Anyone Can Invest in Local Food, Farmers, & Jobs

By David Mortimer, Co-op Marketing Committee Chair (Sacred Heart Hospital, Com. Department)

Two years ago, the Producers & Buyers Co-op was launched to remove sourcing barriers and to link local farms and institutions. Today, the Co-op facilitates local food sourcing for three Chippewa Valley hospitals and schools, universities, and other institutions in western Wisconsin have expressed interest in Co-op membership. Just last June, the Co-op was cited in a speech by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as a best practice example of a cooperative expanding local food capacity and developing markets.

In only its second year of operation, the Co-op could sell half of a million dollars in local food—an entirely new market in western Wisconsin, thanks to founding partner Sacred Heart Hospital (Eau Claire) and new partners, St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chippewa Falls) and Luther Midelfort Hospital (Eau Claire).

It is a sad irony that across the nation, local family farms have been largely shut out of institutional markets, even though institutional buyers may be located just a few miles away. For large institutions, like universities, school systems, and hospitals, established supply chains work hard to ensure the safety, availability, variety, and quantity of food products. By creating an infrastructure to source local food in western Wisconsin, the Co-op creates new markets in our community—markets that help family farms, create jobs, and support the local economy. This new production also enhances a self-sustaining food economy and provides a far superior product.

Long distance food sometimes has more frequent flier miles than the people that eat it. During winter months, seasonal fruits and vegetables may even travel through international borders and even across the hemisphere before they reach their destination. Not only does globetrotting food consume a lot of jet and diesel fuel, its quality and nutritional content suffers. Even worse, it may have been picked before it naturally ripens or have been treated with preservatives to lengthen its shelf life.

Building capacity to produce, process, and transport local food is the mission of the Co-op, and today anyone can support this worthy cause by purchasing stock in the organization. Financial investments from members of the community will help build a safe and secure link between sustainable farmers and our schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and universities.

The Co-op board and members are pleased to announce preferred shares of capital stock as an investment opportunity. Funds will be used to reach out to local schools, hospitals and universities as well as to expand the list of producer members and provide new business opportunities.

Each share of Preferred Stock has a par value of $500. The Co-op will divert all profits to the reserve and re-investment fund until 2015. At that time, the Board will review the profitability of the Co-op on a yearly basis and, when appropriate, will pay dividends to stock holders at a rate to be determined by the board (not to exceed 8% as per WI Statute 185). There are 500 shares available.

The Co-op’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws mandate that all those interested in purchasing preferred stock in the Co-op become non-voting members (requiring a membership application and one-time fee of $50.00). To request a brochure, prospectus information packet with Frequently Asked Questions, and a request form, call 715-579-5013 or write: Producers & Buyers Co-op, PO Box 295, Elk Mound, WI  54739.

Local Women Open New Dance Studio

Joan Schaefer and Rita Simon of Chippewa Falls have partnered to open a new dance studio in Eau Claire. “Sofia Spirit Studio,” located at 2131 Fenwick Avenue, is dedicated to offering a variety of programs that serve women in the Chippewa Valley.

Sofia Spirit Studio offers certified instruction in American Tribal Style (ATS) Belly Dance, a beautiful stylized improvisational form of belly dance. This dance is excellent physical exercise, especially for the core muscles and the cardiovascular system. It also fosters the development of inner awareness and self-esteem and all while having a great time!

Ongoing 6 week Level 1 ATS dance classes are offered, with the next series scheduled to begin on September 14. Classes are provided 3 times a week, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, which allows for participant flexibility. Level 2 and 3 classes will be added as students progress in their mastery of the dance skills.

The studio is also home to “Sofia Tribal,” a performance ATS belly dance troupe comprised of Joan, Rita and three other local professional women. Sofia Tribal is available to provide classy entertainment at private events, such as weddings or women’s gatherings, or at fundraisers and other community events.

A variety of workshops exploring a broad range of women’s interests will be offered at Sofia Studio. Many of these workshops are designed to be beneficial for any woman, wherever she is in her life journey. Look for the first of these workshops in October.

The studio also incorporates a boutique, “Sofia’s Souk.” The souk features beautiful creations by local artisans, worldly treasures and jewelry. Many of these items look great for every day wear and would also beautifully enhance the tribal or fusion belly dancer’s costuming.

The studio is available for rent and is suitable for yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, zumba, martial arts, etc. Classes in ballroom and hoop dancing are currently being scheduled there.

For more information visit or contact Joan Schaefer at 715-379-6304 or

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) Program

If you haven’t checked out Sacred Heart’s Center for Healthy Living’s newest course, you’re missing out. In the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program, you learn to reduce and/or manage stress, enjoy greater energy, decrease pain or manage it more effectively, and increase your ability to relax and put life in healthier perspective. The program is facilitated by Karen Alseth, BSN, MEd, and is the only course of its kind in the area.

Though it may sound pretty cutting-edge, MSBR has been around since the ‘70s.The program originated in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worchester, MA. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, developed the program in response to the the needs of patients to manage stress, especially stress associated with chronic illness. A doctor of molecular biology, Kabat-Zinn worked with traditional physicians in the Medical Center and found they were often frustrated with their limited ability to help chronic illness patients manage their stress, recognizing that stress played a huge role in their patients’ lives and often complicated their conditions.

Kabat-Zinn, a long-time meditator and serious student of Zen meditation, felt led to try a meditation-based approach to treat stress. He developed a program that has since gained international acclaim and is now offered in medical centers around the US and in several other countries. Kabat-Zinn is known for bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of America through the MBSR course, related research, and several best-selling books.

The MSBR program was originally set up as an 8-week course with a weekly 2 ½ hour class plus a full day retreat, and that structure continues to this day. The classes involve learning about mindfulness and how it affects stress and daily living, breathing, homework, study, and self-awareness.

“Life is the curriculum for the class, and meditation is the teacher.” Karen Alseth tells participants. Daily meditation is highly encouraged – attendees of the class are in fact asked to commit to daily meditation. Facilitator Karen Alseth says positive results in the program are directly related to the consistency of meditation. For most people, meditation is the practice that best supports the development of greater mindfulness. Alseth explains, “While we meditate, we become still and we become aware of what our thoughts and feelings are. Realizing what you’ve been doing, allowing, or reacting to opens the mind to clarity and gives you a choice of what to do now.” Alseth says students discover to what extent these feelings and actions have actually been increasing negativity, stress, and pain in their lives. By slowing down and meditating every day, becoming more aware of how they react to the events in their lives, they are enabled to start managing life in a wiser/healthier way.

Breathing and sending enough oxygen to the part of the brain that calms us down is also key in the program. There is a two-part system in the brain; one that generates the stress response, and one that calms us and brings the body back into balance (immune system, nervous system, everything). Because the brain does not discern between life-threatening stress (e.g., that truck is about to hit me) and non-threatening stress (e.g., my teenage child won’t listen to me), many people are operating their lives in a chronic stress reaction mode, which, over time, can have serious negative effects on physical and emotional health.

Students spend time talking in small and large groups (voluntary discussions) about what they are experiencing as they meditate, what the meditation is teaching them, what comes up in their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations (the three main areas of awareness), and how mindfulness is spilling over into their daily life. Everyone receives a notebook as well as CDs with guided meditations to help them through their daily practice.

Students learn about the physiology of stress, the role of the brain and nervous system in stress, the role of breathing, mindful communication, mindful consumption, kindness to self, and nonjudgmental acceptance of reality and related topics.

There are also homework assignments about awareness (pleasant and stressful experiences) that help students become more aware.

A great deal of research-based findings revealing the effectiveness of mindfulness, breathing, and meditation’s effect on the brain are available today. Traditional medical research is continually being done to determine the results of MBSR as well as the actual physiological process of meditation in the brain. New, exciting research surrounding the plasticity of the brain, which means the mold-ability of the brain,  is overturning the paradigm which held that everything in the brain is “set in concrete” at an early age. Alseth explains, “We now know that the brain continues to “learn” and develop new pathways, even into old age and that meditation is being seen in MRIs to have a positive affect on the brain. We can all develop different, healthier pathways.”

MBSR classes are ongoing, with the next session beginning Sept. 9, held at St. Bede’s Conference Center. To register or learn more about the courses, please contact the Center for Healthy Living at Sacred Heart Hospital at (715) 717-1600.

Easy Energy Savers

Merrilee Harrigan, VP of education at Alliance to Save Energy says there are some common everyday decisions that can help reduce energy consumption.

  • Bake with ceramic or glass pans instead of metal. They retain heat better so you can cook dinner at 25 degrees lower for the same amount of time.
  • It’s simple and you’ve heard it before, but turn off the light when you leave a room. It’s a myth that turning the light off and on creates an energy surge.
  • When your car idles for more then 30 seconds, turn the car off. Starting the car uses less energy than letting it run.

Real Estate Going “Green” – What Does It Mean To Me?

Going Green Or Sustainable Is Not A Myth!
by Jeff Hoel

In fact, in real estate today, going green isn’t just a trend; it’s a movement. Many people and businesses have changed their directional movement because they believe that every step toward a greener, more sustainable environment is a step in the right direction.

You’ve probably noticed that green is everywhere these days – in the news, politics, fashion, and even technology. So why not in real estate as well? You can hardly escape it, with thousands of messages and ideas coming at us from all sides, it can be easy to get caught up in “green washing” and tune out without thinking about the big picture of how Ggeen actions might work for you.

While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, it’s also simple to begin making a positive impact. According to a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, 61 percent of consumers said they would be willing to spend more than $5,000 upfront to save on utility costs – which green construction targets.

As a result, in my world of real estate today, we see the setting of new standards for both existing and new green homes. You can implement green products and practices into your home that reduce energy consumption, save money, and save the environment for a lot less than you think.

Many homeowners have a strong interest in energy conservation and the environment, but it can be very difficult to imagine how to integrate those ideas into their homes or businesses. Today, in our area, a few interested real estate professionals are transforming the industry by living, working, and educating green.

Seeing the value of Sustainable Management in real estate has not yet taken the country by storm. We hear about the financial woes across the country, some of us have lost jobs or been cut back, so just finding the money to keep our families together takes all of our personal energy and thinking.

But despite challenges, in the normal course of events, we may have made several decisions that have improved our Green rating – and didn’t even know it! If you have added appliances, furnaces, windows or doors, siding, and any number of other things in the normal course of life’s events, the likelihood is that not only have you have improved your energy consumption and reduced your expenditures, you have made a contribution to the sustainable green movement worldwide. I bet you didn’t think of that!

To me, as a Realtor with a Green designation, these upgrades are part of the appeal to entice new buyers, if you were to sell your property. My goal and the goal of Green Designated Realtors, is to make this an important part of the purchase and sale experience.

In today’s world, most home owners’ first experience with sustainable or green involves their pocketbook. People facing a major household replacement are given some choices and then the decision making process begins. Yes, it can cost more money to go with sustainable or green items or parts, but that charge is often mitigated quickly with the longer term benefits and savings.

If you are really new to Green or Sustainability in real estate, a home energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, is the first step to determine how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time.

A home energy assessment performed by a Certified Rater can include a blower door test to depressurize your home to look for air leaks, an infrared scan of walls and ceilings, a low E detector for windows, and a survey of your lighting and appliances. Verification of improvements and home updates developed from the report can be a major selling point for homeowners. Home energy assessment’s range from $350-500 depending on the size of your home. Always check with your local utility to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits for their customers.

In summary, what you do at home –from the way you handle your garbage to the bulbs you put in your lamps – sends ripples out into your community and the whole planet. Going green isn’t as hard as you might think and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Besides, you may already have made the first step.

Learn more at