Just Local, owned by Rufus Haucke of Keewaydin Farms, sources products from many small-scale organic vegetable farms in the Viroqua, Wis., area and distributes them in the Twin Cities under the Just Local label. Just Local / Keewaydin Farms was the featured Know Our Grower, May 22 - June 4. Demo: Saturday, June 1.
Grower: Rufus Haucke
1. When did you begin farming and what inspired you to pursue farming as a profession?
I grew up on my family’s dairy farm and always loved growing and eating fresh garden veggies. I left the farm for a time and went out to explore the world. As I was working in Colorado as a ski bum, I realized how much I missed being able to grow my own food, the farm, as well as the Driftless region. I returned to the family farm in 2004 to get back to the land and back to the fresh food that I love.
2. Why did you decide to establish Just Local and what criteria do you use to determine whether a farm can become a part of Just Local?
I established Keewaydin Organics and Just Local Foods in 2005. Working with other small farmers in the community helped me meet the demand from the bank of customers I was working with when I got back into farming in 2004. Keewaydin Farm was not able to produce enough on its own, so by partnering with other farms I along with a few others were able to grow and harvest enough volume to keep orders filled for our customers. Keewaydin Organics and Just Local now has grown to a pool of more than 100 farms that we work with throughout the season. For partner farms we look for small family farms that are certified organic and/or farm using sustainable agricultural practices. We also like to feature unique items that many larger distributors don't carry, such as a wider variety of specialty hot peppers, herbs, and even wild-crafted items.
3. What distinguishes your products from other local produce (i.e., signature products)?
The most unique fact about our product is the freshness and the timely turn-around from the field to the customer. All of our orders are custom picked to order and is on the shelf 24-48 hours later. We also now have our Fresh-Cut local line that is a relatively new concept in the produce world.
4. What is your favorite way to enjoy your own produce?
My favorite produce would have to be in the spring with the greens and salad mixes that come around this time of year. I love to be able to just go outside and pick a salad for lunch or dinner right from the field. I also like to try anything and everything that is growing. . .picking a spear of asparagus and eating as I walk through the field, or a handful of fresh green beans or snap peas. . .even sunchokes dug right out of the ground!