6 Ways Menomonie Market Food Co-op Supports Local Agriculture
Part of our co-op’s Ends Statement says we will help to strengthen our local food system, and advocating for our community’s farmers is at the heart of that work. These are some of the ways our stores support local agriculture year-round:
1. Sourcing from local farms. The best way to support community suppliers is by buying from them, so as often as we can, we source products for our shelves from local farmers and producers. And we identify them as such at-shelf so our shoppers can choose local brands over national ones. Although harder to reach with two stores, our goal is that at least a third of our sales will be to local products by 2026, many of them from farms.
2. Running the Fund Our Foodshed Grant Program. Another way our co-op supports local farms monetarily is by awarding grants through our Fund Our Foodshed Grant Program. In the last four years, we’ve distributed over $23,000 to local farmers and producers, and our hope is to eventually increase available funds for the program to $20,000 annually.
3. Offering CSA share pickups at our stores. One of the biggest challenges of being a CSA farm is getting shares to all of your customers each week, especially when they live all over. That’s why our co-op serves as a pickup location for several local CSA farms: so the farmers have a central location to which they can deliver their shares and customers are able to pick them up while they’re already on their weekly grocery run.
4. Hosting events where customers can meet local suppliers. Connecting to local suppliers online is great, but meeting them in person is even better (and more fun). We host lots of events that give our shoppers the opportunity to do so, such as our Annual CSA Fair, in-store sampling events, department sales, Local Fest, our Annual Owner Meeting, and our Holiday Hoopla.
5. Promoting local suppliers in-store and online. It can take years to build brand loyalty in your community when you’re just starting out as a producer. We aim to accelerate this process for our local suppliers by highlighting as many as possible on our platforms, including in-store signage, social media posts, emails, and newsletter articles.
6. Investing in and buying from the farmer’s market. Purchasing food directly from local suppliers at area farmer’s markets is another great way to support them. Many of our own local suppliers sell to us and at markets to increase their income. In 2015, we helped raise funds for the new pavilion in Wilson Park that now houses a bigger farmer’s market in Menomonie. And as part of our work for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grant our co-op received in 2020, our Deli buys many of its ingredients from this same market during the spring, summer, and fall.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.