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A Tale of Two Co-ops

By Mirra Fine

Nothing illustrates our great esteem for co-ops more than our 66th Episode (On a Northern Farm), which happened to feature two: Mississippi Market in St. Paul, MN and Ashland Food Co-op in Southern Oregon. It's interesting how two stores so far apart would be so closely connected, but it comes down to one thing: Good Food (and good editing!).

It all started back during July 4th weekend in Ashland, OR. Some of our 6 month road trip is planned ahead of time -- with lots of phone calls, email exchanges and checking and rechecking of schedules until everything lines up perfectly. And then some of the trip is a “should-we? shouldn’t-we? should-we? shouldn’t-we?” last minute visit to a random lamb farm in Southern Oregon, where the planets mysteriously align and a beautiful story unfolds before us…just for the afternoon. And that is exactly what happened…with the help of the Ashland Co-op's Annie Hoy.

After Chef Daniel Klein manned the grill for the store's July 4th event (on July 3rd) by serving up some Magnolia Farms Lamb, Annie convinced us to visit the farm on our way out of town the next day. Everywhere we go, we are encouraged by passersby to check out a certain small farmer or local urban gardener, and we can't go to them all. But something about Magnolia (and owners, Mel and Elissa) sounded intriguing. Maybe it was because Daniel had cooked with their meat at the cookout. Or perhaps it because we heard they had a bunch of lovely dogs!  Or it could have been because we left Ashland so rested, relaxed and up for anything. In any case, it was on the way and we decided to drop by. And it was truly incredible. I could tell you why, but the episode does it better justice.

The only thing we regret is that we didn't have a chance to cook their lamb on camera in recipe form. Which, if you've seen any of our episodes, is what we like to do (incorporate the produce into a recipe). But exactly a month later (on Aug 4th), Mississippi Market in St. Paul, Minnesota, gave us another sort of opportunity.

The clever Minnesota co-op set up a unique challenge for Daniel: A sort of "Iron Chef" challenge, local foods style. They would provide a number of mystery ingredients, and he would have to show up and cook with what he was given…in front of an audience. Lucky for us, it included lamb. Not from Magnolia Farms, but it was delicious nonetheless. Other items included sunflower oil, orzo, eggs, kohlrabi, beets, dandelion greens, etc. The co-op staff was incredible and the event was a blast...and it provided for the perfect cooking segment that our episode was missing. With a little magic in the editing room, it SEEMED like the cooking was done at Ashland with Magnolia lamb -- I know it's not 100% truth, but it represents the spirit of exchange. Check out the episode: On a Northern Farm and Daniel's recipe for Tea Rubbed Lamb, Taleggio Orzo & Kohlrabi Slaw.