Viroqua Food Co+op Blog

Second Cloud on the Left recipient of Viroqua Food Co-op Microloan

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 @ 10:56 AM

In the fall of 2012, the VFC Board of Directors started a P6 Microlending Initiative. Through this program, an individual or farm that is currently selling their product to the VFC is eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $3,000 for a new project or infrastructure. Loans must be paid back within one year. Through this Microlending Initiative the VFC strengthens small, local farms and producers that supply the Co-op and creates opportunities to improve their operations.

We are pleased to announce that Second Cloud on the Left Farm in La Farge, Wisconsin is the 2014 VFC P6 Microlending recipient. The Committee is happy to fulfill their entire request of $1,629 for their Lettuce Mix Harvesting and Season Extension Project. Second Cloud is owned and operated by Toril and Drew Fisher who specialize in growing two specific varieties of produce: heirloom tomatoes and heirloom leafy greens. Though they have made tremendous strides in both areas, market demand is stronger in the area of greens.

Harvesting leafy greens is extremely time consuming. With hand held harvest knives and bins, one person can harvest about 6 pounds per hour and wash and pack around 12 pounds per hour. With one part of the loan, Second Cloud is purchasing a hand-held, mechanized harvester that harvests greens at a maximum rate of 175 pounds per hour. This will allow Second Cloud to complete their harvesting process in less than an hour and move field workers onto the wash and pack line, increasing their ability to move and ship more product to market and improve sales.

With the second part of the loan, Second Cloud will improve upon their season extension technologies on the farm. Season extension technologies such as hoop houses and row covers provide numerous advantages to farmers who can leverage these technologies and increase their production from eight months to 10-12 months of the year. Currently, Second Cloud has two hoop houses. Part of the VFC P6 Microloan will be used to improve their greenhouse operations through the purchase of a large roll of greenhouse plastic to maximize and extend the greens season in both hoop houses into December and January. The plastic will replace woven agricultural fabrics that provide secondary coverage for greens in the hoop houses. This cover holds and maintains soil temperatures and humidity better than the agricultural fabrics.

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Tags: Announcements, Microlending Committee, Microloan Recipient

Storytelling: Why your story matters

Posted by Shana Meshbesher on Wed, Feb 05, 2014 @ 03:54 PM

This November, I had the opportunity to attend the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa, which was a three day conference attended by over 400 women and “a few intrepid men”!

During more than one session, I listened to the women presenters start their session with anecdotal jabs about how a few times during the year, they secretly wish how they could work in a cubicle, leave their daily stresses at work, and come home to relax. Instead, they are farmers or agricultural advocates whose work never stops when they are home. Despite the antagonistic quips, all of the presenters were quick to inspire attendees through never-ending passion that resonated through each of their stories and objective teachings.

Holly Carroll, both a teacher and the Oklahoma State Farm Bureau Coordinator, focused on reaching and retaining new young leaders in agriculture. She reminded the room full of women of all ages that even though you may not relate to interacting with your “target market” or peers through social media, it is where our younger generations spend their time. If you have a story to tell, but none of the time it takes to put it into a blog or website, recruit a student in the community who can make it their school project to assist you. Not only does this offer them the opportunity to work with social media (something they already excel at), but by studying your story it gives them reason to take stock in what you do by integrating them into your livelihood. It may even plant the seed for them to get involved in the sustainable agriculture movement in the future! So despite technology being a barrier that may separate us sometimes, it is evermore meaningful to connect with others by way of social media tools.

In the last session I attended at the conference, Wendy Allen, both a PR Professional for Organic Valley and a Writer/Content Editor for Edible Madison, explained how important it is to tell your story – especially when trying to bring a focus to your business, products, etc. More and more people want to feel connected to what they are purchasing. Through a writing/reading exercise, Wendy revealed how when others read and relate to your story, you give them reason to further invest in you and your products or services.

As a native of the Viroqua Area I feel quite privileged to be back here, in hopes to pour whatever strength and courageous ambition I have back into what I do here at the Viroqua Food Co-op. I have a lot of role models who take what they are good at and find a way to surround themselves with as much of it as possible- and it’s contagious (those of you reading this article most likely qualify... yeah, YOU)!

Recently, I found a way to be of service to the people/farmers who grow my food, even if I’m not working on a farm. Every week I help Linda Gallardo, the VFC Produce Manager, tell the story of what is most fresh and local in the produce department. Together, we take two to four products and feature them with a fun recipe, an educational blurb, or interesting ways other food bloggers are working with the same subject matter, and then publish it on our local food blog called “Fresh & Local”. This blog is the Co-op’s way of storytelling and spreading the great word about what our local producers are up to and how you can directly support them when you vote with your dollars here at the VFC.

Please sign up for our weekly email blog by clicking on the “email sign up” symbol in the upper right-hand corner of most pages on this website. Each email takes just a few minutes to read and updates you with what is fresh and locally available at the Co-op!

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Tags: Farm, Women in sustainable agriculture, Fresh and Local!