Welcome to Bemidji! Whether you’re a year-round local, a first-time visitor, or a seasonal resident, the First City on the Mississippi is lucky to have you. Summer is one of the best times of year to be here, too (unless you’re into ice fishing)—the sun is shining, the foliage is green, the flowers are blooming, and the fish are biting. It gets hot enough during the day to warrant a quick dip in the lake, but cool enough at night that you can enjoy sitting around a bonfire. We have a fantastic local arts scene (the sculpture walk around town is visible evidence—like our gorgeous golden wheat frond outside) and summer community theater, live music at the waterfront or in the pub, and a renowned symphony orchestra. There’s shopping and a movie theater on rainy days, photo ops with Paul and Babe or at the Itasca headwaters, a Fourth of July waterfront carnival and Art in the Park—and, of course, the natural splendor of the Minnesota Northwoods that draws us all outside. If you’re up for a day trip, a weekend, all summer or all year, there’s no end of fun things to do, and Harmony Co-op is delighted to help you with all of them.
Fishing, boating, swimming, or just enjoying the peace and quiet—Minnesota has (well over) ten thousand lakes, and even more ways to have fun with them. You’ll want to pick up some sunscreen first, of course; since you’ll be in the lake, it’s important to pick one that’s both waterproof and doesn’t contain any ingredients that could be harmful to the water and wildlife. Alba has both a traditional cream sunscreen as well as several invisible spray-on ones in a range of SPFs; Badger has several zinc oxide-based cream sunscreens, including one with built-in bug repellent. Just in case your fun outlived your sunblock, we also have Badger after-sun balm and aloe vera gel to soothe the angriest epidermis. Bug repellent ought to be on your list too; you might think you’re happy to see the lakes and trees, but the mosquitoes that live there are even happier to see you! Harmony carries both spray-on and balm-based insect repellents (the sprays work on both clothing and skin, while the balm is great for areas like ankles that are exposed to hungry skeeters); some essential oils have been found to be effective for repelling insects, such as lemon eucalyptus, geranium, and citronella (the same stuff that’s in the anti-bug candles). In case a few biters sneak past the defenses, there’s an array of different itch relief products, including gel, ointments, and special soap; tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and offers many people relief from itchy bug bites, too.
If you’re going up to Lake Bemidji State Park or one of our other area campgrounds or stopping by on your way up to the Boundary Waters, you’ve probably already got your tent and sleeping bag—we hope so, anyway, since those are some of the few things we can’t get for you! (We can recommend some great places around town that can, though.) Your food selection, though, is as important a part of the camping experience—both logistically and gustatorily. If you’re going to be carrying all three meals a day for however long your trip is, you’ll want to think light and shelf-stable, minimal packaging, and nutritionally dense. For breakfast, we suggest instant oatmeal, protein bars, or granola (we love WholeMe granola bites; they’re grain-free/gluten-free and made here in Minnesota!)—something that will keep you going for a while. We have lots of trail mix, granola, nuts, and dried fruit in the bulk section; if you’ve got a cooler with, there are some energy chunks in the repack cooler (and hempseed energy balls fresh-made by our deli) that will keep you fueled on even the longest trail run. Jerky (both animal protein and plant-based) is another good snack/meal-on-the-go, as well as cheese and crackers, nut butters (we have powdered peanut butter, too), pretzels, and applesauce. You’ll want to stay hydrated, too, so don’t forget to check out our rainbow of Klean Kanteen reusable water bottles—and get some Ultima electrolyte powder to pour in them.
Dinner over a campfire, whether it’s next to the tent or in the backyard, is one of the great joys of a Minnesota summer, and whatever your dietary needs or wants, Harmony wants to help you have the most summer fun possible. If you’re breaking out the grill, our sustainable biomass firelighters and hardwood charcoal will start you off nicely; cedar grilling planks and wraps plus some delicious spice rub will add even more depth to your food, and we’ve got metal tongs for serving and compostable plates and dinnerware for eating. You might want to catch your own dinner if you brought your rod and reel, so grab some breadcrumbs or cornstarch for breading; if you’re more into glamping, check out our fresh meat case for hot dogs, grassfed burger and steak, and organic and antibiotic-free chicken. (There’s even more in the frozen department, including shrimp, salmon, and bison!) We’re happy to take care of vegetarians and vegans too, of course, with our plant-based proteins right next to our dairy-free cheese and yogurt. Don’t forget some fresh veggies on the side (grill them up in a pan or on a kebab), a can of organic baked beans, and for dessert—you guessed it, we’ve got all the s’more fixings anyone could ask for (including vegan marshmallows!). We’ve even got big, bright, beautiful handwoven fair trade Alaffia baskets to carry everything in.
What if you’re traveling from here to elsewhere this summer? Well, we’ll miss you, but we can help you and your loved ones bring along a little bit of Bemidji with our selection of locally-grown and made goods. If you’re not going too far, feel free to bring along fresh produce (if you’ve got a cooler, that is); Merry Gardens Farm, Vibrant Farm, and Clearwater Woodcraft are just a few of our local suppliers for fresh fruits and vegetables, and you could even (very carefully) show off some local chicken or duck eggs. Local honey is always a favorite, and Bar Bell Bee Ranch has everything from honey straws to five-pound buckets; since we are in the Northwoods, perhaps maple syrup is more your style, and Maple Island Farms comes from right up the road in Tenstrike. And if you’re getting maple syrup, you’ll need something to put it on—like Natural Way Mills waffle mix, or Red Lake Nation Foods wild rice pancake mix (and of course you can’t pass up Red Lake’s wild fruit syrup or jam). Speaking of wild rice, this is Minnesota after all, and no one can resist the gift of hand-harvested Native Harvest or KC’s Best local wild rice! Secret Garden dried soup mixes are a hit, too, and Clover Valley Farms out of Duluth makes the best sweet-tart flavored vinegar and drinking shrubs you’ll ever taste.
We love Bemidji in the wintertime, don’t get us wrong—there’s ice fishing, of course, but also snowshoe and ski trails, sleigh rides, curling (literal Olympic champions come from Bemidji), dogsledding, and even just looking at the scenery. That said, wintertime up here lasts considerably longer than summertime does, so we try to get outside as much as we can and soak up all the warm summer sunshine (and vitamin D) before the white flakes fall from the sky again. We’re watching our pollinator garden grow and cheering on each bumblebee and butterfly (we’ve even got some flowers and tomatoes planted by our own Harmony Co-op Explorers kids program, which by the way is the last Saturday of every month and free for kids 12 and under); we’re planning our own upcoming events, like the Harmony Summer Family Festival on July 19th with games and a free community meal. We’ll be going on some farm tours in July and August, with two visits to Bagley’s own Merry Gardens Farm as well as a Co-op Explorers trip to the Bemidji Food Shelf farm. We’re biking and rollerblading around the lake, checking out the ladyslippers on the Bog Walk at the state park, jumping off the end of docks to cool off and warming up around bonfires. We’re lucky to live here, we’re lucky to have so many great new visitors every year, and we can’t wait to share our love of Bemidji adventuring with you!