How We’re Preparing to Grow Local Sales
Supporting local growers and producers has been a top priority at Menomonie Market Food Co-op since we first incorporated in 1974. We have so many wonderful farmers, artists, and producers in our region, and we are looking forward to continuing to grow alongside them as we prepare to open our bigger Barstow Street location in Eau Claire. In order for products to be labeled as “local” at our co-op, they must be grown or produced within the five Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, or Michigan.
A perk of operating out of a space the size of our Farwell Street store is the ability to sell primarily locally sourced products, a majority of which are from the Chippewa Valley. This will remain our goal as we move to Barstow Street later this year, but it will take time, patience, and a lot more communication between our staff and our local suppliers to make that a reality. One example of how we’re preparing is the meeting to which our Fresh Team invited local meat suppliers in May for an afternoon of networking, planning, and learning. Crystal, our General Manager, along with Jen and Layne, our Fresh Managers, presented sales projections for the larger store and discussed the growth opportunities we expect will be available to our current meat vendors with those who attended. Growth is not as simple as ordering extra from these farmers because all parts of the local food system are affected by an increase in production. More animals will need to be raised, more feed will need to be grown and purchased, more land will be needed to house the animals, already-packed processing facilities will need to increase production, and more storage will be needed to keep the product safe after processing. All of that is possible, but it can’t happen in the short time it takes to build a new store.
Another way we’re preparing is through changes being made to our organizational structure this summer. Officially formed at the end of May, a new department called Operational Services will house decision-making around product selection, pricing, and promotions, and its four team members are already excited to work together on building stronger relationships with local vendors specifically. Plans include automating our national product selection so staff can spend more time seeking out local brands, starting an email newsletter for local suppliers to better keep them in the loop on our co-op’s needs and upcoming promotions, and regularly scheduling opportunities for staff to visit more local suppliers.
Growth is challenging, and as hard as we’ll work to stock as many local products as possible in our bigger Barstow Street store on opening day, many of our local farmers and producers will need time to increase production at the pace that works best for them. We can’t wait to watch them expand with us over the next few years and hope to help them do it however we can!
This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 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.