Harvest Moon food co-op has commitment to grow, gather, and give

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

One look at Harvest Moon Natural Foods Co-op, and it’s easy to see why customers are excitedly reaping its many benefits.

From the fresh abundance of local produce to the inviting coffee bar atmosphere, Harvest Moon is a full-service grocery store that makes it fun to shop for wholesome foods.

The store opened in Long Lake June 12, and area residents are thankful to have a place to shop close to home.

“We’re all so used to traveling long distances to get groceries,” said marketing chief Kari Pastir-Smith, one of Harvest Moon’s founders. “People say they can’t believe this is here.”

The store offers a meat department, deli, and take-out pre-prepared meals. Some of the brands offered are different than those of traditional food chains, and the store makes an effort to supply goods with simple ingredients.

“It’s food that’s very focused on natural ingredients,” Pastir-Smith said. “We’re all about the healthy alternative.”

Another distinctive mark of Harvest Moon is they way it was founded.

“Co-ops are really one-of-a-kind,” Pastir-Smith said. “They are almost always developed by the community, for the community.”

Pastir-Smith, who longed for a grocery store and community-gathering place in her hometown, was one of the people who helped build momentum to start Harvest Moon.

“The big difference between a regular business and a co-op is that a co-op is owned by the members,” she said.

A group of founders began to recruit members, who each paid a $175 fee.

“We had almost 1,000 founding members before we even opened doors,” Pastir-Smith said.

Although anyone is welcome to shop, members are given discounts on their purchases, and they will also receive dividends as the co-op grows.

“It’s actually purchasing stock,” Pastir-Smith explained.

People who support Harvest Moon are making a contribution to sustainable agriculture and health and wellness education, she added.

In the future, the company hopes to partner with community education to offer courses in these topics.

Starting a co-op takes time and effort, Pastir-Smith said. Discussion about the store started in 2005, and it was incorporated in 2006.

“That’s not unusual for co-ops,” she said. “It’s a very dedicated, but slower, process.”

Currently, about half of Harvest Moon’s customers are members.

“A co-op draws a diverse group of shoppers, which is exciting,” Pastir-Smith said.

Harvest Moon is a store for anyone who is interested in a healthy lifestyle, she added.

“People really enjoy it as a lunch spot,” she said. “We have café seating both inside and outside.”

Many people ride their bikes to the store and park in the bike racks. Then, they enjoy an outdoor lunch surrounded by colorful landscaping.

Shoppers feel good about supporting Harvest Moon, Pastir-Smith said, because it benefits the community.

“We’re supporting the small family farms,” she said. “People like to put their shopping dollars in that direction.”

Cramer Organics in Delano, Riverbend Farm in Delano, Living Song Farm in Howard Lake, and The Farm of Minnesota in Hutchinson are a few of the area farms that supply goods to Harvest Moon.

“The primary resource is local,” Pastir-Smith said. “If we can get organic, too, that’s great.”

In addition to produce, Harvest Moon also aims to provide locally-produced cheese and meat.

The store is located about 13 miles east of Delano, at 2380 W. Wayzata Boulevard in Long Lake.

It is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, go to www.harvestmoon.coop or call (952) 345-3300.

A few of the employees at Harvest Moon include:

• Peter Doolan, general manager

• Robin O’Rourke, financial manager

• Kari Pastir-Smith, marketing chief

• Matt Ryan, grocery manager

• Betsy Webster, deli, meat, and cheese manager

• Auralie Haven, health and body care manager

• Sue Schloner, front end manager

• Hilary Johnson, produce manager

• Gabriel Burns, meat and cheese manager

Farm Horizons, August 2010

Carver County dairy farmers receive awards, are part of national tour

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

The Flower-Brook Holsteins farm in Hamburg has been making the news this year, because of owners Andrew (Andy) and Jodene Stuewe’s successful dairy operation and their award-winning Holsteins.

Just this spring, the Stuewes and their two children, Ava and Jayde, were named the 2010 Carver County Farm Family of the Year. Farm families are chosen for making significant contributions to Minnesota agriculture and their communities.

But that isn’t the only recognition the family has received this year. In June, the Stuewes were named the premier exhibitor at the Minnesota State Holstein show in Rochester. In addition, their Holstein, Gabrina, was named reserve intermediate champion at the show.

This is the second time the Stuewes have won premier exhibitor at the Minnesota State Holstein Show. They also won it in 2008, and that same year their Holstein, Giddy, was named the 2008 Star of the Breed by the Holstein Association USA. The Star of the Breed Award recognizes the complete Holstein cow – an animal that excels in both the show ring and the milking parlor.

And recently, the Stuewes made news once again, when the Flower-Brook Holsteins farm was part of the 2010 National Holstein Convention’s tour June 27. It was the only farm in Carver County to be included on the tour.

An estimated 500 people toured the Stuewe farm, from Australia, Canada, and all across the US, according to Andy, more people than the couple had anticipated. They arrived in four coach buses at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, then another four buses came at 2:30 p.m. In between, there were people who just drove in on their own.

“It was overwhelming,” Jodene said. “Not so much having them here, but all of the preparation before they came. Getting the farm looking nice, and having every animal washed.”

“We tried to have people available in every barn who knew our farm or knew our animals,” Jodene said.

“A lot of the people really liked the cows,” Andy said.

Besides the visitors checking out the buildings and the animals, it would have been impossible for them not to have noticed the farm itself.

Driving up the driveway, the first thing to come into view is a large pond with a water fountain; there are flowers everywhere. The farm is immaculate. Up by the house, there are more flower gardens, a trellis of climbing thick green foliage, and a large vegetable garden.

Andy and Jodene took ownership of the farm in April 2005 from Andy’s parents, David and Joyce, who now live in Waconia.

The couple had a pretty good idea of what kind of work was involved in farming because they had both grown up on Holstein dairy farms.

Jodene remembers those early years growing up on her parents, Mike and Roxanne Piepers’, farm in Carver. There wasn’t time for family vacations, only an occasional night off to maybe stay at a hotel and play in the pool.

“I said I would never marry a dairy farmer, because I knew how much work it is,” Jodene said. “There is little freedom for dairy farming. You have to be there two times a day to milk, and there are chores all day long in between.”

But when Jodene was dairy princess at the Carver County Fair in 1997-98, she met Andy, who was involved with the 4-H and FFA, and he definitely changed her mind.

Today, the Stuewes have 70 registered Holstein cows to be milked every morning and evening, plus another 20 to 30 young stock which need to be fed separately each day.

The Stuewes have a hired man who comes to help with chores for three or four hours every morning, and one of Andy’s brothers comes to help at night for two hours in exchange for leaving some of his animals on the farm.

The family also has help from many family and friends who come at planting time, or when there is hay or silage to make and put up.

The Holsteins are Andy’s favorite part of farming and he admits to getting attached to them.

“He has a lot of time invested in them. Especially his show animals,” Jodene said.

He has been showing Holsteins since he was only 3 years old. Jodene has pictures to prove it. And he does all of the training of the animals for the shows himself.

“I used to go and watch and help out at the shows, but now, with the two kids, I am more of a spectator,” Jodene said.

There are usually four or five shows a year, and Andy often hires someone to help haul the cattle with him, usually a dozen animals, total.

The Stuewes have about 300 acres of rented land that they farm each year. There are 100 acres of alfalfa, which is made and fed to livestock; 125 acres of corn used for high-moisture corn and corn silage, and the remaining 75 acres is in soybeans, which is all sold off the field for profit.

Jodene does most of the work on the gardens, with some occasional help from her mother-in-law. She also works three 12-hour shifts per week as an RN at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, and cares for the couple’s two daughters.

If there is extra time, she helps with farm chores, but isn’t able to help as much as she once did because of the girls.

The Stuewes are not afraid of hard work. The only thing that might keep them from dairy farming in the future are the milk prices.

“Last year was bad,” Jodene said.

“The last couple of years have been bad,” Andy said. “We are just starting to break even now, but we still have to recover from the last couple years. Milk prices are up a little, but not where they need to be,” Andy said.

“It’s tough,” Jodene said. “I am proud of my husband. The farm is a great place to raise kids and teach them hard work and responsibility, and we hope the dairy industry thrives and milk prices can come up so we can continue to farm.”

More about Holsteins

Holstein dairy cattle dominate the US milk production industry, according to the Holstein Association USA. Nine of every 10 dairy producers currently milk Holsteins.

Top-producing Holsteins milked three times a day, have been known to produce over 72,000 pounds of milk in 365 days.

The reasons for their popularity are unexcelled production, greater income over feed costs, unequaled genetic merit, and adaptability to a wide range of environmental conditions.

Holstein cattle are most quickly recognized by their distinctive color markings. Holsteins are large, stylish animals with color patterns of black and white or red and white.

A healthy Holstein calf weighs 90 pounds and stands 58 inches tall at the shoulder. Holstein heifers can be bred at 13 months of age, when they weigh about 800 pounds. It is desirable to have Holstein females calve for the first time between 23 and 26 months of age. Holstein gestation is approximately nine months.

While some cows may live considerably longer, the average productive life of a Holstein is approximately four years.

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