Right in your own backyard: Local products offer unique tastes


In our own backyard, there are local producers selling locally made products that many consumers may not even know about. From honey, to maple syrup, to barbeque sauce, you can buy it from your neighbors.

Brad Mogen, owner of Trimbelle Valley Apiary LLC in the town of River Falls, said there is a benefit to buying local products. While local honey may be more expensive than honey bought in the store, you don't always know how the honey is made, Mogen pointed out.

Many times, Mogen said honey comes from foreign countries that don't have a lot of honey bees so the consumer may not be getting the same quality of honey that is produced locally.

"You should be getting a healthier product," Mogen said about buying locally. "You know you aren't supporting imported products."

Lisa Mueller, owner of Warm Fields Farm near Ellsworth, said buying local gives the consumer a better quality product. She said most food (such as produce) travels 1,500 to 3,000 miles to get from where it is grown to the consumer's plate. In some cases, tomatoes are picked green and then ripened with gas.

Jasen Cook, owner of Walnut Hill BBQ in River Falls, believes that some local products offer consumers something different than what may be offered at most stores.

"It's products you can't find elsewhere," Cook said about locally produced products. "The uniqueness, and in our case, each batch of sauce is a small batch which lets us add fresh ingredients, giving us control of the flavors."

In order to purchase these unique, quality products, Mogen said consumers may need to pay a little more.

"Buying local you need to be willing to pay a little more," Mogen said. "If people won't buy it [local product] at fair price the [producer] will lose a lot, [producers] won't [sell their product] after a while."

Many local producers depend on the local community to buy their products and support their businesses. Mike Weiland, owner of Old No. 22 BBQ Sauce in Prescott, said he has been fortunate to have local support. He would also like to support more local products himself when making his merchandise.

"I like to support Prescott and I'm proud to be from Prescott," Weiland said. "Everyone has been real helpful, even local businesses."

Old No. 22 BBQ Sauce

Weiland first sold his barbecue sauce to the public last year, though 2017 marked his 22nd year of making it. The 22 years inspired part of his brand name came; his original recipe also has 22 ingredients in it.

He went on to explain that the "old" in his brand name comes from using his great-grandma's canner to make his condiment.

Initially, when Weiland started making his barbecue sauce, it was just something he liked to do for himself, family and friends. It wasn't something he planned to sell to the public.

"Basically been on my own since I was 18 and I like experimenting with different spices," Weiland said.

While Weiland said he could have a place in Red Wing make and bottle his sauces for him, he prefers to continue making it himself. He doesn't want Old No. 22 mass produced because that would take away its uniqueness and quality, plus he enjoys making it.

Weiland has expanded from his Original BBQ sauce to other flavors including Carolina, Apply Bourbon Bacon, Smoky Blackberry, Thick N' Smoky Bacon, Kicker Hot, Jack Daniels and Mango Habanero.

This summer, Weiland said he plans to start processing his BBQ sauce in a commercial kitchen which would then allow him to sell his product in grocery stores. Right now, without having a commercial kitchen, he can't sell in grocery stores but is able to sell at 22 and Company in Prescott. People can also contact him directly at old22bbqsauce@gmail.com or call 715-293-2721 to purchase items.

Trimbelle Valley Apiary LLC

Brad Mogen and wife Kim were both professors at UW-River Falls until they retired this past January. In addition to teaching, they have also been beekeepers for the past 10 years. Brad said they have even taught others about beekeeping.

"The last five years brought beekeeping to classroom," Brad said.

The Mogens founded Trimbelle Valley Apiary LLC, where Brad said they promote "sustainable beekeeping." They have had hands-on training at their River Falls property to help people get acquainted with beekeeping.

"Trying to get people into the hobby but we recognize how difficult it is now," Brad said.

One of the hard parts about being a beekeeper in Wisconsin is the cost. He said they lose about 30 percent of their bees every year. Part of this is because they choose to overwinter their bees in Wisconsin and do not ship their bees to other states for the winter.

"Bees are trucked to California to pollinate almonds," Brad said about some producers' honeybees. "They can bring back diseases."

Brad said his interest in beekeeping started when he took an elective class by a beekeeper while at the University of Minnesota.

"From that day on, some day I was gonna have bees," Brad said.

Mogen admitted his interest in beekeeping was more about the bees and not really the honey. But he credits his wife Kim with marketing their honey.

"Kim does honey side and wax side," Brad said. "[She's] learning lip balm."

He said they produce about 3,000-3,500 pounds of honey along with comb honey every year. They supply honey to Swinging Bridge Brewery in River Falls. But he said people can also contact them directly at brad.d.mogen@gmail.com if they are interested in purchasing honey.

Warm Fields Farm

What started as a hobby farm for one Ellsworth woman has now become a bigger operation than she first thought it would be.

Lisa Mueller, owner of Warm Fields Farm, said she has lived on her property outside of Ellsworth for 22 years, on which she has tried to use sound biological practices when it comes to growing produce.

"I manage our farm in a way that promotes good stewardship of the land," Mueller said. "Good healthy food supports a whole array of plants and animals, especially pollinators."

Since she has started growing produce on her property, Mueller said she has always had tomatoes and peppers; four years ago she added asparagus to a little more than an acre of land. In addition to her plants, she also added a small flock of laying hens and some Pekin ducks.

Five years ago, Mueller decided to expand her operation to include some value added products, including Golden Sun Salsa and Zesty Pepper Jelly Glaze. This year she is looking at making a chili starter.

For her value added products, Mueller said she uses all her own tomatoes (she grows about eight different varieties); 90 percent of the peppers used are grown at her farm.

Early on, Mueller thought about being a Community Supported Agriculture farm but that didn't initially work out. However, this year she said she will be selling 16 shares for her farm. These shares will include 8 pounds of asparagus, 6 dozen eggs, two of each of the value added products (glaze and salsa) and 10 pounds of heirloom variety tomatoes.

If anyone is interested in learning more about Warm Fields Farm or purchasing items, go to www.warmfieldsfarm.com or email warmfieldsfarm@gmail.com.

Walnut Hill BBQ

What started as a friendly backyard barbecue competition among friends has grown into one River Falls man making a variety of barbecue sauces he's been selling for the past five years.

Jasen Cook, owner of Walnut Hill BBQ, said with the help and support of his wife, Nicole Baggenstoss-Cook (an Ellsworth native), he has been able to produce eight different varieties.

"My wife Nicole is my biggest supporter; she makes sure products taste and look great," Cook said. "She also makes sure the displays look amazing."

Cook said from his backyard barbecue competition he has expanded his barbecue flavors.

"We started by perfecting our signature original sauce," Cook said. "Friends and family made suggestions on sauces they wanted to try and I just went with it."

All of his sauces are made in smaller batches so he has more quality control of the ingredients; this helps with the final taste of the finished product.

Walnut Hill BBQ has seven different flavors based off their original barbecue sauce, Cook said. In addition to the original sauce, they make spicy, raspberry chipotle, cranberry, sweet cherry, hickory and bourbon bacon.

Cook said the main way they sell their products is through craft sales, but anyone interested can contact him by phone at 651-216-5350 or email walnuthillbbq@gmail.com.

Getting a quality, unique product is one of the advantages of buying locally, but Cook said there are also more benefits.

"Buying local supports the small businesses, the family owned," Cook said, "and helps the community."