In 2010, some Middlebury area Amish farmers met to discuss a cooperative concept that would leverage the abundant produce grown at local farms. Thereafter, word spread and many farmers came forward to join, and the Horn of Plenty Co-op was born.

Today, Mahlon Miller, Urie Miller and David Yoder are cooperating with an extensive group of Amish farmers in Elkhart and LaGrange counties. Their enterprise now entails an 8,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center, weekly delivery routes and farmer market stalls.

GARDEN PRODUCE

There are no less than 40 member farmers delivering vegetables and fruits. Each grows according to consistent techniques. Although not certified organic, there are no shortcuts. Produce is grown using only organically approved soil enhancement and disease-control products. In addition, no genetically modified organisms (GMO) to alter produce DNA or chemicals are used. The co-op calls this concept: “Better than organic.”

Produce offered includes almost every vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini when in season. Some not on the list may be available on request.

A recent visit to the co-op’s stall in the Goshen Farmers Market found bags of Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes). Few local farms raise this strangely named vegetable, but they are absolutely delicious — especially when mashed.

Other vegetables available included beets, cauliflower, sweet and red potatoes, yellow onions, cabbage, pumpkin and carrots. All except sunchokes are sold by the pound.

MEATS

This past summer, about 20 of the co-op farmers started providing meat and fowl. These new offerings are being received well. Besides beef and poultry, they also promote duck, turkey, pork and lamb.

Beef and lamb are grass-fed. Beef products include stew meat, liver, ground beef and all the popular steak cuts. You realize a lot of savings by ordering bulk. Quarter, half or whole are available.

Lamb products include stew meat, chops and ground lamb. Processed at 100-pounds, the lamb is guaranteed tender.

Pork and fowl are pastured, then fed supplemental grain. Pork products include sausage, loins, chops, roasts, hocks bacon, ham roasts and ground pork. After birth, the piglets are allowed to pasture and do their pig-thing.

Turkeys can be ordered for the holidays. Like chicken, you can buy them whole or in pieces. Ducks are only available whole. On this visit to the warehouse, freshly harvested turkeys were waiting for pickup from their largest wholesale customer out of Buchanan, Michigan.

EGGS AND OTHER GOODS

The co-op’s brown chicken eggs are a very popular item — both retail and wholesale. They were flying out of the fridge at the Goshen Farmers Market.

Interestingly, you can also get duck and quail eggs. I don’t know of anyone else offering these, except, before the COVID-19 pandemic, you could purchase duck eggs from nearby Culver Duck Farm.

Quail eggs are another matter. The only local source where you can consistently get these tasty little morsels is Bamber’s Superette in South Bend. We love them pickled, and often use them poached or fried with oriental dishes. Try a poached quail egg on an asparagus salad with a little balsamic vinaigrette.

Other unusual items are spelt products. Nature’s Way Family Farm provides bags of puffed spelt. Similar to puffed wheat, the spelt kernels are dehulled then put through a special puffing process. You can get them honey-coated or unsweetened.

Sunflower Kitchen also offers pumpkin bread made from spelt flour.

Lastly, when in season, various berries and maple syrup are available.

This intriguing co-op is taking-off. Revenues are approaching mid-six figures, and wholesale demand is now 80% of the business. Regardless, they’ll continue to do retail to reach those who would otherwise not have access to such fresh goods.

During winter hours, look for them Saturdays at both the Goshen and Elkhart farmers markets. Other sources include Maple City Market (Goshen), Purple Porch Co-op (South Bend) and Garden Patch (Mishawaka).

Although the warehouse is open Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer, you can schedule an appointment during winter hours.

From what we’ve seen, you can trust the co-ops’ sources. The philosophy remains: “Know your farmer — Know your food.”

Loren Shaum is an automation engineering consultant, retired pilot, author, home gardener and sometimes chef. He and Gayle reside in Syracuse. He can be contacted at comtec@kcaccess.com.

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