From Kewaunee farms to Green Bay tables
Andy LaFond, the fourth-generation owner of LaFond’s Fish Market in Kewaunee, is out fishing on Lake Michigan every morning at 6 a.m.
Twice a week he now delivers the chubs and whitefish he catches to sell at The Cannery Public Market in Green Bay.
“The Cannery has been a nice addition to our Green Bay market,” LaFond said.
“We are giving that local product a place and a face in Green Bay,” says John Pagel, owner of the The Cannery Public Market as he sits at a table amidst the bustling 8,000-square-foot indoor market, bar and dining area of his new Green Bay business, which opened Aug. 10.
Pagel is seeking to bring the fun and flavor of farmer’s markets like Pike’s Place in Seattle and the new Milwaukee Market to Green Bay. Building on a new trend in dining that offers a “farm to table” approach, he offers beef and cheese from his Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, as well as fish, bakery wine and produce from Kewaunee and Door county farms and businesses.
On this particular Tuesday morning two couples, John and Diane Lambert from Trempealeau and David and Barbara Pronschinski from Milwaukee, are meeting at The Cannery for lunch.
“We were looking for something new, fun and exciting, and we found it,” said Diane.
Working with Green Bay broker Creative Business Services, Pagel spent several years developing the concept for a restaurant and market and found the right location last year at the former Larsen Cannery on Broadway Street in Green Bay, an area that has undergone significant revitalization in recent years and how features a variety of upscale shops and restaurants.
He leased the space and then used old wood from four barns on his property to transform it into a bar, restaurant and market that has the flavor of European markets, but is indoors. With the help of Rick Delcor of Cabinet Creative in Dyckesville, the barn wood and parts of an old coop were used to line the walls and build many of the market’s display cases.
The centerpiece of the space is a square bar that is 24 feet long on each side. It is built with Douglas fir and other wood from a century-old wood silo on Pagel’s farm. Pagel’s family farm is also present in a 1946 aerial picture.
About half of the products used in the new restaurant and sold in the market are from Kewaunee County, Pagel said.
There are various sausages and meats from Konop Meats of Denmark and wines from three different Kewaunee County vineyards: Cold Country Wine, Stone’s Throw Winery and Parallel 44 Winery.
Don’s Bakery of Luxemburg supplies bread and rolls to the market, and Country Sweets ‘n Treats of Kewaunee supplies a variety of snacks and desserts.
Mary Selner, the owner of Country Sweets n ‘Treats, said she received her commercial kitchen license to make the goods in her home after completing training at the Algoma Farm Market Kitchen this year.
“My son works at the Pagel Dairy and we sent some samples out to the farm ,” she said. “They took the samples to the restaurant and then we heard they wanted to place an order.”
She said she supplies more than a hundred brownies, scones and various sweet bars to the Cannery each week.
Sigrid Slaby, co-owner of Wienke’s market on County S in Door County, said they supply more than 20 products — from jams to pie fillings — to the new market, including many that are grown and produced on the 40-acre farm that her parents, Don and Jane Wienke, bought in the 1970s.
“We recently began making large jars of our non-sugar apple butter for one of their pork recipes they are planning for the restaurant this fall,” said Slaby.
The market and restaurant menu also features a variety of cheese curds from Ron’s Wisconsin Cheese in Luxemburg, which Pagel purchased in 2014. Milk from Pagel’s farm is used to produce eight Ponderosa cheeses that are sold at the Cannery’s market including Colby, garlic herb, snow cheddar, three-pepper cheddar, salsa jack, onion-chive, cheddar, horseradish jack and olive jack.
Pagel, who grew up on his farm in Kewaunee and bought it from his family in 1980, has transformed it into a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with more than 5,000 cows. He also raises Limousin beef on the farm, which are used in the burgers and steaks at the restaurant. The cattle, a breed from France, are known for tender and flavorful beef cuts, Pagel said.
In another Kewaunee connection, executive chef L.J. Weber is from Luxemburg, attended Fox Valley Technical College and worked at Plae Bistro in Green Bay before being recruited by Pagel.
Opening week was a huge success with more than 1,500 people attending and 800 meals served, said Julie Veldhuis, public relations and marketing director for the Cannery. Short on staff to serve the crowds, Pagel asked his four children and their spouses to fill in the staffing gaps for about 10 days, said Veldhuis.
“Everything was more comfortable here having family to help,” said Pagel.
The restaurant currently has 50 full- and part-time employees, said Veldhuis, who has previous experience working for dairies in California and Idaho.
With the early success of The Cannery, Pagel now hopes to offer scheduled tours of his Kewaunee farm and business beginning in November. Visitors will board a bus from The Cannery in Green Bay and travel to the farm, where they will tour the barns and watch cheese curds being made, stop at Ron’s Cheese to buy cheese products, and return to the The Cannery for lunch or dinner. Pagel’s said that vats for making cheese curds at the farm have been delivered and should be operational later this fall.
Although animal welfare and environmental concerns have been raised about CAFOs, particularly the manure they generate, Veldhuis says it is a family-run farm and that anyone who tours the farm can see that the animals are content. A methane digester on the farm converts manure to electricity that can power 1,600 homes, enough to provide electricity to the entire city of Kewaunee, she said.
The farm provided tours to more than 10,000 visitors last year, and in June the dairy offered the first Ponderosa Boot Camp for seventh- and eighth-graders to gain hands-on dairy experience.
While he is still a farmer, Pagel’s business acumen continues to lead him to seek other outlets for his farm’s products.
“Now that the three businesses (the farm, the cheese plant and restaurant/market) are up and running the key is finding synergies to work together and benefit from each other,” Pagel said.
There has been “talk” of looking at additional locations for The Cannery restaurant and market concept, said Pagel, declining to be specific.
“We will see where it goes,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: From Kewaunee farms to Green Bay tables