Harvest Moon Co-op Provides Organic and Local Options for Shoppers

Harvest Moon Co-op makes the most of local resources.
Photo courtesy Kim Ehlen.

Making the most of local resources has always been a priority for Long Lake. From developing new kinds of produce to supporting local farming, the city makes an effort to embrace its community as a supply system.

Resident Peter Gideon made history in 1861 when he successfully cross-pollinated Maine apple seeds with his Siberian crabapple trees. Dubbed the Wealthy apple, it was the first tree to survive a Minnesota winter. Thanks to Gideon, today’s apple orchards in the Lake Minnetonka area thrive.

The “berry years” came in the 1890s, when strawberry and raspberry growers became the local farming focus. Creameries, flour mills, butcher shops and a canning factory followed.

Now, nestled near the shores of Long Lake, Harvest Moon Co-op’s mission is to provide local food, as well as organic options, to consumers. The co-op stocks its shelves with fresh products from nearby farmers. A group of seven women, all with a lineage of generations in the Lake Minnetonka area, founded the co-op three years ago.

“They believed in the co-op model and felt like it would be the perfect fit for our town,” Harvest Moon manager Dani Steele says, adding the founders knew the community boasted a large population of families who understood the model of having access to the best food for their families.

Part of the decision to open the co-op sprouted from the fact that founders simply thought Long Lake needed a grocery store. Founder and past board member Michelle Krolcyzk acknowledges that they didn’t even know what a co-op entailed, but once they began to research it, they realized it made the most sense. Both sets of Krolcyzk’s grandparents were farmers, so she had a personal history of eating locally.

“I just loved the idea that we were helping supporting local people farm,” she says. “I wanted to see something wonderful happen in our community.”

After contacting the National Cooperative Grocery Association (NCGA), they collaborated with the Long Lake community to bring their vision to fruition. The NCGA acts as an advisor for co-ops nationwide and provides resources and discounts. Planners reached out to community members, who soon bought memberships. All they needed now was a space.

They approached the Otten Bros. Nursery and Landscaping to see if they had any recommendations for finding a space to fit their needs. Cliff Otten, a friend and one of the nursery owners, loved the idea of a co-op, soon joined the support team and found Harvest Moon a space right next to his own retail shop. “He believed in the vision of the store and thought it would be a perfect fit for his business,” Steele says.

Harvest Moon opened in June 2010 and relies on Minnesota farmers not only for produce, but also meats, cheeses and other products. Steele thinks supporting these individuals provides a co-op with not only its mission, but its charm. “I love that feeling of the farmer standing there talking to the customer,” she says.

Plus, eating locally is actually healthier. “The closer you can eat to the plant, the better in terms of nutrition,” says Steele. Food loses up to 50 percent of its nutritional power five days after being removed from the plant. Krolcyzk adds that local eating is more environmentally friendly and she believes supporting a small local farm rather than an industrial-sized operation “is a better choice.”

The co-op continues to thrive, even during winter. A number of the farmers use greenhouses and other means to continue to raise crops, while items with a longer shelf life, such as maple syrup, also remain more readily available yearlong.

When Harvest Moon first opened, Steele expected to see competition from other co-ops in the area; she was pleasantly surprised to discover that the co-op business involves collegial support and sharing of resources. She sees it as a true collaboration and cooperative effort.

Today’s generation seems more concerned with eating locally and organically than their parents were. Many are more are willing to pay extra for better-quality food. Steele adds that many of Harvest Moon’s shoppers first make the co-op transition for health reasons. “Once they convert that little bit, they start seeing the benefits,” she says.

Harvest Moon memberships cost $175. Along with supporting the Long Lake organization, members receive special shopping offers and sale promotions. They also have a say in the co-op’s products; for example, 10 percent of the co-op’s shelves are stocked with conventional items due to members’ requests. Comments are taken into serious consideration and members’ voices are heard because, as Steele says, “This is the people’s store.”

Visit Harvest Moon’s website to apply for a membership and for product information and weekly recipes. 2380 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.345.3300.