eggs from six producers. All the eggs sold at Whole Farm are candled and handled according to USDA specifications.
Bromeling started selling eggs at the cooperative in 2001, he said. He also raises beef, pork, geese, ducks, sheep and sometimes goats on his Browerville farm.
Kristin Wilson handles the orders and helps package. Cooperative members get the orders ready on Tuesday for Wednesday delivery.
A complete list of the co-op's standards and ordering information is available at their website: www.wholefarmcoop.com.
To read more about this SARE project, visit SARE's project reporting website at: