[Market-farming] Co-Ops

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Mon Nov 26 21:58:20 EST 2007

On Nov 26, 2007, at 7:15 PM, Richard Stewart wrote:

> Well, I feel dumb. :)
> I guess I have no clue what a Co-Op is.
> So let me try to define this then.
> An individual acts as the go between.  That person heads the "co-
> op" (for lack of a better term right now).  THis person is the
> contact between a small group of people and the farmer(s).
> Its not a CSA but it involves a group of people that purchase produce
> as a group.  Each week they are sent a list of available foods/items/
> goods.  They then choose product and quantity and the goods arrive
> for them to distribute among members.  No money is put down with the
> possible exception of a membership or a deposit for totes.
> On the grower/supplier's end each week you get a list to fill.
> That is the rough concept.  The buyers can pic up the food or have it
> delivered at a central location.  The payments are received upon
> delivery.  Old totes are replaced with full ones.
> No money is exchanged prior to a season.  There are no shares and is
> flexible for the buyers regardless of family size of needs.
> So, now, what do I call this?  Is there a name for it?

Sounds like a buying club.

The buying clubs I've had experience with were run by the buyers, 
though; and ordered from a distributor, not from a group of farmers. 
They were something like a buyers' co-op, except without a storefront. 
In part due to the lack of storefront, we bought almost nothing highly 
perishable, even though people were supposed to pick up as soon after 
delivery as the bulk quantities could be split up. Some such buying 
clubs are interested almost entirely in getting stuff cheap; others may 
also be interested in the quality and/or source of the food.

I've also been a member of, and on the board of, a farmers' co-op. This 
involved enough of a workload that, by the time I joined, the co-op had 
a hired manager; and most years at least part-time additional warehouse 
personnel; plus some work put in by the farmer members; though it had 
started, if I remember correctly, with all volunteer labor on the part 
of the farmers. Much of the workload involved a lot of hours on the 
phone, trying to get orders from customers and co-ordinate what was 
wanted with what the growers actually had available; and time checking 
quality, making up pallets with the right items on them for delivery to 
each customer, etc. Managing such a co-op is a tricky position as the 
interests of the customers and of the growers don't entirely coincide, 
especially in the area of prices; but if both sets of interests aren't 
at least reasonably satisfied, the co-op won't make it. If you're 
selling only to one specific group, that job will be made easier 
(though the partial conflict of interests may remain); but what will 
you do if the group doesn't want to keep buying?

That co-op's still going, though I'm no longer working with it: Finger 
Lakes Organic. They might be able to give you some information, and 
possibly some assistance, if your group of farmers decide that an 
actual farmers' co-op is what you're after.


-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
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