By LIZ VERLEY, Staff Writer
“Whole Farm Cooperative (WFC) represents member families in Central Minnesota (most within 30 miles of Long Prairie). We are committed to creating farms that nourish our families spiritually and economically, sustain the environment and with providing eaters not only with safe wholesome food but with a clear sense of who and where their food comes from,” said Roy Perish, chairman of WFC’s Board of Directors.
Perish is one of the three original members of the co-op. The other two were Tim King and Phil Arnold.
He said, “Tim, Phil and I got to know each other through the Sustainable Farming Association. In the beginning, Tim took a cooler of our products to the Justin Baptist Church in Minneapolis parking lot. From there on the rest is history.”
Today the church is still on one of the routes the co-op delivers to.
WFC has four alternating routes in the Twin Cities area along with weekly routes to St. Cloud, Freeport and Duluth.
The cooperative started in 1997 at Arnold’s farm. It then moved to the Sugar Shack, owned by Charlie and Linda Dinkel, and then to its present site in Long Prairie.
Perish said, “Our goal is to establish a fair price to the farmer and a quality product to our consumers. We are trying to give our producers a fair price for what they provide.”
The cooperative’s members receive 70 percent of what their product is sold for, and the cooperative operates on the remaining 30 percent.
The products vary depending on the season.
Manager Robert Bromeling said, “We offer a large variety. We have meat, vegetables in season, eggs, flour, a variety of beans, rice, onions, garlic, pancake mix, jellies, bread mixes, soup mixes and more. We do have some frozen vegetables. We strive to stay within Minnesota. The only thing that comes from other countries is the coffee, teas and some of the mushrooms.”
Perish said, “Our beef products are extra lean because they have been raised largely on grass. Their feed is free from chemicals and antibiotics. Our pork products are extra lean also because they were not fed GMO corn but small grains. These pigs were not raised on confinement farms but were given plenty of sunshine, exercise and fresh air.”
He added, “You can’t buy chickens like ours anywhere. They are free range birds and their feed is free of antibiotics and hormones. They may need a little extra cooking because they actually get to walk around during their lives as compared to confined birds which don’t get to go outside or leave their pens.”
Marketing plays an important role at WFC.
Perish said, “It takes time to market our products. Marketing is what our cooperative is all about. People need to know it is not so much what you eat; it is about what you are eating has been fed.”
While some may question the cost of purchasing from the co-op, Bromeling said, “If you are looking for something cheap, it is not us.”
Perish said, “But if you eat quality food and lead a healthier life, did it actually cost you more? The quality of our food is our best selling point. All farmers in Minnesota raise good products. It’s what is put in them and added that makes the difference.”
One does not have to have a membership to purchase items from the co-op. They can just stop in or order on the Internet, and it will be ready when they want to pick it up.
June Varner of rural Royalton purchased some of her Christmas gifts at WFC.
She said, “I buy my meat and poultry from WFC since I grow most of my own vegetables. In addition to its better taste and quality, I know who raised the meat, and how they did it. Buying from local sustainable farmers means more jobs and money in the area. You can’t beat that to improve the economy. This food does not come from stores; a farmer somewhere has to raise and market it. No farmers, no food.”
At the present time about 30 producers are members of the WFC. Membership is reserved for those farmers who are selling their products through the co-op.
WFC is open Monday through Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is also open by appointment.
WFC is located at 33 Second Street South, Suite 102 in Long Prairie.