The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Fifth Season Cooperative Expands Product Line

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It’s so amazing to be living here in Wisconsin.  We have a conservative state legislature that passed a bill watering down environmental protections in favor of an out-of-state mining operation that wants to open a strip mine in one of the most ecologically pristine areas in the state.  We have acre upon acre of GE corn and soy growing every year.

On the other hand, we have this:

The Fifth Season Cooperative, founded in August 2010, is co-owned by farmers, distributors, buyers, producer groups, workers and processors within a 150-mile radius of Viroqua.
The cooperative produces and distributes locally grown produce, meats, dairy and value-added food products to institutional and foodservice buyers from farms and regional processors through its distribution member, Reinhart FoodService. Fifth Season requires sustainable practices and provides fair pricing for small and mid-sized growers and processors. The cooperative also works together with businesses and organizations to provide education on and increased exposure to locally produced foods.
Current membership includes 30 independent farms, three farmer cooperatives, 11 processors and two distributors.  Hundreds of foodservice buyers have access to Fifth Season’s products through Reinhart, La  Crosse.
The cooperative is launching its first two products in a frozen, value-added line of vegetables. “Winter Moon,” a root vegetable medley, and “WI. Potato Fusion,” a blend of three Wisconsin potatoes, is scheduled to roll into Reinhart FoodService, La Crosse, in the first week of December. These two blends are the first in a line of local, sustainable vegetable products created to provide hospitals, schools and restaurants more choices when buying local, well beyond the fresh produce season.
Fifth Season Cooperative has launched “Help Us Grow,” a capital campaign with an offering of Class B Series 1 preferred stock to Wisconsin residents. Citing its relationship with Reinhart Foodservice as a key to its success, Fifth Season announced it has begun a co-op owned line of frozen, value-added products to expand sales year round.
The “Help Us Grow” campaign is intended to attract investors who are interested in supporting Fifth Season’s regional model and the businesses and communities it serves.
The campaign brochure outlines the development necessary for the co-op to achieve a level of sales that is profitable and sustainable, including a broader product portfolio, more robust infrastructure and logistics, and marketing and staffing support.
“We’re fortunate to have visionary partners and customers who are vested in the growth of the Fifth Season system, even though it’s still in its infancy,” said Mike Dvorak, Fifth Season Board member and division president at Reinhart FoodService.
In the past, the foods now produced and sold through Fifth Season were shipped directly to major markets such as Minneapolis and Chicago, bypassing foodservice buyers within this region. Today, Fifth Season’s local production and distribution model gives those buyers the opportunity to buy fresh, frozen and shelf-stable foods that have been shipped fewer miles and offer superior taste and freshness.
“The demand for local foods in foodservice is strong,” said Diane Chapeta, Fifth Season’s operations manager, “and we’ve connected our pipeline with theirs.”
Chapeta  said the co-op’s greatest accomplishment in 2013 has been to develop a line of branded products for food service buyers within the region.
“We’ve created a line of frozen products to expand our sales and reach, and we now need support to meet the demand of our customers,” she said.  
Mark Hutson, Fifth Season Board member and administrative director of Nutrition Services at Gundersen Lutheran Health System added, “The demand is there, and customers are willing to pay a little more for something local and fresh.  More support for Fifth Season will make this model a big success for the whole region.”
For information about investing in Fifth Season’s Class B Series 1 preferred stock, Wisconsin residents may contact Diane Chapeta at info.fifthsea or 608-638-2667.

Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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