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Organic Fresh Produce Menomonie Wisconsin

Learning What “Local” Means

In the middle of winter, trying our best with tomatoes from last year‘s garden, we dream of our local season. This year may have gotten to a slow start, but the heat and rain in our area have all the amazing produce we wait for coming in strong. 

In March, this pandemic showed us where we really get our food. Menomonie Market Food Co-op experienced two incredibly busy weeks: just like two Owner Appreciation Day weeks, but with no notice, no planning, and no promotions! In the United States, over 50% of food is consumed at c-stores, restaurants, and cafeterias. The pandemic has changed that pretty drastically, resulting in higher than usual sales in many departments and lower than usual sales in others. In addition to the heroic measures staff has taken to keep us safe, they have scrambled to buy the correct products as the entire world shifted their eating habits overnight—a job very well done at our co-op. Our local farmers pulled through for us then and ever since. When other stores had empty shelves where eggs and meat should be, we were supported by our local partners. One thing the pandemic showed us is that huge industrial food systems are actually very fragile. They break, and as always, we need to support the smaller food structures right around us because they hold the key to food system sustainability.

As our circles get necessarily smaller, I’ve learned what local is to me: being at the co-op, being home with my family, visiting my parents so my kids can see their faces, connecting to my local food CSAs, an occasional trip to Ace Hardware, and enjoying the quiet nature that is all around us. Pretty small circle actually. COVID-19 has made us more local—no airline trips, less mass transportation, fewer hotel stays, and forget about large crowds. We have connected on FaceTime and in small groups online. I’ve even received old-fashioned letters in the mail! It is intimate. Here at the co-op we’ve been exploring what local means as we work with Just Local Food in Eau Claire and explore possibilities for increased collaboration.

To learn more about this work, hear highlights of the year, see a look ahead, get some wonderful thank yous, and find out the results of our election, please join us for our first-ever virtual Annual Owner Meeting on Sunday, September 13th at 6:30pm; we will be hosting you on Zoom and covering all the basics. Although it is a bummer that we won’t be repeating a wonderful shared meal under the pavilion this year, seeing all of your faces would do me some good.

This article was originally published in the August/September 2020 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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