Partnering with our producers

by Eli Penberthy

This article was originally published in November 2012

PCC’s merchandisers go the extra mile to know who produces our food, and how.

Elin Smith and Tim Lukens

PCC’s grocery category manager, Elin Smith, visits Tim Lukens and one of his cows at Grace Harbor Farms in Custer, Wash., which provides creamy yogurt to PCC. Lukens’ cows are raised without any corn or soy, to avoid genetically engineered feed. “I cannot express how fabulous the co-op shoppers have been to us,” Lukens says. “We have a loyal following from PCC and we’re very grateful.”

In this month of Thanksgiving, we want to thank the many farmers and other producers whose products you so enjoy. Our relationships with them often have been cultivated over many years, and go deep.

We know them from more than just emails and phone calls — our merchandisers and staff often visit the places where the products are grown and produced. Here we share photos from some of our favorite visits.

All that local, organic produce you love at PCC? We’ve been to those farms and seen for ourselves all the work growers such as Nash Huber and his crew put in to turn out those candy-sweet carrots. We’ve seen Mark LaPierre work his land to grow the delicious local, organic blueberries, nectarines and cherries we enjoyed all summer.

Our produce staff has traveled abroad, too — to Colima, Mexico, home of PCC’s organic, fairly traded bananas, and to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, in search of the giant sweet mangoes we love. Visiting the farms enables us to vouch for the integrity and sustainability of the food we sell.

collage of producers

(top, left) Alana Anderson of Issaquah PCC and Dorie Holden of Greenlake PCC visit a farm in Fruitland, Wash., that provides rose geranium to Evan Healy, a popular hair and body care vendor. Here, Robin Carlson, a local Evan Healy representative (white tank top) gathers the rose geranium while Dorie (purple hat) plucks the leaves to prepare the plants for distillation. “My favorite part of this trip was harvesting plants … it made me see how Evan Healy is farm-to-face,” says Anderson.

(top, middle) Redmond PCC produce coordinator P.J. Cawley visits Project Amigo, a nonprofit organization that works to empower poor Mexican children through education. Project Amigo is funded partly by the GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers) Fund. GROW was created by Organics Unlimited, a family-owned company near Project Amigo headquarters in Colima, Mexico. It grows the organic, fairly traded bananas sold at PCC.

(top, right) “What a great trip!” says Kirkland’s Nancy Westrick of the tour of Wisconsin cheese makers she took with the other PCC cheese specialists. “I loved meeting the cows and seeing the pastures where they graze.”

(bottom, left) PCC produce merchandiser Joe Hardiman visits with Mark LaPierre at his farm in Zillah, Wash. You can find LaPierre’s organic blueberries right now in the frozen cases at PCC.

(bottom, 2nd from left) PCC’s grocery merchandiser, Scott Owen, pits organic coffee cherries by hand in Quillabama, Peru. “Meeting the actual farmers, listening to their stories, and seeing their families provided me with a deeper understanding of why fair trade products are so important,” says Owen.

(bottom, 2nd from right) PCC director of sustainability Diana Chapman and PCC director of public affairs Trudy Bialic visit with the chickens (and the people) at Wilcox Family Farms in Roy, Wash. Wilcox free-range eggs were added to PCC’s offerings in many stores after this spring tour. Large outdoor foraging areas with trees, shrubs and other vegetation encourage athletic behaviors and hunting for insects and grubs natural in a chicken’s diet.

(bottom, right) Beer and wine merchandiser Jeff Cox visits Jean-Pierre Vanel’s vineyard in the Pézenas Appellation of the Languedoc. About his wine trips to France, Cox says, “There’s a refreshing focus on what really matters — the vineyard, family, friends and making wine that’s an honest expression of the place it’s from.”

It’s fun for us city-folk to make these trips. It’s a joy to walk through the Otte family’s organic apple orchards and to commune with the happy cows at Grace Harbor, Pure Eire and Organic Valley that produce heavenly yogurt, milk and other dairy. It’s heartening and reassuring to see cows on pasture, as nature intended.

“I love spending time with our friends in Italy, France and Spain,” says PCC’s beer and wine merchandiser, Jeff Cox, about his yearly wine trips to Europe. “Walking the vineyards, tasting what’s new, having great conversations over a meal and a bottle or two en famille.”

Robin Cantor, PCC’s deli and bakery manager, traveled to France this year to learn about the origin of French cheeses, including Marcel Petit’s Comte and Lactalis’ Petit Basque.

Our team of cheese specialists was invited to a special tour of cheese makers in Wisconsin. “Our tour highlighted how hand-crafted, artisan Wisconsin cheeses really are,” says PCC’s Diana Lovitt. “They are being produced by great people with outstanding talent and integrity for the process.”

Elin Smith, PCC’s grocery category manager, was flown to Italy a few months ago by Jovial, the gluten-free pasta company. She saw the fields where the grains are grown and the entire pasta-making process. She came back glowing about the experience — and the pasta. Seeing how the food is made somehow makes it taste even better.

We want to thank all our farmers, artisans and other producers for honoring the trust we put in them when we buy their products. We value our partnerships.

We want to thank you, too, for being such loyal, dedicated shoppers and members. In the end, you’re the reason we cultivate these relationships.

Organic heroes

Chuck Eggert

Chuck Eggert

This holiday season, we want to give a special nod of thanks to Pacific Foods, an independent, organic brand that’s standing up for integrity in amazing ways.

The founders and owners of Pacific Foods, Chuck and Louanna Eggert, donated $5 million for organic research to Washington State University, where the nation’s first four-year organic agriculture major began in 2006. The Eggerts’ donation enables WSU’s organic farm to expand from four acres to nearly 30 acres, making it the largest organic teaching farm on a U.S. campus.

We also salute the Eggerts for introducing a new line called “Simply Stock” — the kind of honest organic food you tell us you want. These liquid stocks are made from just simple ingredients, all traceable to distinct farms, with no added seasoning or stabilizers — perfect for making gravy and mashed potatoes.

Thank you, Chuck and Louanna Eggert!

Also in this issue

Sugar: why do we crave it during winter?

During the cold, dark winter months, we get less sunlight, less exercise, and many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mild form of depression.

PCC Board of Trustees report, November 2012

Board report, New Local Suppliers, Next board meeting, and more

A different take on cheese

With a sweet-tangy flavor and sometimes salty, grassy undertones, goat and sheep's milk cheeses have been loved around the world throughout history.