Selling their larger crop to Organic Valley for a fair pay price has been a great source of stability on this farm, but providing healthy, delicious food to folks close to home is important, too. Building up their farm stand business was a long row to hoe. They started out with a hand-lettered cardboard sign out by the road and displayed their goods on a picnic table in the shade. They realized they needed a way to store and display their produce more effectively. Eventually they were able to build a small outbuilding apart from the main house and barns where folks could park and go in out of the rain or heat of the summer day and browse the shallow bins that have been built on a slant for easier viewing. Over the years they have tried to build more variety into their offerings and will even run out to the garden to cut delicate, hard to store greens for customers.
For the crops Family Farm Produce grows for Organic Valley—squash, potatoes, onions, eggplant, cabbage and much more—the family recently built a new facility that will make preparing their crops for shipping a little more efficient. The huge bins full of produce picked from the fields are brought by wagon to the building's loading dock where the wagons are backed up and off-loaded. Inside, they are washed and re-packed and sent back to the dock which is also accessible by fuel powered vehicles that come to take the produce to Organic Valley's distribution center in Cashton, Wisconsin.
Eighty percent of the farmer-members in Organic Valley's Produce Pool are Amish, and 20% of the farmer-members in our Dairy Pool are either Amish or Mennonite. The Bontragers are long-standing and valued members of our cooperative. We are grateful for such good neighbors and always happy to see their buggy parked at headquarters for membership meetings.