Producing Local Relationships

Producing Local Relationships

by Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager

Have you ever been at Farmer’s Market and while looking at the prices, thought, “I’ll wait until later to get it at the Co-op. I’m sure it is cheaper.” The more likely scenario is the reverse: “ I can get it cheaper at Market on Wednesday, I’ll just wait until then.”  Have you stopped to consider why the Co-op charges more for the same item sold at Farmers Market? It’s worth pondering.

Local farmers and Oneota Community Food Co-op both need to succeed financially in order to thrive. That is a fact. We both want to support each other. We are loyal to each other. We have a relationship. Just like you have relationships with the vendors you buy from at market. I heard it said once by another Co-op’s manager that local farmers need as many markets as possible to be solvent. Those include: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, Farmers Market, retail grocers and restaurants.  It’s true that we need those local farmers as much as they need us. In supporting them we are fulfilling our mission as a Co-op – to support the local economy.

In the effort of offering local produce at the Co-op we made a commitment long ago to price local produce at a lower profit margin than the rest of the department.  Margin pricing is the method that allows us to measure how much out of every dollar of sales the Co-op actually keeps in earnings. It ensures that we cover all our cost of doing business, including: labor, materials, utilities etc. Lowering the margin on local produce enables the farmer to be paid more and we in turn do not make as much money on that product. How we arrive at the final price requires a lot of communication, vigilant price watching, knowledge of the national market as well as the local market economy and some negotiation skills. The farmer and I will consider the history of the price on that produce as well as the price they are charging at Farmers Market and go from there. We try to keep our retail price within $.50- $1.00 of the Market price. The Co-op has to pay farmers less than they earn at Market because of that critical margin that needs to be met. In exchange for the lower price the farmer receives a guaranteed sale (at Market there is no guarantee that you will sell all your goods) and a storefront to sell their goods seven days a week.  Farmers don’t have the hassle of harvesting or packing up for market not to mention the time spent tending their stand.

As a customer you have the opportunity to support local growers 7 days a week by buying their goods in the form of a CSA share, at Farmers Market, Oneota Community Food Co-op AND  local restaurants. This is a definite win for everyone involved.


Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne

Courtesy of Gourmet, December 2001

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Active Time: 1 1/2 hr

Total Time: 2 1/2 hr

For squash filling

1 large onion, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped


For sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 cups milk

1 bay leaf (not California)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagne

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)

12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)

Make filling:

Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and white pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble lasagne:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Cooks’ note:

• Filling and sauce can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before assembling.

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Rainbow Slaw

Courtesy of Bon Appétit, July 2006

Rick Browne

With two hues of cabbage and two kinds of apples, as well as carrots and yams, this multi-colored slaw will look gorgeous on a picnic or buffet table.

Yield: Makes about 8 cups

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 small green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)

1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)

2 medium carrots, peeled, grated

1 small yam (red-skinned sweet potato), peeled, grated

1 large unpeeled red apple, cored, grated

1 large unpeeled gold or green apple, cored, grated

1 medium-size green pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced

3 green onions, finely chopped


Whisk mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar and maple syrup in small bowl. Place green cabbage and next 7 ingredients in very large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Can be made 8 hours ahead. Chill. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

Test-kitchen tip: Using the large-holed grating disk and the thin slicing disk of the food processor makes this dish a snap.

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