Meet The People: Dairy Department
Wajdi Wadi, Holy Land's founder, originally moved from Kuwait to the United States to attend college. Later seeing an opportunity in Ali Baba Bakery, he purchased the business with the help of his uncle.
Wajdi's vision soon brought the business to a small neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis under the new name Holy Land.
Beginning in an 800 sq. ft. storefront, Holy Land found a niche as a Middle Eastern deli, bakery and grocery store. Wajdi created a recipe for success by offering specialty products that could not be found anywhere else. Using a recipe handed down from his grandfather, Wajdi started making what would become award-winning pita bread.
By 1993, Holy Land had outgrown its original storefront location, while City Pages named it the "Best Middle Eastern Deli." In 1995, Wajdi's brother Majdi came from Jordan to join the family business. From here, the brothers Wadi focused on how best to meet the needs of Minneapolis. The menu expanded as customers clamored for the delicious, healthy food they were cooking up.
Holy Land serves customers yearning for authentic Middle Eastern fare but serves their community as well. Majdi has worked within the community and the various cultures within it, developing a broader business base. The Star Tribune labeled Holy Land "a mecca for the international shopper," but it has become much more‚Äîit's become a mecca for Minneapolis' growing diverse community.
Holy Land distributes its products to many local stores and co-ops throughout the Twin Cities as well as neighboring states. Though business continues to grow, the family remains committed to their original goal of providing quality food with a friendly family atmosphere.
Located in Hope, Minnesota, Hope Creamery is one of the only independently owned creameries in the state churning out butter in small batches the old-fashioned way. Made from fresh, local cream, the company's Grade A butter is prized by chefs and restaurateurs for its exceptional smoothness and rich flavor. With taste and texture comparable to European butter, you will definitely taste the difference.
Hope Creamy is owned and operated by Victor Mrotz, who purchased the creamery in 2000. Mrotz moved from the Twin Cities back to his family farm with his wife Kellie, who manages the company books and raises their two children.
Larry Schultz Organic Farm is a small, family-owned farm located in Owatonna, MN. Larry was raised on a family farm just one mile down the road from where he lives and works today. His parents always farmed organically. When farm chemicals came into use in the '50s and '60s, they didn't adapt to these new farming practices. Larry adhered to higher standards and kept herbicides, insecticides and artificial fertilizers off his land.
Better eggs start with healthier, happier chickens, which is why a "Schultz" egg is among the best you'll find. Schultz's chickens are free-range, certified organic and are never administered hormones or antibiotics. In fact, the family grows most of their crops, grinds their own feed, handles and grades their own eggs (the day they're layed, unlike some farms), and handles most of their deliveries.
The Schultz farm is very much a family farm. The entire family is involved in one way or another. Whether it's handling eggs or helping raise naturally tastier organic turkeys and chickens, one thing's for sure: If chemicals and hormones are the wave of the future, the Schultzs are happy to be old-fashioned.
It was the hottest day of the summer, with the thermometer registering 102°F in the middle of the afternoon, when Kowalski's Dairy/Frozen Department managers boarded a bus for the rolling hills of River Falls, Wisconsin, and the scenic dairy farm of Matt Grimm. A third-generation farmer, Matt and his parents Gary and Judy invited Kowalski's to come and learn about organic farming along with the staff from Organic Valley Cooperative. Under the shade of the trees in their yard, we had the chance to meet with three dedicated farm families and hear their stories.
Matt's grandfather came to River Falls during the Depression, when many farms were facing foreclosure. "If you could make a payment, the farm became yours, so that's how my grandfather got started," said Matt. "I grew up on the farm and ended up back here after college when there were no other jobs. My major in agronomy and plant science with a minor in dairy science made this a natural fit for me." After meeting with neighbors, Matt discovered that he was using a lot of the organic farming methods, and eleven years later he became certified organic and signed on with Organic Valley Cooperative.
As a family business ourselves, we really embrace the mission of Organic Valley, which is to keep farmers on the farm. David Butterfield, Marketing Manager at Organic Valley, explained, "For every million dollars in sales of Organic Valley products, we are able to keep five families farming or bring five additional families onto the farm." Matt added, "When I was growing up, there were twenty-seven dairy farms in the township. Now there are four. Organic Valley is the third largest producer of organic milk in the country, and by providing a cooperative for farmers to sell their milk to, they are establishing a stable price so we know what we will be paid every month."
Matt Grimm has a herd of 85 Holstein cows that graze on some of the most pristine pasture land in the state. Dr. Paul Detloff, veterinarian for Organic Valley, calls Matt's land a "salad bar" for his cows. "Everything starts in the soil. Since these farmers can't use nitrogen and potassium, they have to learn how to grow that in the soil naturally, the way Mother Nature did it," says Dr. Paul. "Many of the young farmers we work with have degrees and are willing to share information with other farmers in the cooperative so they will all succeed. It is not to their advantage for their neighbors to fail so they can expand," he adds.
Many of the cows in the Grimm herd are 13 years old, unheard of on large production dairies. "The average age of the cows on larger corporate farms is two years old, since they are raised to grow quickly and pushed for production in confined quarters," said Dr. Paul. "Cows almost never get sick on an organic farm thank in part to the biodiversity of the natural organic pasture land they feed on. The variety of grasses and clover they consume provides the cows with many different nutrients and is what helps them to remain so healthy."
Also joining us on the Grimm farm were Organic Valley farmers Mike Petherbridge and Doran and Mariann Holm. Mike and his wife, Julie, along with their six children milk 40 diary cows on their farm in Dresser, Wisconsin. Unlike Matt, Mike did not grow up on a farm but always wanted to own one. He worked nights in a factory and just recently was able to make farming his full-time work.
Doran and Mariann Holm and their eight children are first-generation farmers as well who purchased their farm in Menomonie, Wisconsin, over the phone while living in Newport Beach, California. "After reading the book All the Places to Love, we decided to move back to the Midwest and raise our family here," said Mariann. It is a move that has been great for their family. Besides farming, Doran also works off the farm for Organic Valley.
For more information about Organic Valley, visit their website at www.organicvalley.coop. It is a movement that is gaining momentum and a story that we are eager to share.