Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Co-op Annual Meeting Celebrates Progress to Link Local Farms and Institutions

Contact: (715) 271-2681
(715) 717-4928
For Immediate Release
November 3, 2009

Co-op Annual Meeting Celebrates Progress to Link Local Farms and Institutions

The first annual meeting of the Producers & Buyers Co-op will be held November 10 at 6 p.m. at
Sacred Heart Hospital’s Community Auditorium (Eau Claire, WI) and the public is invited.
Members will elect new officers and approve bylaws and have opportunities to share the
organization’s recent success and future goals and taste local food products. Please RSVP by
calling (715) 579-5013. A reception will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The annual Co-op meeting will provide information on membership opportunities for farmers and processors, and institutions. “Supporting the Co-op is an opportunity to invest in the local community and to support sustainable products, local farms and jobs,” said Co-op treasurer, Shawn McMartin, bison producer, Promise Farm Buffalo in Menomonie, Wisconsin. “Co-op support is helping rebuild the local processing infrastructure and expand local food production by providing a stable market.”

Darrel Lorch of Lorcrest Farms, Inc., in Blair, Wisconsin, added, “Having a stable market price
allows me to do more long-range planning with my farm operation.” Lorch currently serves as Co- op board chair. “Over the past year, we have had an outpouring of warm compliments on our food from patients, our Meals on Wheels patrons and employees,” said Rick Beckler, Co-op board member and Sacred Heart Hospital’s Director of Hospitality Services. “As an institution committed to our community, it’s our responsibility to buy local food to support local agriculture. The Co-op facilitates the process for other institutions to source local food.”

The Co-op intends to bring new buyers on board as products are sourced and serves institutions
such as: schools, universities and colleges, hospitals and nursing homes, and businesses that
provide cafeteria services “Following the Hospital Sisters Mission and our Franciscan tradition, Sacred Heart Hospital is proud to invest in its community by purchasing local food to support local agriculture,” commented Steve Ronstrom, Hospital Sisters Health System Divisional President and CEO (Western Wisconsin), which includes Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls. “Local food is good medicine for everyone. It benefits our local economy by preserving and expanding family farm operations, providing jobs in production and processing, and keeping money in our community.”

“There have been profound changes over the past century for family farms and rural mmunities, culminating in the 1990s when Wisconsin lost almost 40 percent of its family farms,” said Co-op
coordinator Mary C. Anderson, a value-added farmer with extensive direct sales experience.

“Unfortunately, local Wisconsin markets for locally produced agricultural products remain under- developed.” “Large institutions (universities, school systems, hospitals and nursing homes) have long- established supply chains that ensure the safety, availability, variety and quantity of food products, but seldom source local products,” commented David Mortimer, Communications Specialist, Sacred Heart Hospital and Co-op organizer. “It’s an irony that in the very heart of America’s Dairyland, local Wisconsin family farms, processors, and their products remain largely shut out of institutional markets even though those institutional buyers may be located only a few dozen miles away. The Co-op helps remove those barriers.”

The Co-op facilitates buying and selling for farmers in Eau Claire, Chippewa, Barron, Dunn, Pepin, Trempealeau, Buffalo, Clark, Jackson, Polk, Pierce, and St. Croix counties. Sacred Heart Hospital is a founding partner in the project and committed 10% of its $2 million food budget to purchasing local food products in order to provide a market to help the organization get off the ground. In 2009, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls committed to purchasing local food through the Co-op.

The Producers & Buyers Co-op was launched with the announcement of a Buy Local, Buy
Wisconsin (BLBW) grant on July 17, 2008, by Governor Jim Doyle at Sacred Heart Hospital in
Eau Claire, WI. Governor Doyle chose Eau Claire as the city to announce statewide BLBW grants
due to the innovative local food partnership between Sacred Heart Hospital and River Country
RC&D Council to launch the Co-op.

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