Viroqua Food Co+op Blog

Produce Geeks at the Viroqua Food Co-op

Posted by Charlene Elderkin on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 @ 02:08 PM

Linda GallardoI love to learn and so does Team Produce! There is so much to know, keep up with and be awesome at, when it comes to life…and fresh produce!

The Produce Team at VFC is continually training to keep current. This past year, in addition to some local farm visits and tours, we attended conferences, workshops and helped two of the Iowa food cooperatives set up/re-set their produce department displays. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

MOSES Organic Conference

Two produce team members, Eliza Peltier and Tony Hooverson, attended workshops at the MOSES Organic Conference in Lacrosse in February. Eliza went to GMO in the Know: Rhetoric, Realities, Risks & Reason and Cut Flower Production: From Seeds to Designs. Tony attended workshops on Cover Crops as well as Grow & Sell Fresh Organic Mushrooms.

Deep Rooted Greenhouses Spring Planting Workshop

On a rainy day in April, produce team members Eliza Peltier and Arwyn Wildingway trekked out to Westby to take part in Deep Rooted’s Greenhouses’ Spring Planting Workshop. Once inside, the chill melted away and the colors began to fill their souls. They were treated to a tour of all the varieties of annuals that Tiffany and her helpers grow, and taught how to plant a combination bucket or basket. After creating a couple masterpieces for summer pleasure, they got to see Deep Rooted’s infamous Sungold tomatoes in action.

Dubuque Food Cooperative

Getting ready for the Dubuque Food Co-op grand opening, Betsy Pierce, Produce Manager at Oneota Co-op and I spent a Sunday with Leah Patterson, Produce Supervisor at the new Dubuque Food Cooperative. We purchased display baskets and crates, set shelving and planned out the display sets throughout the department. It was awesome to see and try new display ideas out and see them featured in the newspaper a week later when they wrote up the grand opening article. I can’t wait to get back there soon and see how much they have grown.

Oneota Food Cooperative

It is always great to see and work with Betsy Pierce, Oneota Food Co-op’s Produce Manager, but even better when we see Mark Mulcahy (Produce Guru Extraordinaire). A team of Produce Managers and Leads from Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin were present and led by Mark in a department re-set. New equipment, new shelves and other display materials arrived. We tore down old displays and set up new. Collaboration was at its best when Mark got us all in a room to start talking ‘Produce’! We created strategic buying agreements with other cooperatives on the same delivery route as our produce distributors, allowing us to pass along better prices.

Produce Geek Training

We started a new Produce Geek Training in our weekly department meeting. We spend 15-20 minutes each week on a specific fresh produce item to ensure the whole team knows what it is, how to prepare it for the shelf, how to display it for appeal and shelf life longevity, as well as how to cook or serve it and it’s nutritional and taste values (is it bitter, is it smooth, does it contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals). We love to share the knowledge we gain, so please test us out next time you are in the produce aisle and ask an available produce staffer about an item you want to know more about. If we don’t know, we will look it up and get you whatever information we can access via the world wide web and/or our in house chefs and foodies.

Always learning, always sharing and most certainly, we always LOVE fresh and local produce!

Linda Gallardo, Produce Manager

Tags: Produce