Summer’s warmth is slowly giving way to crisp autumn. The sun sets a little bit earlier every night, the leaves are just tinged with yellow or red in a preview of their full fall glory; we haven’t had frost so far, but we’re just starting to wish for warmer socks when our bare feet hit the floor in the morning. Tomato gardens are slowing down and the kale is getting ready for its second wind; it’s still perfect grilling weather, but oatmeal and fresh-baked bread are sounding more and more welcoming each day. It’s harvest time at Harmony Co-op, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than our second annual Harvest Fair.
If you’re not familiar, our Harvest Fair is when we turn our parking lot into a “Fair” of Local people and products with live music and family activities to cap off the summer, celebrate the harvest and the hardworking folks that make it happen, and give everyone the opportunity to meet the people who grow and produce your food. Local means real food coming from real people in our same community or region; with everything from fish to honey, wild rice and maple syrup to bison and every kind of fruit and veggie that northern Minnesota gardens can produce.
Why do we do this? Well, first and foremost—because it’s fun! We think it’s important to bring together our community of shoppers and our community of growers—the people that eat the food and the people that provide it. When you have the opportunity to meet your local farmer, you get to see firsthand the dedication, heart, and hard work that goes into producing all of the products you’ve come to love.
After all, we wouldn’t be here at all without our local community! Harmony Co-op was incorporated in 1977 and ever since then has been striving to embody our ends statements in everything we do—and the very first one is “Harmony Coop supports vibrant local commerce in the community with retail business to provide an outlet for local growers and producers.” Shopping at the co-op isn’t just about eating delicious food, it’s about spending your money in a way that most positively impacts the people around you. For every dollar spent at the co-op over a thousand dollars goes back into the community; we pay our growers, they pay their bills, suppliers, and employees, and that money can keep recirculating.
Buying local also supports northern Minnesota’s cultural traditions, such as our hand-harvested wild rice and our line of foods from the Red Lake Nation. As a locally owned cooperative we celebrate the history of the diverse cultures around us that have shaped who we are as a community, particularly the local food system, ways of sustainable living, and respect for the land. This also reflects our second ends statement — “Harmony Coop strives to promote and restore healthful, sustainable and environmental practices” — and has inspired our Ojibwe Language Project, which aims to reaffirm Bemidji as part of the traditional homelands of the Ojibwe Nation and recognize the Ojibwe people as an important part of the Bemidji community and an important part of Harmony Co-op. We have signs in English and Ojibwe around the store for not only indigenous food items (like squash, corn, and wild rice) but also directional signage, on the bathrooms and employee areas.
Local food is:
better for the environment. It makes sense—products that aren’t shipped as far don’t take so much fuel.
better-tasting. Produce that doesn’t travel far can be picked close enough to the point of ripeness that it’s perfectly ready right when you need it. That means the fruits and veggies can get ready the way they’re supposed to—on the vine, in the sun and fresh air! If you’ve ever bought a big box chain store tomato out of season, you’ll know the flavor isn’t nearly comparable; that’s because the fruits are picked when still green and ripen on the way in climate-controlled bins. You’d feel sad and stale too!
better for the community. These are our friends and neighbors—literally! For every dollar spent at the co-op, a thousand dollars goes back into the community. We pay our farmers for their produce, they can pay their bills and employees and suppliers who can then do the same, and that money will recirculate throughout the local economy.
Here are some of the local farmers and growers (in their own words) that you’ll be able to meet at the Harvest Fair:
Bramble Bee Farm: “Bramble Bee Farm offers the finest artisan and traditional breads. We mix simplicity with artistry. From Sourdough to Mediterranean style loafs. We use only locally milled 100% organic, Non-GMO flours, which mean a higher nutrient content. We also use our own home-grown honey in many of our breads, which adds to the beauty of our products.”
Merry Gardens Farm: “Not everyone can live on a farm, but together we can all be a part of building relationship with the land that sustains us. Our mission is to raise produce as if you've grown and picked it yourself. Our hogs are raised with respect, allowing their natural innate instincts for free range living. We plan for the farm to provide what the hogs and plants need. Growing crops for feed and using natural fertilizing methods is all a part of our sustainable plan. Everything we plant is grown according to organic standards and practices. We know this is important to families because it is important to ours. The foundation of happiness is vibrant health. And it starts with the food we eat and where it comes from.”
Natural Way Mills: “Natural Way Mills is a certified organic operation. We have an extensive inventory of organic grains, cereals and flours. Most ground right on the premises from grain that has been chosen personally by the founder of Natural Way Mills.”
Red Lake Nation Fishery: “Our mission is to sustainably manage, harvest, and prepare superior quality wild fish products, inspired by our Native American culture. Our fish products are wild caught by tribal fishermen using the wisdom from our elders to harvest in a sustainable manner. We understand the benefits of natural foods and include that value into the preparation of our fillets, each one done by hand.”
We won’t just have local growers here, though; we’ve also invited a few of our local restaurants and chefs to join in the fun!
Cake Bemidji - Sampling their Specialty Buttercream Cake. “What do you get when you order a cake from Cake Bemidji? A scratch made, one of a kind, hand crafted, amazingly delicious treat! The cakes are dense, they have a nice crumb (that’s baker talk for good texture), and they actually taste the way cake should! Because they are made from scratch, they aren’t full of preservatives and things you can’t pronounce.” Bonus: they’re made right here in our Community Kitchen!
Tutto Bene - Sampling TBA. “To get back to our roots with food we have partnered with local farmers in Bemidji. This means you get the wholesome taste and freshness of the local area. We value supporting the local community as well as bringing in local food to influence our menu.”
Minnesota Nice Café - Sampling their Carrot Soup. Minnesota Nice Café is another one of our favorite neighbors. Located right across the street from our parking lot, they're close enough for us to smell the hash browns and bacon--and sometimes closer, as they rent the Community Kitchen sometimes when they have big catering projects.
Turtle River Chophouse - Sampling their Ratatouille Dip. “At the Turtle River Chophouse, we specialize in American cuisine with an Asian flair. We have a scratch kitchen, hand cutting all of our steaks, making ravioli fresh and procuring everything in house. We take pride in making upscale food in a fun, social atmosphere. Whether you are looking for a special dinner, an upbeat happy hour or simply a fresh meal, the Chophouse is for you.”
Good Food Deli - Sampling TBA. Ask anyone in Bemidji and they’ll tell you that we have the best hot, fresh (and made with as many local and organic ingredients as possible) soup in town—and so much more! The Good Food Deli menu has the largest selection of local and organic grab-and-go items in Bemidji.
While we’re so excited for getting all our friends here and eating all this good food, that’s not all the fun we’ve got planned. There will be gourd-painting, balloon animals, facepainting, bobbing for apples (what harvest celebration is complete without it?), and even more family activities, plus live music from Thomas X and Mudsong.
We can’t wait to see you all and celebrate the end of another successful harvest season here at Harmony Co-op!