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Friends and Farmers Co-op looks to grow membership in hopes of opening store

Friends and Farmers Cooperative looks to grow its membership to at least 800 members to plan and secure a site for a community-owned and financed store.
Friends and Farmers Cooperative looks to grow its membership to at least 800 members to plan and secure a site for a community-owned and financed store. CDT file photo

Friends and Farmers Cooperative hopes to rapidly grow its membership in an effort to continue working toward a brick-and-mortar store.

The co-op, incorporated in 2013, has 376 members from the community.

It needs 800 members to plan and secure a site for a community-owned and financed store and 1,200 to open, according to the co-op board chairwoman Sara Carlson. The co-op announced its new membership campaign Friday at its annual membership meeting, which included food samplings, children’s activities from The Makery, a silent auction, giveaways and food preparation by Taproot Kitchen, a nonprofit that connects young adults with autism and special needs to local food initiatives.

“We definitely feel like we’ve been steadily adding new members, and we started off with 175 in March of 2014,” Carlson said. “We’ve more than doubled it since then.”

Some weeks membership spikes by about 15 and sometimes newcomers trickle in by less than a handful within the same span. A newly implemented campaign, she said, will be key in driving interest in the co-op around the community.

The co-op, according to Carlson, was inspired at a December 2011 community potluck held by Spring Creek Homesteading, a nonprofit for local sustainability initiatives. The mission of the co-op has taken several avenues, including supporting local producers, offering the community locally prepared foods, encouraging healthy eating habits and bringing the community together.

Producers offer vegetables, fruits, meats and body care products through the co-op’s online market, which sold about $70,000 worth of goods in its first 10 months.

“Our primary mission is to support the local economy and trying to do that by giving local producers another means of income,” Carlson said. “We have two programs right now, an online market that acts as if you were shopping online with any other retailer and a secondary loyalty program through many local vendors.”

The loyalty program encompasses dozens of local businesses in the region that offer discounts to members.

People can become a member via a $300 membership fee, which can be paid in full or by a payment plan, the longest of which is $30 a year for 10 years.

The co-op also recently received a $92,000 United States Department of Agriculture grant for its efforts.

To learn more, go to friendsandfarmers.coop.

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