Wheatsfield Co-op, Ames
An Interview with Michelle Williams, Deli Manager, & Kim Corbin, Marketing Manager
Wheatsfield is a cooperative located in Ames with a mission to offer the highest quality local, natural and certified organic foods, related products and services in ways that best promote the health of the individual, the community, and the earth and honor the cooperative tradition. Wheatsfield was first established as a buying club on the Iowa State University campus in 1974. The co-op recently expanded its Ames store to better serve members, employees, and the Central Iowa Community.
How did you get involved in cooking? Could you describe your career path to your job now?
It looked like a fun idea when I was at DMACC. They also have a good culinary program. Before Wheatsfield, I worked at Hotel Pattee in Perry as the banquet chef, and before that, I was one of two pastry chefs there.
What kinds of meals do you serve? How do you meet the special needs of your customers?
Our dishes are hand-made in the store and focus on using fresh, local and organic products. In comparison to other stores, we do have more vegan or vegetarian options, and we are mindful of gluten-free products. We also use brown rices and interesting grains like wheatberries. We also cook with tempeh, tofu and other meat substitutes. As far as meat, we focus on local when available as well as grass-fed and antibiotic-free options. We take dietary concerns in mind when creating our dish plans.
Why did you begin using Iowa Choice Harvest products? What types of dishes do you prepare using Iowa Choice Harvest foods?
New local producer, why not support! Iowa Choice Harvest appears regularly in the Veggie of the Day medleys on the hot bar. We also use the corn in our corn chowder, southwest black bean salad, and a variety of other dishes throughout the year.
What do you like about using Iowa Choice Harvest foods?
It helps fulfill our mission of supporting the local economy and environment.
Why have you made Iowa-local foods an important part of your cooking?
Local is one of the main focuses of our cooperative for a variety of reasons, including freshness, supporting the local economy, and fewer fuel miles. We set local sales goals each year. In the last fiscal year, we supported over 100 local producers by selling $1.4 million in local products — that was 22.7% of total store sales.