PrairieSun Organics meeting unique demand in Vermillion

Angela Jackson has nothing against the local supermarkets in Vermillion. She just wishes they sold more local products.

This led Jackson, who has worked on a farm since 2004, to open her own certified organic store with locally produced meats and vegetables.

And eventually, that decision has brought a new business to downtown Vermillion.

"I think what the stores have here is great; we just wanted more local things, so our focus is to try and carry things our customers can't find at the local stores," Jackson said. "There is a huge surge in people eating locally now. They are asking where the food was grown and raised, and they want to know the story of the farmer."

Jackson started PrairieSun Organics three years ago and sold beef products from grass-fed cows with no hormones or antibiotics in it.

Four weeks ago, Jackson opened PrairieSun Organic Farm Market, at 108B East Main St. in Vermillion.

The market offers products from 10 different locally-owned farms in the area.

Some of the local farms are Pat Steffen Farm in Fordyce, NE, Sunrise Ranch in Edgemont, White Thunder Organics in Wood, Teinsvold Buffalo in Rushville, NE, PrairieSun Pastured Poultry in Sioux City, IA and Virgil Knobloch Beef in Bloomfield, IA.

The different farms show the store doesn't offer just beef. Jackson just added buffalo and pork along with chicken, milk, mixed vegetables, strawberries and melons to the stores' organic offerings.

Jackson said she added more meat because consumers wanted more than just beef, and the farmers have more to offer than just beef.

For instance, White Thunder Organics sells beef and pork products to PrairieSun and Sunrise Ranch sells beef and lamb.

Beef and chicken are the number one sellers, Jackson said, with buffalo also doing well.

The store has been well received in the four weeks since its been open because of what the it offers, Jackson said.

"It's been a very positive four weeks, and every week just gets better and our sales keep increasing," she said. "The economy has had zero effect on sales. In fact, we have seen a surge in sales because consumers want local and organic."

PrairieSun doesn't just sell organic food, however. It sells certified organic products, which Jackson said sets PrairieSun apart.

"Certified means that we are inspected annually and the USDA comes out to the farms and business," she said. "You also have to have all the paperwork and follow all the rules and regulations that are set. Plus you have to pay a fee to be certified."

Having organic products also means the vegetables and greens will never have pesticides or herbicides used on it, along with the fact the animals will not be treated with antibiotics or hormones.

Besides organic meat and greens, PrairieSun also sells minimally processed milk, which is healthier than ultra-pasteurized milk.

The process heats the milk at 285 degrees for two seconds, which gives ultra-pasteurized milk a longer shelf life.

Regularly pasteurized milk is held at 145 degrees for 30 minutes.

Jackson said even though the pasteurization process may kill more bacteria, it kills the essential nutrients in the milk.

"The higher temperature kills the health benefits because it kills the vitamins and proteins in milk," she said. "That's why they have to refortify the milk. Minimally processed milk still kills the bacteria, and the chances of getting sick from it are very rare."

Jackson doesn't just sell the locally produced product at her store; she also sells the food to other locations in the area.

"We have seven Hy-Vee stores that we sell to, and we just added Looks Market and Natural Foods Coop, which are both in Sioux Falls," she said.

One of the Hy-Vee stores she sells to is in Yankton, and she also sells to three Hy-Vee stores in Sioux Falls, two in Sioux City, IA, and one in South Sioux City, NE.

Business has been so good that Jackson is looking to expand.

She would like to open up the back of her store to allow a more expansive cutting and packing operation.

"I would like to add a vegetable processing line with the idea of bringing in whole vegetables where you can wash, cut and package them," Jackson said. "That way you can market them and bring them to retail markets or a farmers' market."

The idea isn't just limited to greens as Jackson would like to put in a small meat cutting space and also a space to slice cheese as well.

One of the reasons Jackson will be able to expand is because of the type of product she has.

"South Dakota ranchers produce wonderful livestock," she said. "High tunnels also allow us to grow vegetables eight months out of the year as well, depending on the weather."

The products she has received from regional farmers has been high quality, Jackson saids, and for now at least, she isn't planning to accept produce from additional suppliers.

"We are very happy with the quality of the product, but right now, I am reluctant to take on more," she said. "We will hopefully take on more business as the store grows, though."

PrairieSun Organics is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To contact the Vermillion store by phone, call (605) 624-1966.

More information is available at the business' website: www.prairiesunorganics.com.

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