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Growing for the Co-op, growing for yourself

Now is the time to think about seeds for this season's garden.
Now is the time to think about seeds for this season's garden.

NorGard_011412.mp3112.58 MB

Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam talk to Jeri Persons, produce manager at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op, about what growers need to know about growing vegetables for the co-op. Rick Skoog, who grows kale, kohlrabi and radishes for the co-op, was in the studio as well.
The hosts also talk to Paul Gallione, from Johnny Seeds Co. in Maine, a popular seed source for Cook County gardeners.

Below are notes and questions used in the interview as well as lists of popular vegetable varieties that do well in Cook County.

Jeri Person, Cook County Co-op
Jeri: Many of us have watched the growth of the Cook County Whole Foods Cooperative over the years and have applauded the organic / local foods movement in part represented by the co-op. One of the goals both Extension and the Northwoods Food project share is trying to get more local food production in Cook County. How much of the produce provided by the co-op (%) is:

· From Cook County

· From the northeastern region of Minnesota

· From Minnesota

· From Wisconsin, Iowa or the Dakotas

· From further away?

· What about Canada?

As the produce manager for the co-op, would you please share some thoughts or ideas you might have for folks interested in selling produce to the co-op? How would they go about doing that and what things should they know about? Do you have written guidelines or certain requirements? (these are just some thoughts I have – you might have others)

· Reliable source: Can you meet with someone this time of year and contract for a certain amount of produce and kinds to be available – or is that too uncertain for our county?

What about if a group of growers worked together to create better certainty for products? Seasonal vs. out of season?

· Paperwork and tracking: How difficult is it to say, oh, I’ll purchase your extra apples but you will need to supply us with (x) amount in order to make it feasible for the paperwork and tracking we have to do for occasional suppliers?

An invoice that identifies the supplier or grower’s name and address. Good record keeping is important in case of a trace back of a product due to illness or injury.

· Organically certified vs. naturally grown:

Documentation needed for sale to Co-op? Three years of records, documentation that references the USDA organic certifying agent. If less than $5,000 products sold, a record of what has been done to produce and / or land where product has been grown?

· Quality of produce: Are you seeing any signs of insects, disease, bruising and damage, freshness, over ripeness or immaturity? Is the product kept cold after picking, how soon before the product is brought to the Co-op before being sold? What condition does it need to be in? Dirt washed off, bundled in the case of radishes, carrots, small onions, small turnips, lettuce cleaned and spun dry???

· Contamination of product: Is the product transported in clean boxes, containers, or with dogs, dog hair and dog breath? Are there signs of contamination by rodents, insects or birds? Does the grower wash his / her hands before picking produce?

· Is the produce something people will buy? If wild raspberries are abundant and some is picking them and trying to sell them, will people buy them if they are readily available? If you are growing a more unusual product like purple mizuna – it might be easy to grow – but will people purchase it? Are you willing to try things like this?

Licensing, state requirements, etc… · Commercial food operators(i.e. restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, food markets) can purchase produce directly from the grower if the person is selling produce that they have grown on their own land.

*State of Minnesota Constitution, Article 13, Section 7 NO LICENSE REQUIRED TO PEDDLE. Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor.

*Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 28A.15, Subdivision 1 highlights:

Sales by farmers, not others in food business

Prepares and sells not potentially hazardous food at community event / farmers market $5000 or less. “Products are homemade and not subject to state inspection” if they are prepared in a non-licensed kitchen. Name and address of person preparing and selling the food.

Home processed / home canned foods need to have less than $5,000 in gross sales and can be pickles, vegetables or fruits having a pH value of 4.6 or lower.

· If a grower is selling produce to commercial food establishments, is the grower considered an approved source?

*Yes, as long as the food is not processed and is grown on the farm or garden cultivated by them. Food cannot be prepared or stored in the private home.

· Would a grower be required to have a license for foods that are processed?

*Yes, but processing does not include trimming as part of the harvest process or preliminary washing to remove extraneous soil and debris. Cutting, heating, canning, freezing, drying, mixing, coating, bottling would require a license.

· What if I buy produce from my Uncle Sam and want to resell it here along with my produce?

*You might need to be licensed as a Minnesota Wholesale Produce dealer.

· If a grower does not need a license, does that mean they do not have to comply with good agricultural and management practices?

*No, even though a grower

Jeri: What products are you looking to maybe purchase locally?

Meeting in April with potential growers for the Whole Foods Coop?

Johnny's Seeds, Paul Gallione
Paul: As a small commercial grower in Maine, do you have any additional suggestions we have not discussed for marketing your produce to a Whole Foods Cooperative or restaurant, etc?

Paul, you operate a small organic farm in Maine, you are an agonomist and you work as a technical services technician for Johnny’s Seeds. Tell us more about what you grow and what you do for Johnny’s.

Johnny’s Seeds has become known for selling seeds that will do well in short season, cold weather varieties. Winslow, Maine where Johnny’s Seeds is located sits at a latitude of 44.54 while Grand Marais is about 47.73. Our growing zones would be considered zones 3 and 4. How different or similar is your growing zone to ours?

· Have you noticed a change in climate that has been translated to being able to grow longer days to maturity for vegetable varieties?

We have seen a resurgence in both gardening as a whole and especially in gardeners looking for heirloom or open-pollinated varieties. Johnny’s offers some heirloom varieties but still offers a large number of F1 hybrids. Do you see this changing in the near future? Is Johnny’s doing more research on heirloom varieties for northern climates?

Johnny’s offers some seed varieties they have developed themselves. Talk to us a little bit about the process you go through to develop those varieties.

· If your company hasn’t developed these varieties directly, how do you determine what seeds to sell and / or recommend in your catalog?

Interplanting and succession planting becomes more difficult when you are growing vegetables in short season, cold climates. What seed combinations / varieties have worked well for interplanting and give us some recommendations for succession plantings that work well. Too cold – then too hot – then too cold…. How much do you rely on season extenders?f

· Problems with bitterness in lettuce.

· Problems with bolting in spinach

· Problems with timing for a second crop of broccoli or a later crop of peas.

· Other common problems people encounter?

· How important are inoculants for peas, beans, etc?

Paul, what are some of your favorite vegetable varieties you continue to plant year after year that you have had good success with?

Tell us about some of the new vegetable varieties you are offering and how you think they may ‘stack up’ against the older more favorite varieties for our zones 3 and 4?


· Provider – 50 days germinates well in cold soils

· Amethyst - 56 day (new) purple bean flavor?

· Fortex – 60 day pole bean – how does it compare in flavor to the blue lake beans


· Touchstone gold – 55 days

· Blankoma – 55 days – white, taste in comparison to touchstone gold and red ace


· ? shorter day varieties seem to have less side shoot production

· Development of ‘button heads’ if left in seed flats too long before being transplanted out.

· Excessive heat when developing can cause little to no head development

Mini Broccoli (Gailon is Chinese broccoli (Kale) Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra

· Broccoli x Gailon – Happy Rich – 55 days Better, smaller tasting stems than regular broccoli?

· Atlantis – 60 days

Brussels Sprouts

Flower Sprouts Brussels sprouts x kale

· Kaleidoscope mix - 90 days Flavor??


· Best for making sauerkraut? Kaitlin – 94 days

· Gonzales – 66 days for mini cabbages

· Ruby Perfection – 85 days

· Red cabbage seems to be more resistant to the white cabbage butterfly than green cabbage?


· Mokum – 36 days very sweet early Nantes type for fresh eating ( high in sugar, low is starch – don’t keep well)

· Caracas – 57 day baby Chantenay – better for growing in heavier soils

· Bolero – 75 days great for storage

· ? No Danvers type carrots are listed in the catalog?


· Best self-blanching varieties

· Fremont – 62 days

· Bishop - 65 days better Fremont variety

· Denali - 73 days for Fall production

· Graffiti – 80 days purple variety - flavor? – freezing qualities?

Corn ( Natural II treatment applied to seed as a film?)

· Spring Treat – 66 days (se) sugary enhanced yellow

· Trinity – 68 days (se+) sugary enhanced bicolor

· Mirai corn varieties – combination of se,su, sh2 ??? Have you trialed it there?

· Painted Mountain – 85 days flour, hominy, roasting


· Northern Pickling – 48 days for pickles

· Diva – 58 days Sweet, seedless, bitterfree cucumbers (variety developed by Johnny’s?)

Asian Greens:
Tatsoi, Mizuna, etc. What varieties are best for late Fall, early Spring in unheated

greenhouse / cold frame, etc.?


· Toscano – 30 days a type of dinosaur kale – better tasting?


· King Richard – 75 day vs. later varieties


· Best varieties that won’t become bitter over summer

· Keep replanting every 20 days or so? / shade cloth

· Bambi – 50 days little gem type for mini-heads.


· Sarah’s Choice – 76 days, cantaloupe F1 consistently best tasting

· Honey Pearl – 74 days, honeydew F1 early and cool-weather tolerant

Onions ( If onions bolt and form flower stalk before end of season – any prevention?)

· Copra – 104 days best storage… Is Patterson a better variety? Or Pontiac?

· How well have cipollini onions done for you?


· Maxigolt – 62 days best tasting pea

· Sienna – 55 days powdery mildew resistant

· Penelope – 59 days powdery mildew resistant


· Ace – 50 days / 70 days

· Olympus – 65 days / 85 days

· Lipstick – 53 green, 73 days red

· Superior – (early) white, scab resistant, long-storing

· Dark Red Norland – (early) stores well

· Gold Rush – (mid) stores well, early russet

· Yukon Gold – (early-mid) yellow, stores well, Production?

· Kennebec – (late) white, good storage


· Racer – 85 days, 12 – 16 lbs

· Big Doris - 90 days, 30 -40 lbs

· Orange Smoothie – 95 days, 6 – 9 lbs


· Rover – 21 days – heat tolerance – better to plant as 2nd or 3rd crop?

· Alpine - 55 days Daikon white radish more tolerant in warm weather

Spinach Smooth vs. Savoy?

· Best for Fall or Winter growing? Red Cardinal – 21 days

· Best for summer growing in more heat? Emu – 42 days

· Tyee – 40 days Typically bolts


· Honey Bear – 85 days

· Delicata – 100 days - different strains taste different

· Sunshine – 95 days – kabocha

· Red Kuri – 92 days – hubbard

· Butternut – what works best for you/

Tomatoes …. Are you using rootstocks for your tomatoes? Best roma tomato?

· New Girl – (F1) 62 days – better tasting and more disease resistant than Early Girl (Ind)

· Martha Washington (F1) – 78 days – too late for outdoors here? Pick green and ripen indoors?(Ind)

· Polbig – 60 days (F1) – perform in cool climates, better tasting than Oregon Spring (Det.)

· Juliet – 60 days (F1) – nice small roma for salsa, salads, pasta, long shelf life (Ind)

· Rebelski – 75 days (F1) – best greenhouse tomato: northern exposure, celebrity, 4th of July,(Ind)

Best Cherry / GrapeTomato

· Sun Gold (F1) – 57 days

· Sakura (F1) – 55 days One of the first varieties to ripen in greenhouse How do they do outside?

· Five Star Grape – 62 days – Bred by Johnny’s (Ind.)

· Black Cherry – 64 days – Almost black in color, taste is more like an heirloom


· Little Baby Flower – 70 days (F1) Smallest red 2-4 lbs, fruit with 3 – 5 per plant

· Sweet Bite – 75 days (F1) seedless – what about the flavor of seedless watermelons?

Announcements: Introduction to Hobby Beekeeping class on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with Mike Goblirsch, graduate student working with Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota. Mike plans to cover the following topics: Starting and managing healthy honey bee colonies, performing routine hive management, identifying and inspecting for diseases and parasites, harvesting and packaging honey, and overwintering a colony. Cost will be $35 for the day and include lunch. Please call the Cook County Extension office at (218) 387-3015 to register for the class.

Squash-a-thon Potluck: Sunday, Feb. 5 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Cook County Community Center. If you still have squash – make something with squash, otherwise make something wonderful to share. If you need squash, contact Diane at 387-3015. Bring your recipe to share for the Northwoods Food Project cookbook, too. For more information, call Joan at 287-3101.