By Sarah Bhimani, Outreach and Education Manager, City Market, Onion River Co-op
City Market, a community owned food co-op in Burlington, VT, has a list of Global Ends to guide its business. One of City Market’s Global Ends is “strengthening the local food system,” which is met through a myriad of activities and programs, including highlighting and selling local products (37% of sales in fiscal year 2015 were local and made in Vermont products); planning farm tours and crop mobs for the community; its Co-op Patronage Seedling Grants Program; and its Local Farm and Producer Investment Program.
The Local Farm and Producer Investment Program is one tool that can be used to meet Vermont Farm to Plate Network’s Goal 20: Increasing Access to Capital. Each year, City Market uses a minimum of 5% of the previous year’s retained earnings to invest in local farmer or producer expansion projects. This investment is a no-interest loan that the farmer or producer can choose to pay back over time, either in cash or with product.
To help inform the Local Farm and Producer Investment Program, City Market has a local product gap list to advise farmers and producers about local products still needed in the store, as well as saturated product categories. Local corn tortillas had been on the gap list for a long time, until the Co-op started talking with Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters about how to fill that gap. Continue reading