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About a Grapefruit

Sometimes the things we love in life can be quite simple. I’m eating the fourth grapefruit out of this enormous mesh bag from G&S Groves. It is a Texas Rio, extraordinarily juicy and sweet. I used to cut the fruit into halves and then slice into each section (Mom’s method), but these days I greedily slice the rind away from the outside of the fruit and just eat it in big chunks. No sugar, no broiling, no pushing away of the membrane. Call it lazy or frugal, but I am completely hooked.

The story of how this fruit came from the orchard to my kitchen table is beautifully organic. Initially we came to know of G&S Groves from Erik Larson, the produce guru at St. Peter Food Co-op. Erik has a high school buddy who a) took up residence in Eastern Texas and b) loves good fruit. These two circumstances meant that upon a visit to Colin in Texas a few years back, Erik tasted the wonderful citrus from G&S Groves and decided to personally haul a truckload of it back to his store in St. Peter, MN. (Visit this store—it is fantastic).

As food co-ops do—especially these Midwestern ones, born of Quaker-esque principles of sharing—St. Peter Food Co-op encouraged others to get in on the next season’s harvest. This year’s delivery is the second for People’s Food Co-op, after Scott Weaver diligently worked out the logistics with the grower and other stores.

The G&S story goes back much further, though. The first tract of land was purchased in 1930, just a few years before the Dustbowl and Great Depression changed everything for the American farmer. It was perfect for growing citrus fruits and provided a good crop to locals until the climate killed off the trees. Fortunately, the land stayed in the family’s name for decades until Dave Strohmeyer replanted it in 1984.

The third generation of Strohmeyers is now in charge of the orchard. They’ve added two more tracts of land and transitioned the entire orchard to being certified organic. Having first made a career in Austin in the tech industry, young Dave and wife Bonnie went back to the farm life for the sake of their kids. As Dave put it, “In the tech industry, ‘healthy’ is a pack of candy bars and a couple of sodas.” They knew their children deserved a better model. Now ranging from 16 to 22 years-old, the kids are constantly educating their own friends about grade and quality and sizing of citrus fruits.

The farm business is still run by older and younger generations of Strohmeyers, who find working through the challenges and successes of a family business very rewarding. They view the relationships that have developed between Midwestern food co-ops and G&S Groves as a major reason in the farm’s success.

Many might know grapefruit as a supposed “magic bullet” for weight loss and fighting cancer, as a thousand websites will have you believe. But I’m not talking about a magic bullet here. This single fruit in my hand this morning represents foundational principles of “cooperation among cooperatives” and “concern for community.” A taste of this Texas Rio unveils a future of good soil and sustainable food production, built on the legacy of food co-ops and family owned farms. If you’re raising a glass before your meal tonight, let’s make a simple toast: “Stronger Together.”

—Lizzy Haywood