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Few and Far Between


November 2021

A grocery store that marches to the beat of their own drum. Being owned by its members, a variety of diet-specific alternatives and community events are a few of the ways that Wheatsfield is different than the rest.


Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, paleo — you name it, and there are residents in Ames that practice one, if not more, of these diets. Living in Ames, however, can make following a special diet difficult at times. With large grocery stores like Walmart, ALDI, Hy-Vee and Fareway, there are few places to pick up specific ingredients and products that suit one’s special diet needs; this is where Wheatsfield fills the gap.


Wheatsfield Co-op is a cooperative grocery store, meaning it is owned by its 7,000 fee-paying members from all over central Iowa. They do more than just sell food, as the co-op’s mission statement states: “The co-op offers food, services, and education to cultivate a healthy environment and socially just community.”


Wheatsfield’s products are typically more expensive, but they also offer cooking and wellness classes, “tiny deck concerts,” an art gallery, regular donations for the community and recipes shared online and in-store to add to the over-all experience. There is also a deli, juice and smoothie bar, salad bar, bakery and hot bar available for all customers.


The co-op’s operation manager, Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, said that they are unique in that they aim to sell mainly organic and local products, especially in their produce. The few things that are not organic, like some packaged foods, also must meet a standard for Wheatsfield.


“We try to avoid things that have artificial colors and flavors, artificial preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils,” Beatty-Hansen said.


Beatty-Hansen said Wheatsfield provides many vegan, gluten-free or allergen-free products, making it a convenient stop for those with special diets. They also offer a multitude of dairy alternatives, a bulk department of nuts, grains and seeds and vegan, paleo or gluten-free convenience items that are ready for customers to grab on the go.


Bronwyn Frame is a resident of Ames that has been coming back to Wheatsfield for the last 34 years. She is also a member of the co-op.


“They have a lot of alternative products that other stores don’t.” Frame said. “We don’t eat a lot of processed foods, so this is a great place to start for those types of ingredients.”


Rex Heer drives about 30 minutes to buy from Wheatsfield. He said he has recently started eating mainly organic and gluten-free and has found the co-op an excellent resource for his diet goals.


“It’s not nearly as overwhelming [as large grocery stores],” Heer said. “I like the variety here that you don’t find in places that are catered to just popular stuff.”

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