Standards of Quality
All of our produce at Ozark Natural Foods Cooperative is grown in accordance with the USDA & National Organic Program standards for Organics and is either Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown—we never carry conventionally grown product. The staff of the Ozark Natural Foods Produce Department is committed to providing our owners and customers with the best selection of Certified Organic and Certified Naturally Grown produce and to sourcing as much of that produce from our region’s local farmers. All produce that we accept at the door must be of a 95% or higher quality.
We place the highest priority on purchasing local produce; we consider an item to be ‘local’ if it is grown within a one hundred mile radius from our store. When an item is available locally we buy only the local product for as long as the harvest lasts. We work with each farmer on an individual basis to discuss the products they would like to grow, pass on suggestions for requested products, and negotiate ahead of the growing season the quantity we can buy from them each week. This information exchange allows the farmer to plan ahead for the next year giving them assurance that there is a market for their products, support for their farm, and helps them have a prosperous growing season. It also means that at Ozark Natural Foods Cooperative you can find the freshest in top quality, organic, local produce, year round sourced from 30+ local farms.
Click here to view a calendar of local and non-local organic produce availability.
Aside from the outright support we give to farmers by purchasing, featuring, and merchandising their products in our store, there are many other ways in which we show support for our local farmers and our commitment to local produce:
- Local Signs. Each produce item that is locally grown is marked with a distinct “Local” yellow apple sign and a sign with the name of the farm that grew it.
- Farm Posters. When we visit each of our farms, we take pictures of the farmers and hang them above our vegetable display so that you can put a face to the farmer who is dedicated to growing the healthy organic produce you just bought.
- Featured Farmers. Check out the other sections of our website to see the map of all our local farms and a complete listing of all our local farms and their products. We also have a handout brochure with the entire store’s local products, “A Guide to Local Products”, located in the front of our store by the Owner Services Desk.
- Meet Your Farmer. We have several opportunities for you to meet some of our local farmers in 2014. We are organizing a local farm tour for April 2014, our first ever for owners. Check our March/April newsletter for details on how you can participate in Tour De Farm and have a chance to visit your choice of 8+ farms! You can also meet some of our local vendors at the Annual Owners Meeting and look for some of them as they demo and sell their products in our store, like Gianni of Bur Oak Farm when he demos how to cook chestnuts in the winter time or Herb & Karen of Bean Mountain Farm when they sell their plant starts in front of our store during the spring time.
- Farmer’s Committee. Several of our staff members, farmers, and volunteer owners comprise a committee that is dedicated to supporting and fostering the development of our regional farming community. We have done a number of things to this end including sponsoring individual farmer scholarships to sustainable farming conferences, organized volunteer on-farm-work days, and produced a documentary about farming in the Ozarks and the connection with local foods in our coop entitled “Ozark Grown.” Copies of which are available in the store for purchase.
- Annual Farmer’s Appreciation Dinner. The Farmer’s Committee hosts an Annual Farmer’s Appreciation Dinner to recognize and honor all the hard work and dedication of the local farmers that provide products through Ozark Natural Foods Cooperative.
- Farmers Webpage. One part of our website is dedicated entirely to farmers. Farmers are able to log-in and view a current list ‘wish-list’ of produce, communicate with each other, and access other resources.
- Volunteer Work. As part of the Ozark Natural Foods volunteer work, staff members have the opportunity to do volunteer work at a farm and learn about the ceaseless and demanding job of being a farmer. In the past we have volunteered a full day at Brannon Mountain Farm and helped construct several hoop-houses.
- Staff Training & Education. Each one of our new produce staff members is trained to properly stock and maintain all of our local items; we visit farms; interact with the farmer, and continually learn about the growing processes behind our local products and about the huge variety of local products that we carry.
So if you can’t make it to the farmer’s market, shop our store, look for the “Local” yellow apple sign next to our product signs, and shop local.
Local Farmer Websites
Visit our local farmer Patrice Gros’ website for his farm in Eureka Springs, AR. There are many photos and information that give you a great glimpse into one of our great local farms. Patrice also teaches short weekly classes on organic farming during the winter that draw on his 10+ years of farming experience.
Check out Karen Gros’ website for exciting gourmet cooking classes that feature local, in-season foods. These classes are conducted in Eureka Springs and feature fantastic traditionally French prepared dishes with wonderful wine pairings. Well worth it, everything Karen prepares is unbelievably tasty.
Click here to see Ozark Alternatives Farm located just outside of the Fayetteville city limits. Ozark Alternatives offers an array of fruits, veggies, and preserves through their seasonal CSAs and participates in the WWOOF or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms/Willing Workers on Organic Farms program. This program links aspiring farmers with work positions on established farms so that novices can gain actual experience before launching their own farm . Visit their website to learn about signing up as a CSA member. They offer delivery service and also Ozark Natural Foods holds a few weekly bags for some of their out-of-town members to pick up on Tuesdays.
To see updates from Calvin Bey of Harmony Gardens click here. Calvin is a retired USDA scientist and now dedicates much of his time developing methods for sustainable farming practices that produce high yields. He tests his produce for nutrition levels and only uses structured water on his plants. He also offers yearly classes on his farm for aspiring organic farmers.
We also place a high value on sourcing regional produce, or produce that falls a little outside of our ‘local radius.’ We have been working with a new farm, Peachcrest, from Oklahoma that has been supplying us with a wonderful variety of produce including apples, cantaloupe, pecans, and sweet potatoes. Click here to learn more about their farm to school program. Peachcrest farms was also recently the featured farm in Johnny’s Seed catalogue!
While none of our produce is conventionally grown, there are some different categories that our product falls into: Certified Organic, Certified Naturally Grown, and small scale Organic.
- All of the products from our large, out-of-state vendors, Albert’s Organics and Growers Organics, are Certified Organic.
- All of the products from our small, out-of-state vendors; the dried mushrooms and peppers from Mycological, and Organic Seeds from High Mowing Seeds are Certified Organic.
- Several of our local farms are also Certified Organic: Foundation Farm, Sweden Creek, Dripping Springs, Sycamore Bend,and Foothold Farm.
- Bean Mountain Farm
- Bur Oak Farm
- Lightner Farm
- Kenneth Fields
- Brannon Mountain Farm
- Marty’s Produce
- Plenty Good Produce
- Windy Valley Farm
- Laughing Hill Farm and Garden
- Ozark Alternatives
- Big D Farm
- Herbal Simplicity
- Ames Orchard
- SAS Greenhouse
Small Scale Organic
- Uchumon Hot Peppers
- Down Stream Farm
- Bell Farm
- Moore Produce
- Bogody Arias
- Rongers Farm
- Ansel’s Produce
- Funny Farm
- Villines Family Farm
- Harmony Gardens
Becoming Certified Organic means that the farm must meet all the criteria outlined by the National Organic Program, keep diligent records, and pass an annual inspection by a member from one of the USDA’s Accredited Certifying Agents (like Organ Tilth, CCOF, the Agricultural Department of the University of Oklahoma, or CERTIMEX). Currently there are 55 Accredited Certifying Agencies in the United States and 42 international Accredited Certifying Agencies. This also means that all produce grown in another country that bares the Certified Organic logo (above) is Certified Organic through a USDA Accredited Agency and all the products meet our country’s standards for Organic. Finally, while there are slightly different styles of the USDA Certified Organic logo that signal different things for packaged products or products with mixed ingredients, if a produce item carries the Certified Organic logo it means that the product is 100% Organic. For more information on the Certified Organic program and a complete list of Accredited Certifying Agencies, please visit the National Organic Program’s website.
Certified Naturally Grown
Certified Naturally Grown is a separate program whose criteria is exactly the same as the National Organic Programs in terms of allowed and prohibited substances but the cost is less, inspections are performed by other Certified Naturally Grown farmers, and inspection is still annual. This program was developed by Organic farmers and is designed for small, highly-diversified farms that follow all practices and standards for Organic including the lists for allowed and prohibited substances. It should also be noted that Certified Naturally Grown is different from the label ‘Naturally Grown’ in that the latter has no standards or certification process. To see the complete list of the USDA’s allowed and prohibited substances, standards, guidelines, the inspection forms, and history of the Certified Naturally Grown Program, please visit their website. On this website you can also see a complete listing of all United States Certified Naturally Grown farms and view their inspection forms.
The small scale Organic products come from local gardeners and growing farms that sell less than $5,000 annually in produce sales and adhere to all of the guidelines set forth by the National Organic Program. For every farm that is not Certified Organic, our Produce Manager performs personal inspections to verify that the farm is following all standards and practices for Certified Organic. As these aspiring farmers continue to grow their farms and increase their revenue, we require that they attain the status of either Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown. Finally, the $5,000 limit was set by the USDA in their final ruling concerning Organic produce in 1990.
Want to learn more about the products we carry? What they taste like? How to prepare them? Every Thursday, our store features over a dozen products for you to sample, including several produce items, and our Outreach Coordinator hosts periodic cooking classes. To learn about when these occur sign up to receive our weekly e-newsletter that details all in-store events. For other ideas for new recipes check our weekly Fresh Flyer. This handout is available at the Owner Service Desk and lists all Produce Owner Bonus Buys for the week along with a featured recipe. You can also view it on our website by clicking on the link on our home page. Another way to taste a seasonal fruit for free is to become a Co-op Kid. If your kid or kids are shopping with you in the store we offer each child a free piece of Organic produce at the Owner Service Desk. And as always, whenever else you are in the store please feel free to ask any of our knowledgeable produce staff members for a slice of that apple you have never tried, for recipes using that vegetable you’ve seen and never eaten, and for friendly assistance in selecting the perfect avocado.
What’s Fresh, The Weekly Produce Blog
Since we can not predict with certainty what produce items we will have in a given week or what items we will have on sale, please check out the weekly produce blog, ‘What’s Fresh’ on our website. Every week you can read about what new items we just received, what is looking particularly good, what items are on sale, get a new recipe idea, and read about other helpful produce information. For lengthier articles on produce topics, sign up to become an owner at our store and receive a bi-monthly newsletter that includes a full page produce article.
Fresh Juice & Prepared Produce
Each day we prepare, fresh, raw, and unpasteurized juice with our 100% organic produce. Here is our product selection:
- Carrot Juice
- Carrot Celery Juice
- Orange Juice
- Apple Beet Carrot Juice
- Apple Pear Ginger Juice
- Apple Greens Lemon Juice (tastes like green lemonade!)
- Juice of the Day (different every day!)
- Fresh Ginger Shots
- Made to order fresh Wheatgrass Shots
We also create rotating seasonal juices throughout the year like a Spicy Veggie juice, the Juicifer (oranges, beets, habaneros and ginger), and Pumpkin Pie Juice (apple, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and cinnamon). And we are happy to make additional quantities of the above-listed juices upon special request.
In addition to the fresh juice offerings we have expanded our produce department to offer selections of seasonal cut fruits and veggies. When in season we offer cut pineapple, melons, kabob mixes, stir fry mixes, broccoli florets, and this season we are looking forward to soup mixes, cut winter squash, and citrus samplers! We are welcome to new ideas for an expanded selection of conveniently prepared produce.
Special Orders & Suggestions
Any item that is available on our floor is available for special order! Just call or visit the Owner Services Desk to place an order. Special orders for case quantities of produce receive an additional 10% discount.
Also, any suggestions or product requests are most welcome and we do respond to every suggestion made. We are here to provide you with the highest quality organic produce with the friendliest customer service!
Ozark Natural Feeds
Ozark Natural Feeds is an organic feed store that operates out of the Co-op’s basement! It is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9am – 5pm. Go here for more information.