Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

VanDerPols source local foods for MFU convention

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 12/06/2012 2:40 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS --- For about four years now, LeeAnn VanDerPol has sourced local foods for the Minnesota Farmers Union annual banquet.

Each year, MFU has incorporated more local foods into their convention and this year, four meals were sourced using Minnesota Grown foods.

The Saturday carving lunch featured elk, buffalo, lamb and beef. The Sunday breakfast featured omelets and the Sunday lunch was hotdish. The Saturday evening banquet featured salad, wild rice, baby red potatoes, roasted root vegetables, pork chops and rolls with apple bread pudding for dessert.

"I think that says a lot, this is Minnesota and we should be promoting our own products," VanDerPol said.

People are becoming more aware of local foods, she said, adding that food tastes better if it is harvested closer to where it's consumed.

There are a variety of foods available in Minnesota. The toughest product to source this year was ground beef, she said. Minnesota Grown hamburger is in high demand by consumers.

VanDerPol starts sourcing food in August and was sourcing up until two days before convention because of the record turnout. October is the busiest month in terms of finding food to serve at the convention.

She had exactly 480 pork chops for the evening banquet, where 480 people were served. Right around 290 people were served lunch and breakfast.

Each year, she goes back to past year's suppliers when she starts lining up food. She uses the Minnesota Grown directory to find new food suppliers.

Farmers Union is practicing what it preaches by promoting Minnesota Grown food and the farmers that grow that food, VanDerPol said.

It's important that everyone in the state of Minnesota knows how easy it is to get food grown in Minnesota, said Cindy VanDerPol. There are so many meat producers and there are apple orchards just down the road from everybody. Local foods have really taken off.

"It's absolutely amazing," Cindy said.

LeeAnn and her husband, Jim, farm with their son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Cindy, in Chippewa County. Josh is the Chippewa County Farmers Union president. They operate Pastures A'Plenty and sell pork to cooperatives in the Twin Cities and beef to customers around Kerkoven.

Cindy said they moved into direct marketing in 1999 after the hog market crashed. They started selling in food cooperatives in 2000. Their first contacts were made through Kadejan Meats in Glenwood.

The VanDerPols have used AURI to help develop a nitrate-free product, as requested by consumers. Sodium nitrate is used in ham and bacon and other pork to give it a pink color. They instead use natural concentrated vegetable juice, a recipe developed with the help of AURI.

Their meat is processed at Belgrade Meat Center.