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  • Writer's pictureHarmony Coop

Local Love: A Celebration of Community

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Summertime in Bemidji is a special time of year. We don't mean to play favorites, because we love Bemidji all year round; winter ice fishing or adventuring on cross-country ski trails, springtime flowers and flocks of migrating birds, and autumn's bright foliage and, of course, the harvest. There's local foods all year round, too, breads, produce and meats, eggs and foraged mushrooms, and of course honey and maple syrup.

So why are we so obsessed with keeping it local? We love it here, for one! Harmony Co-op has been a part of Bemidji for 42 years, starting from a small basement bulk buying group to our current location as downtown’s only grocery store, and we’re so grateful to be here. It’s not just civic pride, though.

“We have end statements that drive our ‘how’ and ‘why’ we grow. They are really value-orientated and are about putting value back into the local economy.” -Colleen Bakken, GM

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!

  • Local food is better for the community because it is 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. 

We at Harmony are fortunate enough to have some really great local producers in the Bemidji and greater northern Minnesota area. There’s too many to list here, so you’ll just have to come into the store and see for yourself, but here are a few:

We've sold Merry Gardens Farm produce for several years now; located near Bagley, Merry Gardens Farm isn't just local, they're also certified organic! Merry Gardens Farm founders Jill Pederson and Randy Olson grew up in small farming communities. From a young age a connection with the land and holy appreciation of its outputs were deeply instilled. Check out Jill's blog here for tips on produce, gardening, and all things earth-friendly!

You’ve probably seen Clearwater Produce around town—but if you don’t recognize that name, you’ll definitely know “Ivan’s farm”. 

Ivan and his family farm a thousand acres near Leonard, Minnesota and grow everything from peppers to potatoes (the heirloom tomatoes are a particular favorite) without artificial pesticides or fertilizers, relying on traditional farming methods like crop rotation and cattle grazing.  Read more about Clearwater Produce here on our blog!

Vibrant Farm is a family-run, independent farm offering the best quality produce from sustainable and eco-friendly farming projects. Vibrant Farm is located in Laporte, Minnesota and carries a mission to provide healthy, nutrient-dense produce to Northern Minnesota communities. Their desire is to connect with people and be a part of a bigger purpose. Learn more about Danae and her family here on our blog or on Facebook. They sell lettuce as well as microgreens - nutrient-dense plant shoots that are often thought of as "nature's confetti"! Microgreens can easily add texture, a variety of different flavors, and a natural dash of vibrant color to any dish: appetizers, salads, soups, and entrees.

We also get local chicken eggs from Harold Frenzel; chicken and duck eggs from Split Oak Farm; local quail eggs from Birdhouse Hollow and chicken eggs (and meat) from Larry Schultz; they’re not just delicious but free-range, so you know the chickens are treated humanely and given the best lives possible.

We get local honey from Bar Bell Bee Ranch—and what’s really great about that aside from the taste is that consuming local honey can actually help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies! As if we didn’t love bees enough, right?

Speaking of sweet treats—we have delicious local maple syrup from Maple Island in Tenstrike, just a few minutes up the road, and Native Harvest maple syrup and wild rice from the White Earth reservation.

We have an assortment of local wild fruit jams and syrups (and pancake mix to put them on) from Red Lake Nation Foods; they are Native American-owned, locally grown and hand-harvested, and contain no preservatives or artificial sweeteners—plus, they’re delicious!

Wild rice isn’t just a part of our local economy, it’s part of our local culture. All the wild rice Harmony sells is wild-grown and traditionally hand-harvested, reflecting its historical importance to the Ojibwe community of northern Minnesota. 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. Harmony also has been pleased to expand the Ojibwe Language Project; you’ll notice around the store a number of signs in both English and Ojibwe, both items we sell and also directional signage. The Ojibwe Language Project 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 also post a different Ojibwe word on social media every Friday afternoon.

This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the amazing array of locally and regionally-produced goods at Harmony Co-op. Bramble Bee Farm Bread has a great variety of freshly-baked sourdough breads - and you can't get any more local than Bramble Bee, because Roger Bramble bakes it right here in the Harmony Community Kitchen!

We have a selection of books from local authors, from illustrated children’s books to memoirs and collections of poetry. We carry organic and fair-trade Peace Coffee from Minneapolis and Ferndale Market turkey from Cannon Falls, Minnesota; Fox Farm pork chops and sausage come from Browerville and Kadejan chicken from Glenwood, Minnesota. Zeller’s in Blackduck produces a natural PMS/progesterone cream that’s been a favorite at Harmony for years, and Natural Way Mills flour and grains are grown and milled right in nearby Middle River.  If you’d like to contact our growers directly, we maintain a Local Connection Facebook group and list on our website; even if we don’t sell what you’re looking for, I bet we can find you someone that does!

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