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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Local Vendor Spotlight: 4th Tap Cooperative Brewery

4th Tap co-founder and President, John Stecker, shared some info and insight about the first worker-owned cooperatively-governed brewery in Texas.

1. Can you tell me how 4th Tap got started?

We had all been homebrewers for a very long time, and we slowly built into a weekly “club” event. We were clearly doing something right because we began to get increasingly frequent requests to send beer out to events. We spent many years brewing weekly and sending our beer out to parties, weddings, SXSW events, etc., which really helped us to develop our unique approach to beer styles. It will be six years this December when we decided to make a real go at opening a production brewery, and from when we came up with the name 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative. At the time, we already had strong biochemistry and engineering backgrounds, but we recognized we needed more. Chris Hamje went to work in the Black Star Co-op brewery for a number of years while I spent time getting a crash course in business education while working at another company here in Austin. We also went through the Cooperation Texas training program to learn more about how to build and participate in a worker-cooperative. From there, it was raising the money, finding a location, and getting it built. That last sentence really does not do justice to the absurd amount of work it took to get from idea to functioning brewery. Bottom line, a whole lot of real sweat and blood went into building this place.

2. What are some of the challenges and benefits of being the first worker-owned cooperatively-governed brewery in Texas?

Explaining what a worker-cooperative is to just about everyone! Second, answering the question, “why didn’t you just open as an LLC?” which I am sure we have still not answered to many people’s satisfaction — but we don’t really care. We believe in our structure, and that is, ultimately, all that matters. Beyond those two questions, there have been plenty of business and legal hurdles. From working with credit unions, taxes, loans, and TABC/TTB filings, everything is a bit more difficult. It has also been compounded by the fact that Texas views us as a non-profit organization while the federal government views us a for-profit. One of our core principles here is the triple bottom line— people, planet, and profits— so that has been a point of frustration at times. As for benefits? Our team. We have an amazingly dedicated and passionate team that share in the work load to such a high degree. They go so far above and beyond and I have to attribute some of that to our model.

3. What are some of your favorite pairings or recipes using 4th Tap beers?

The Renewal, with spicy food, will do you right. The tart, almost mild-sour quality from the real tamarind does a great job of balancing a good spicy dish. We’ve also received messages and pictures from people who have used our Sun Eater to make rosemary lemon bread, and to marinate a chicken breast for a rosemary chicken dinner. Our Long Walk really goes well with a romaine and mandarin orange salad. Also, surprisingly, gingers snaps and Long Walk. Seriously, give that a try.

4. Tell us a little about your beers and your brewing philosophy. What makes 4th Tap unique?

There are so many beers being brewed in Texas, especially in Austin, and much of it is really, really good. Just from Austin alone, I can go out and find great examples of most styles of beer. For that reason, we wanted to make sure that we brought something new to the table. We focus on creating out-of-style, interesting, but still very drinkable beers made for our home here in Texas. We also spend time looking for local or exciting ingredients that can really enhance the qualities we like in different styles of beer. We don’t add ingredients to a beer for the novelty of it, or just to punch you in the tongue with it. If we’re adding something different, we’re adding it for a good reason.

5. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?

Short lines! Seriously, I hate waiting in long lines and Wheatsville keeps them in check! In broader sense, we love that Wheatsville makes it a priority to not just provide local and organic food, but to often communicate the story of the suppliers. Wheatsville is a supporter of the local food economy, which supports the local financial economy, and that is an important and worthy undertaking. Wheatsville is also a living and breathing example of a cooperative business model in action! Also, I appreciate Wheatsville being the neighborhood grocery store back in my north-campus-living college days. Y’all kept me fed!

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Higher Wages and Lower Prices

Shop Wheatsville and MAKE CHANGE!

Yep, you read it right. As we all know the cost of living is going up in Austin, and in order to keep our co-op staff members healthy and happy, Wheatsville has increased entry level wages for all staff member to $13.01 as of January 4, 2016. Compensation includes a full benefits package in addition to 401K eligibility for full-time employees. The $3+ increase in entry level wages affected over 80% of staff members employed by Wheatsville Food Co-op.

Since 1976 the co-op has been on the leading edge of social change, now 40 years later, the co-op continues along that path with a new generation of forward-thinking, progressive leadership. In order to make sure we stay in alignment with the cost of living we’re using nationally indexed figures that are updated annually. In addition, entry level wages will be reviewed every year to make sure the co-op is in alignment with market changes that may affect the overall cost of living.

Wheatsville gained valuable insight and help tackling wage satisfaction by working with National Co-op Grocers co-op and creating a livable wage and benefits model that can be replicated in co-ops across the country, whose staff are also struggling with significant cost of living increases.

So how do we pay for our wage increases? Well, we’ve done a lot of work finding ways we can work smarter and keep our stores humming along but the other part of it comes from you - and it’s actually pretty simple – GROW SALES!

Thanks for making Wheatsville Food Co-op one of the best food co-ops in the country! We’re 40 and keep getting better and better. It’s no accident – it takes everyone tugging just a little harder on their side to raise this barn – and we appreciate our almost 20,000 owners and shoppers that give us a hand. THANK YOU for an amazing 40 years.

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Bola Pizza

We’ve been carrying Bola Pizza here at Wheatsville since July 2012. Jamie Bowers, co-owner of Bola Pizza with her partner Christian Bowers, talked to us about their business.

1. What inspired you to make pizza and how long did it take for your business to take off?

We started having pizza parties at our house when our friends started getting married and having kids. It was a good way to get people together. It was even more fun when Christian started inviting some food bloggers he knew. We were invited to do the Green Corn Project Fall Festival that year (2010) and that was our real start. We were invited to the Susutainable Food Center’s Downtown farmers market and started catering. Frozen pizzas were launched by persistent customer demand—thank you for the persistence!!! We weren’t sure about doing a frozen pizza at first because they’re not known to be very good. The frozen pizzas are still in the process of taking off. We are a super small company, but growing every year. This is probably the first year frozen pizzas are self sustaining.

2. What are some of your favorite things at Wheatsville?

We love the range of local products, especially eggs, cheese, fresh produce. I love to look through the personal and household sections. Wheatsville always has so many unique and beautiful things. I’m also addicted to the southern fried tofu!

3. Do you have anything new in the works that you would like to share with our patrons?

We are working on developing two new pizza flavors. We have also had requests for a frozen or refrigerated bread product that we are testing.

4. What is behind the name Bola and is there a story?

I got my first dog, Bola, from the Williamson county shelter when I was 19. I like to say we grew up together. I started making pizzas around the same time. Later, when I was in school at UT, I hosted pizza parties. My friends spoiled him feeding him the crusts (aka pizza bones). Years passed, then Christian and I decided to relaunch the pizza parties at our house. We used his special dough recipe and Bola was just as spoiled by our guests. Bola loved his pizza crusts and all the attention he would get at parties. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the founding of our pizza business, so we named it after him.

5. Is there is anything else you’’d like to share with our owners?

Christian came up with our three day cold fermented dough recipe because it tastes so good. I learned later from a nutritionist that it’s also very good for you. As the structure of the dough is developing, it is are also breaking down the gluten in the flour. So it’s much lower in gluten than a standard bread or pizza crust. The process also starts to break down the flour itself which allows your body to process the protein in it. Not being able to digest the wheat protein is what causes gluten intolerance. Flour quality is a big issue as well. We use King Arthur which has no bleach, no bromate and is non-GMO. King Arthur farmers are not allowed to spray Round Up on their crops as is standard practice with most of the wheat industry. We are committed to using the highest quality ingredients. Our other suppliers are: Andrew & Everett, Bel Gioso, Applegate, Niman Ranch, Kitchen Pride and organic crushed tomatoes from California.

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Driscoll Berries

UPDATE 9/9/16:

As of this week , Familias Unidas por La Justica has officially agreed to an election and negotiation process for a collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Bros Berry Farm and have called for an end of the boycott, and all boycott activities.

Here is the official statement:

Dear Supporters,

As of today we have officially agreed to an election and negotiation process for a collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Bros Berry Farm. Thanks to your tireless efforts we are entering into this next phase of our union’s development with hope and determination. At this time we are calling for an end of the boycott, and all boycott activities. Out of respect for the process and our memorandum of understanding with the company please do not contact past, present or potential customers, purchasers, sellers or users of products coming from Sakuma Bros Berry Farm to convey criticism of any and all aspects of Sakuma’s business and operations.

Please stay tuned at the Familias Unidas por La Justica Facebook page for updates.

Thank you,
Ramon Torres
Felimon Pineda
FUJ

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Hat Creek Provisions

1. How long have you been producing pickled fare and what made you decide to do so?

Hat Creek Provisions began in 2013 with three friends (Tim, Adam and Drew) dreaming of a better way to pickle. Drew, the principal of Hat Creek Burger Company, and Tim & Adam from Strange Land Brewery (a craft brewery in Austin) merged a commitment to quality ingredients, the artisanal approach of craft beer brewing, and age-old pickling techniques to produce a wide array of local, organic, and seasonal fermented veggies. We've recently added Martha Pincoffs of Hot Dang grain burgers to the team in order to help keep us all in line!

2. How long have you been a vendor for Wheatsville food co-op?

Wheatsville was actually our first major retail account! We made our first deliveries to both the SoLa and Guad stores in Spring 2014.

3. What are some of your favorite departments at the co-op and why?

Beer and refrigerated pantry, naturally, and we love to check out bulk spices for new product inspiration. The coffee department keeps us fueled and we're suckers for the rice & beans (with spicy kraut on top) from the deli counter and the Ruben is out of this world!

4. Does Hat Creek Provisions have anything new in the works?

We are in the process of perfecting our vegan kimchi and giardiniera. We're also working through the R&D on a host of new offerings.

5. Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with our patrons?

Briney Mary!
Mix 3 parts tomato juice with 1 part Spicy Cucumber brine add a splash of Yellowbird and your favorite beer or some vodka. Garnish with HCP fermented cukes, okra, and carrots!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Sweet Ritual Vegan Ice Cream

1. Why did you decide to make and sell vegan ice cream?

Amelia already had a crowd-pleasing recipe that she developed while working at Toy Joy in their vegan cafe. Combined with Valerie's ice cream store management experience from her years at Amy's, we figured we were in a prime position to fill a need for dairy-free ice cream. We're so excited to provide more people the magical ice cream shop experience that their dietary needs might otherwise prevent them from enjoying.

2. How long have you been a vendor at Wheatsville and what are some of your interconnections with the co-op?

Wheatsville has been carrying Sweet Ritual since January 2014.  We also love seeing all of our friends in the deli like Robert, who first hired Valerie to work at Amy's Ice Creams, and our friend and former employee Nandy. Their warm smiles always brighten our day!



3. What flavor of Sweet Ritual, out of all the pints Wheatsville carries, is your favorite?

We love the new Yellowbird Hot Chocolate! Not only is it our delicious almond-based chocolate, but we got to team up with our friends at Yellowbird Hot Sauce to give it a spicy kick. An amazing collaboration all the way around.



4. What are some of the things you love at Wheatsville?

Oh, so many good things! The produce section is always full of fresh and delicious fruits and veggies. We guzzle Kosmic Kombucha's Pear of the Dog by the gallon (goes great with vegan Frito Pie!). The soaps and personal care section is great— I've fallen in love with the Wheatsville Birthday soap. We love the deli and hot food bar! The food bar is our favorite place to get a quick and comforting dinner, and we can't get enough of the buffalo popcorn tofu sandwiches.



5. Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share?

Here is our delicious Peanut Butter Magic Shell:

14 oz peanut butter
15 oz coconut oil
1 1/3 c powdered sugar
1/2 Tb vanilla
1 tsp salt

Melt peanut butter and coconut oil together over double boiler until melted. Or if you prefer to use a microwave, heat for 30 sec at a time alternating with stirring until melted.

Sift in the powdered sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Store at room temperature to keep liquid. It will make a hard shell when it touches the ice cream!



6. Do y’all have anything new in the works?

We're expanding our line of gluten-free ice cream sandwiches with the help of Better Bites Bakery, and we've begun experimenting with ice cream cakes!

We’ve also just moved into our new shop at 4631 Airport Blvd. Suite 125. We are excited to have our very own space and the room to provide more great vegan ice cream to Austin! Keep checking our website and facebook for updates on our hours. And both Wheatsville locations are now fully stocked to meet your Sweet Ritual needs!

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Local Vendor Spotlight: Bastrop Cattle Company

Wheatsville has been offering Bastrop Cattle Company Beef for many years now. We are privileged to be able to offer beef that is raised entirely on grass and in pasture their whole lives right here in Texas. Pati Jacobs helps the ranching community here in Texas by utilizing cattle from other local ranchers. This helps keep families on the land and by sharing the same standards, protocols and values we get beef that is raised right and is consistently top notch. Pati was kind to take time to answer a few questions for us:

How did you get started in ranching?

My family went into ranching when I was a child. I learned how to work cattle from my Mom and Dad. After my Dad died and my Mom became sick, my brother and I returned to the ranch (from living and working overseas) to take care of Mom and raise cattle. At the time, I thought there had to be a better way to make a living than just raising the calves and selling them across the auction ring. That's when my brother, Cleve, and I started doing all grass fed (2008) and looking to sell direct to customers.

What is your philosophy about raising cattle?

My folks always raised cattle on grass, but during my Dad's life the USDA started pushing the hormone implants and all kinds of stuff like heavily fertilizing the grass and using herbicides and pesticides. My Mom started getting away from that when she took over the ranch after his death. My brother and I had been looking at the grass fed movement and so we just decided to stop using all the artificial chemicals and went straight natural and organic. Even though we're not certified organic, there hasn't been any chemicals on the ranch in over eight years. We also started working with other family ranchers because we knew we would need more cattle than we could raise by ourselves.

Everyone who works with us commits to NOT using any antibiotics or hormones and no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides on their ranches.

We also think that the better you handle the animals, the better the beef. We use low impact handling methods on the cattle. This means having them gentle enough where you can call them into corrals and enclosures to work with them. We don't use prod sticks or any rough ways of moving them. We use squeeze shuts to immobilize them when we need to check them.

Also, the processing plant where we take the calves has a humane approved butcher.

How do your ranching practices differ from large scale ranching?

The difference between our ranches and our cattle and the big Agro-industry operations is:

  1. Our animals are on grass all their life. They are pastured and are free to roam within the rotation programs that we have. This means that they are not standing in their own manure being force fed on grains and other additives.
  2. They never receive hormones or antibiotics (if an animal becomes sick and we have to treat them with antibiotics then they are not sold for human consumption. They are on natural grasses, fresh water and are not exposed to any chemicals.
  3. Our cattle are processed at a small, family owned processing facility in Schulenburg where each and every one is inspected by a State Inspector who also makes sure that they are killed properly and that the meat is healthy. This is not an assembly line processing plant. They take great pride in handling the animals properly and they cut up the meat with skill and pride.

What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?

Wheatsville Co-op has carried our product from the very beginning of the start of the company. You helped me get started by offering a place for me to sell my beef.

Wheatsville is a great place that really cares about what you offer and you are very honest about where those products come from, how they have been raised, grown, handled and made. I come in once or twice a week to do deliveries to you and I always buy my vitamins, cheeses, breads and veggies from you. I know I'm getting what you say it is!!

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