A Healing Heritage
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Meadow Farm Foods Rebrands, Relocates, and Reinvigorates
November 28, 2022 marked the end of an era. For the last time, the staff of Meadow Farm Foods closed their doors after thirty years east of town, on County Road 1. But this ending is a new beginning, and in only a handful of days, the business will relaunch at a more accessible downtown location and under a new name, Dutchmen Organics, meant to reflect an "open, friendly, and welcoming" culture.
It's a pretty big deal, and to talk with store manager Samantha Wick, who's been with the company for five years and counting, what you'll hear is excitement rather than anxiety; you'll hear possibilities and opportunities instead of worries and insecurities. She and her team have lofty plans for their new space, the former SEARS store on West Lincoln Avenue.
Refinement and reinvention have always been part of the Meadow Farm Foods DNA, and the grand opening of Dutchmen Organics brings both ties and recommitments to the past as well as much that hasn't been done before.
Farm to Family
Company Founder Joan Kohan launched Meadow Farm Foods in 1981, first out of her garage and later a rented location near Weetown. The business brought fresh foods and a bulk, co-op buying model that became a hit, relocating again to the County Road 1 building (formerly the home of a Meadow Farm Foods employee, Wick adds) in 1992 and becoming a local retail fixture. The company was purchased in 2017 by Sander Habraken, who shared Kohan's passion for organic, non-GMO produce and products that support a healthy lifestyle.
Habraken brought to Meadow Farm a commitment to do more and to make the company increasingly responsive to its customers' needs. He called the store's local and Minnesota-grown produce a "real treasure" and hoped to make the retail space increasingly accessible for families and the community. According to Wick, this year's downtown move will do exactly that.
"I think there's more excitement than anything. It's an opportunity for me and my staff to learn and grow," she says. "I can't wait to be downtown, do the 'Late 'til 8,' the block parties – just being part of the community."
The company ran short-staffed through the after effects of the pandemic, and Wick says the demands of the store compounded by the distance from downtown kept her from pop-up events, business training programs hosted by Greater Fergus Falls, and other community experiences she hoped to participate in – but no longer. Wick, whose six years' service in the military fostered both a compassion and a confident leadership ability, has built a ready team and honed her own knowledge, looking forward to bringing that experience to a location that is more accessible, with more space, and within walking distance from the training and events she wants to be part of.
She sees Dutchmen Organics as a compliment to the downtown economic ecosystem and the new location as a launching point for greater community involvement.
"We pride ourselves on local businesses supporting local businesses," Wick says.
Under the Meadow Farm Foods name, the company has partnered with local producers and retailers like TC Chocolate, Peney Cakes, and Sugar High – both to sell products locally as well as to provide ingredients. When downtown brewery Outstate Brewing need a supplier for herbs, she collaborated with their team to offer the right product at a reduced price. Wick has designed a program to ensure local vendors can purchase at a discounted rate – believing a rising tide lifts all boats.
The new location takes this a step further, and Wick envisions an enhanced shopping space to include self-serve coffee or kombucha. A small sitting area to enjoy and relax could include a rotating display of products and pop-up specials by local businesses. Details are still under wraps, but expect announcements for partnerships, a new website with online ordering, monthly flyers, and even community workshops in the future.
Sustainability is a key focus for Dutchmen Organics, be that sustainable manufacturing, packaging, or farming. The move and new branding will see a return to and greater emphasis on bulk, self-serve products – something Wick believes will not only reduce the waste of plastic packaging but also bring reduced prices for spices, herbs, grains, flours, and oatmeals.
"We will be pushing our lowered costs to the community too," she explains, "which will be great, because inflation has been an issue, and we hear that from our community."
It harkens back to a traditional business model that was part of the earlier years of Meadow Farm Foods. Customers can bring their own containers for bulk goods or purchase containers as needed.
A Little Bit of Everything
As Dutchmen Organics, the store will continue to sell fresh and organic produce, health and lifestyle products, and all the ingredients to support specialized diets for vegan, gluten-sensitive, or dairy-sensitive customers, but it's more than "health food." From Perham, there are products from Kenny's Candies, local meat from Lindig's Farm, local eggs, dairy, and bacon.
"We can offer a little bit of everything to everybody," Wick says.
Not everything is changing, either. Wick is committed to maintaining an atmosphere of warmth and welcome. She says there's a tradition in the company. Customers enter the store their first time as strangers but grow to be friends. They share stories and struggles, and Wick and her team offer a listening ear and maybe even edible wellness.
"It is great coming to work and working for a business [where] we genuinely care about the customers."
Dutchmen Organics is scheduled to open in its new location at 211 West Lincoln Avenue on December 12, 2022. For more information, visit their Facebook page here.
- R.C. Drews for Greater Fergus Falls
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