Wisconsin Growers Co-op was founded in 2006 to help 20 families maintain ownership of their farms. Its members are dedicated to the idea that if farmers take “good care of the soil, the soil will pay back with high-quality produce.” This mindset has proven effective; Wisconsin Growers often brings us produce all year long, from greenhouse radishes at the first sight of spring clear around the calendar to over-wintered parsnips. The key to the longevity of their growing season are labor-intensive, fossil fuel-free farming methods. On nearly 40 acres of the co-op’s land, these farmers plant, tend, and harvest crops exclusively using horses, horse machinery, and hand tools. In addition to more popular produce items such as potatoes, onions, and radishes, the Wisconsin Growers Co-op offers unique heirloom squash varieties, such as Queensland blue and Long Island cheese. WI Growers was the featured Know Our Grower Oct. 2 - 15. Meet the Grower: Sunday, Oct. 5.
Sales & delivery staff: Al Weinrich
How do you describe the Wisconsin Growers Cooperative?
Wisconsin Growers is a group of 30 small family farms that came together to help each other market their produce. Some farmers have only a small garden plot and others have several acres of produce. All of the farmers are Amish at this time. Farms are located in west/central Wisconsin near the towns of Black River Falls, Mondovi and Taylor. Labor is traded on the farms if someone needs help with just about anything such as weeding, planting and harvesting. Farmers/growers take turns on the growers board (a 3-person board of directors) helping to manage everything from planning what type of produce each grower will grow, to making sure the produce truck gets loaded on time as well as assisting the sales manager, as needed.
Wisconsin Growers products are either labeled organic or "sustainably grown." When they are labeled "sustainably grown" can you describe the approach to farming?
When our produce is labeled as “sustainably grown” our growers are to follow the same requirements as the certified organic growers. The only difference being they don’t pay a certifier, which may be a financial hardship if they are a small grower. Soil building practices and amendment applications on both organic and sustainably farmed fields of Wisconsin Grower farms all follow the same National Organic Program standards.
What distinguishes your products from other local produce?
Our produce is checked both at the farm and as it is aggregated at the loading dock which ensures consistent good quality. Also, horses are used to cultivate the produce.
What is your favorite way to enjoy your own produce?
I most enjoy tasting the fresh raw produce while picking it up from the farms or as it is delivered. Especially green beans, tomatoes, and of course watermelon and muskmelon.