POLK COUNTY -- There's a restaurant in Amery that's called the Farm Table, and it's where you can go for a meal that is entirely locally sourced and organic.
Starting with the lemon chicken soup with rosemary and orzo served with just baked sour-dough bread...
...to the grass-fed beef burger topped with Wisconsin cheese and served with an organic greens salad that are also locally sourced and all organically grown products.
Digging deeper into the origins of the restaurant, you'll come up with the name of the Hungry Turtle Farmers Coop whose mission is "to forge a healthy connection between farmers, eaters, and the land we all depend upon. It is an investment in your community. We take pride in the work we do and where we do it. As a mission-driven cooperative, we aim to provide our customers with high quality, healthy, and sustainable grown foods produced in the St. Croix and Polk County area."
You see this vision in front of you as you sit down at a table and are handed a menu and an additional sheet that has all kinds of information about the farms that supply the products they serve. Farms like Black Brook, Chicken Creek Ranch, Crystal Ball Farms, Cosmic Wheel Creamery, Dancing Hen, Bodin Fisheries, and Chickadee Hills are just some of the few that supply everything on the menu, including the herbal tea.
There are many more growers on the list, but the aim is the same whether it be herbs, veg, fruit, cheese, meat or fish, everything is grown and marketed by the age-old process, the farmer's cooperative.
“Our coop provides marketing and distribution services to its member farms, advancing a local food system rooted and shared costs and environmentally friendly practices. The cooperative model helps the family farm stay on the land and serves our commitment to the rejuvenation of rural communities.”
Peter Henry and Kari Wenger began the popular movement and it's taken on a life of its own with a new Farmer's Market in Amery and a clever restaurant/learning center at 110 Keller Avenue, where classes are held in seed-saving, herbal tinctures, cooking demos including special lessons for kids to learn the art of pretzel making, art, and learning exhibits are displayed along with Live music, workshops, guest speakers, foraging classes, trivia nights, plus evenings dedicated to Scrabble, kids yoga, and bingo.
The menu has intriguing items including veal, chicken, beef, rabbit, fish, brats and pork, and they're all raised organically along with every vegetable, even the mushrooms, the eggs and the grains.
You can finish up your meal with a slice of flowerless chocolate cake which is frosted with a generous layer of white chocolate mousse, and raspberry puree and whipped cream on the side; along with a marvelous cup of coffee.
According to co-founder Keri Wenger, “The main organization is called Resilient Northern Habitats (RnH) which started with a desire to re-establish and protect nutrient-rich, high-organic matter soil for organic/ecological farmers and the nutrient-rich, fresh food they produce. RnH helped five original farms get going for a total of four farm couples with six to eight interns working on these farms. All the farmers have multi-year farming experience and established farm entities, but differing levels of customer base.”
Peter Henry adds “The real story out here is in the farmers themselves-hardworking, knowledgeable, courageous-and, the variety of the different operations, their skill and creativity, and their personal stories. We do not hold up ourselves as anything other than people who believe in the importance of healthy, organic food for every human being and have the ability to put our money where our mouths are.”
This movement has exploded during the past five years, and Googling Hungry Turtle Farmer's Coop is just the tip of this growing iceberg that began in Amery, Wisconsin.
The site is a great place to start for more information and so is going to farmtablefoundation.org to check out their hours of operation. For a unique experience, take a drive to Amery, west on highway eight, so you can experience the menu that's chock full of naturally grown and healthy for your products. Or make reservations to attend one of their five harvest dinners spaced between June and October at the Hungry Turtle Farm. This new farming coop idea is spreading through northern Wisconsin already and may just be an example for the future; clean food produced from healthy soil.
For more information, their phone number is 1-715-268-4500.