Local Farms Program. An integral mission of the Olympia Food Co-op has been its commitment to support and cultivate local producers and businesses. The Local Farms Program is a system implemented by the produce department, and also utilized by our deli, that puts theory into practice.
The Local Farms Program is a system used to work with local farmers to plan fruit and vegetable purchases for the Co-op. The Co-op and farmers negotiate a prioritization system of farms getting first and second priority selling diverse crops to the Co-op. This way, a farm can plan its growing season, knowing that they will sell certain crops to the Co-op, and the Co-op produce buyers can expect to have those crops available to buy. It’s a mutually beneficial system for planning ahead and knowing what to expect.
Because part of our mission statement is to “support local business,” the Co-op pays farmers more than we pay to buy the same crops from a large distributor and apply a lower margin to keep the retail prices competitive. We will be buying from about 18 local farms next year utilizing this program.
We have a standardized and transparent system for pricing between farmers and the Co-op. With this system, prices are set based on an average market price and agreed upon before each season. This helps farmers know what they will be paid, excluding the added work of negotiation.
Overall, the Local Farms Program has provided the Co-op with more local products throughout the season, creating a more consistent supply. Since farms generally keep the same crop prioritization year after year, they have a sense of volumes, and can plan the seed purchase and planting to better suit their needs and the Co-op’s demand.
By Jackie Krzyzek, Staff Collective Member