A visit to the Amish Country Co-op

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On our mini-road trip last weekend, Mom, Dad and I traveled south on Highway 71 from Hewitt about four miles to the Amish Country Co-op just south of Bertha. We noticed the new harvest gold signs pointing the way to the Co-op, formerly known as the Mattress Factory . We turned left onto the service road that led uphill to the parking area south of the building. Bird houses, seasonal decorations and autumn mums lined the path to the door. With Dad steering his walker and Mom close behind, we made our way into the new Amish inspired market.

The scent of fresh donuts enticed us as we entered the remodeled display space. Shelves, tables and walls displayed seasonal produce, pickles, jams and jellies, quilts, baked goods, furniture, toys, leatherwork and craft items. White walls and bare concrete floors provided neutral backdrops for the colorful wares. An Amish man moved between the displays, adding his products to those already there. Two young Amish women in plain dresses and aprons made the donuts emitting the mouthwatering aroma.

“It’s a good start,” said the woman who greeted us and seemed to be in charge. “There’ll be more coming and next year even more,” she said referring to the empty rooms yet to be filled with Amish products. Items are priced and catalogued with a numbering system identifying the producer. Pricing on the pumpkins and squash varied a little from one grower to another.

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An office in one corner allows for space to track the business side of the venture and doubles as a check-out counter.

We paid for three cups of coffee, a raised glazed donut and a fruit-filled donut and sat down in one of the two restaurant-style booths to share them. To my left, I noticed a freezer case with Schwan’s ice cream and other frozen products. Other customers drifted in and out.

With the new Co-op space, the Bertha area Amish no longer set up roadside stands. Bob and Mary Larson along with Cindy and Gary Richter share this enterprise, the first of its kind in Minnesota. The Co-op is open six days a week. During the winter, it will be open only on weekends.

With our coffee cups empty and the last crumbs of the donuts licked up, we prepared to continue our road trip. Before leaving, I spent $1.25 on a large butternut squash. Then we made our way back outside and put Dad’s walker in the trunk.

We drove back through Hewitt, checking on the Barter Fest. The size of the crowd seemed about the same and the music hadn’t started yet. Back on Highway 71, we drove north, past the area’s only wind turbine, and went into Wadena for lunch.