The Fifth Season Cooperative is a multi-stakeholder co-op made up of producers, producer groups, food processors, distributors, and buyers from the 7 Rivers Region in the state of Wisconsin, in the U.S.A. Our members represent all of the key players in the food system at the local level.
Our goal is to build a robust regional food system that supports a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities.
Our cooperative is headquartered in Westby, Wisconsin, considered by many to be the center of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. The Driftless Area, which includes parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, was never glaciated and thus has striking topography consisting of forested hills, steep valleys, and clear streams as well as a variety of ecosystems including grassland, forest, prairie, and wetlands. This striking topography, however, makes agriculture in this region particularly challenging. Despite these challenges, agriculture has long been the dominant industry in the region. From Norwegian immigrants in the 1800’s to the Amish families who settled more recently, from wheat and tobacco to organic dairy and vineyards, the Driftless Area has enjoyed a rich variety of farmers and agricultural traditions over the years. Fifth Seasons market area is in a 150 mile radius of Viroqua WI, which includes south central and southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northwest Iowa.
Many people have asked us why we chose the name Fifth Season for our cooperative. In the past, the “fifth season” referred to the various ways people preserved food in order to continue enjoying the harvest well beyond the growing season. It was common to can, freeze, and dry foods during the peak of the season to extend the bounty. Through the formation of the Fifth Season Cooperative we increase; the amount of locally produced food that is consumed locally, the times of the year that people can enjoy this local food, and the income producers and processors can generate from their businesses. As a cooperative we foster the relationship between producers and consumers, and foster growth within our communities.
Although our cooperative is relatively young, we have many institutional and restaurant buyer members and several producer and processor members, as well as a national distributor member, Reinhart FoodService based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. When moving regional foods through the existing market infrastructure we as a cooperative make a commitment to insure that the identity and integrity of these foods are maintained. We support our producers, buyers, and processors by maintaining a fair price to all. The cooperative also provides marketing and education materials and assistance to all of our cooperative members.
All of our member classes are represented at the table, all members have a voice and a vote.
We are the Fifth Season Cooperative. Together we secure a place for local foods in our market.