Food Matters, Truth Matters: Local Farms, Local Food

Max Maddaus, Kowalski's Produce Director
Max Maddaus, Kowalski's Produce Director

A note from our Produce Director Max Maddaus, October 2021:

Today we are happily waist-deep in amazing Minnesota Grown produce. This is always an incredibly fun time for the Produce Departments at Kowalski’s. Minnesota Grown season is arguably the most important season of the year for us. Today, if you walk into any of Kowalski’s Produce Departments you will be able to find anywhere between 120-150 different Minnesota Grown fruits and vegetables. We are in the privileged position to exclusively partner with some of the most amazing growers, producers and land stewards Minnesota has to offer.

Unlike out-of-state-grown produce, Minnesota Grown produce is delivered to our stores within 24 hours of harvest. Out-of-state produce is often delivered weeks after harvest or may even spend months in storage. The Minnesota Grown produce we offer has but a few hundred of road miles on it, not thousands. Unlike many of our competitors, who get significantly fewer deliveries of fresh, local produce each week, each one of Kowalski’s Produce Department will get upwards of 24 deliveries a week from our local partners during the Minnesota Grown season. From heirloom tomatoes and habanero peppers to Honeycrisp apples and yellow watermelons – whatever’s in season – we’ve got it. We offer you the most variety, best quality and freshest local produce you will ever eat.

Without the support of the community where Kowalski’s first store was built, Kowalski’s would not be where we are today. That sentiment carries over into our Produce Departments. Kowalski’s successes are only as great as the successes we experience with our local partners. When I was gifted the opportunity to work with a small startup hydroponic herb grower called Urban Greens, I jumped at it. Urban Greens started out supplying basil to just our Shoreview location about a year and a half ago. Now they are in eight of our 11 locations selling mint, rosemary, dill and much more. The beauty of this partnership is that all involved stakeholders win. Most fresh herbs in town are grown outside the country, then flown or trucked in, repacked and stacked on trucks before they’re delivered to stores. The greens that Urban Greens grows are packed today and on Kowalski’s shelves by tomorrow – and all of this is done right up the road in Columbia Heights. This is just one of the incredible local partnerships  that further sets us apart from the competition and gives you sustainably grown, delicious local produce.

Untiedt's Vegetable Farm Family
Jerry Untiedt and his grandchildren

Celebrating 50 years of serving this great state, Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm is one of our largest Minnesota Grown farm partners. This partnership was so incredibly natural. Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm’s values line up perfectly with Kowalski’s own. Jerry Untiedt understands that his operation is NOT solely about selling fruit and vegetables. It is about his family, their incredible and unquestionably loyal staff, the land he farms on, the communities they serve and, most importantly, the farm’s sustainability. Jerry and his team employ many unique farming and harvesting strategies to deliver the best produce possible. One of these strategies is harvesting only one ear of corn per stalk. The vast majority of corn stalks produce two ears, and the dominant ear utilizes most of the plant’s energy, making it larger and sweeter. The other ear, while fine, is just not the best. So, while Jerry COULD harvest twice as much corn as he does (and make more money doing so), he’d be delivering a subpar product, something he and Kowalski’s simply won’t compromise on.

I personally am so grateful for every one of our incredible Minnesota Grown farmers and producers I have the privilege to work with. Their tireless hard work and commitment to the things that matter is beyond compare. Each of these Minnesota Grown partners is a large part of what sets Kowalski’s Produce Departments above the rest and why we’re proud to be named Minnesota Grown Retailer of the Year multiple times over.