What begins in March keeps going all year!

Liz Kolbe
President, Wheatsfield Board of Directors

During the most recent edition of “Coffee with the Board”, Becky Matten Pratt and I found ourselves over-caffeinated and carefully exploring the products nearest to our coffee carafe – the seed packets. We were both ready for spring, and though a cold breeze still blew in the sliding door next to us, for a few minutes we were thinking about 6-ft tall okra plants and wondering if a row of edamame soybeans could provide adequate afternoon shade for a row of lettuce.

And this got me thinking about how those seed packets are a small piece contributing to one of Wheatsfield’s core values: the local economy.

The “Local Economy” core value states that Wheatsfield will:
Value Iowa producers as an integral part of our culture and make an effort to highlight local fare and increase the amount of food purchased locally. We will serve as a resource to local producers and strive to improve the economic viability of our community.

First, the seed packets sold at Wheatsfield come from Seed Savers Exchange, based out of Decorah, Iowa. And then I thought of the racks of vegetable, herb and flower seedlings that will soon show up outside the co-op’s front door, freshly hardened from Onion Creek Farm’s greenhouse on the west side of Ames. Both of these product lines highlight and support only local producers, which is very different from the selections of seeds and plants in other stores during the spring.

Of course, not all the vegetables in Wheatsfield are produced locally; it would be true heroics to find a locally-produced red pepper from November through July! Outside my role on the Wheatsfield board, I work with many vegetable growers around Iowa. My litmus test for a grocery store is rooted in what the farmers say. I am always pleased to hear that Wheatsfield gets rave reviews from the farmers who sell product at the store: fair prices, correct labeling, consistent purchasing, clear communication and good care for the product on the shelf. We should all be proud to be member-owners of such a top-class store.

And beyond that, Wheatsfield is a resource for farmers who don’t sell at Wheatsfield (many smaller farms only sell direct to the customer). For example, for many years Wheatsfield hosted an open house where farmers with CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares set up booths to advertise to customers. We only postponed holding the event because of Covid-19 restrictions in addition to many CSAs being already full! Wheatsfield is a CSA drop-site (where people pick up their boxes of vegetables purchased from other farms), and contributes to the Ames Farmers Market with yearly monetary donations.

As Wheatsfield operates in line with the ”Local Economy” core value, I invite you to do the same! Here’s my recipe you can try (Becky might have a better one, but this one always turns out for me):

  1. Buy local seeds and seedlings
  2. Plant, water and care for them according to package directions
  3. When the rabbits eat the plants and chipmunks dig up the pots, shop at the farmer’s market or from a local farm
  4. And for everything else (and for the things you forgot to buy when you were at the farmers market) finish the day shopping at Wheatsfield
  5. We’ll see you there!