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A SLO approach to food production

Valentine family
Valentine Gardens, located in Green Bay, treats farming as a family affair. Mark Valentine, left, and Sarah Valentine, right, along with their three children, run a five-acre farm and share their harvest with SLO’s CSA members. Submitted photo

By Gracelyn Giese

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – Our food is driven and flown across the country – carrots from California, potatoes from Idaho and beets from North Dakota.

It can be difficult to understand where the food you are eating comes from, much less who is growing it.

However, a group of farmers banded together under the name “SLO” in 2014 to increase the accessibility of locally-grown produce.

SLO Farming Co-op — pronounced slow — is a sustainable, local and organic small collective dedicated to the slow food movement.

This means “local food getting to you, not the just-in-time way of mass shipments,” explained Heather Toman, general manager of SLO.

While the farms in the co-op have changed over the years, they all share the same desire to build community and support the local economy.

Toman shared that supporting small farms is beneficial for consumers because it “makes us less dependent on the big farms that use more chemicals” and that “knowing where your food comes from in the local soil is so much healthier, you feel more connected to the place.”

The farms within this co-op are “like minded farmers wanting to grow organically, stay small and only service the local community,” she said.

With their limited resources and desire to stray away from nation-wide shipping, these seven farms from northeast Wisconsin pool products to sell to wholesale customers, restaurants, schools and individuals through community-supported agriculture (CSAs).

CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is run like a subscription service where people get a box every “week, month or season” from a variety of farms as a collective “so there is more diversity and consistency” Toman shared.

Customers have the choice between produce CSAs with fruit and vegetables or meat boxes with “100% grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and chicken.”

SLO’s CSAs differ from traditional boxes by allowing consumers to build their own boxes and swap out items that better fit their preferences.

There are also a variety of add-ons from other local businesses, such as bread from Voyageurs Bakehouse and pasta from Clario Farmstead Pasta.

In addition to caring about the growth of food, SLO also cares about the local community.

The co-op has incorporated many ways for those financially struggling to access locally-grown and fresh foods.

This includes FairShare CSA Coalition’s Partner Share program.

This program selects different community institutions such as schools, food pantries and community centers and covers half of the CSA cost, up to $3,000.

SLO also allows for SNAP and EBT usage, which works as a credit on an account for purchases.

A unique way for people to get their hands dirty and earn fresh goods is the Worker Share Program.

This program is hosted weekly at the Full Circle Community Farm in Seymour, where people can work in exchange for vegetables, and sometimes even meat and eggs.

“A lot of people just enjoy being out and doing some physical work. The act of growing and being part of harvesting food is pretty powerful” Toman said.

Currently, SLO is gearing up for a busy summer ahead.

They will be hosting a tour of the partner farm Full Circle Community Farm on June 1.

For more information, visit slofarmersco-op.com.

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