A growing number of food co-ops buy some or all of their fruit and vegetables directly from farmers and growers.
This can benefit not only the local economy but also the environment if you choose to work with farmers who look after their land in an ecological way. It also gives your customers a real point of difference from the supermarket aisle (or even the local greengrocer, who most likely buys produce from a wholesale market). More and more people are looking for ways to support sustainable food producers directly - your produce will not only be fresh but come with a story!
However, buying directly from a farmer or grower has its challenges. You might not be able to get the exact fruits and vegetables you want, and during the ‘hungry gap’ (typically April-May) very little grows on British farms. You might have to work with a few different farms, which can make things more complicated (and certainly more time consuming).
Many food co-ops have got around these problems by working with farmers who grow a range of their own produce but are also willing to act as a wholesaler, supplying produce from other neighbouring farms, as well as some imported produce such as bananas or oranges. These may be producers who have formed farmer cooperatives or farmers who also run a retail outlet such as a farm shop or market stall and so already have to buy in other produce anyway.
You could also contact any Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes in your area. CSAs tend to be quite small and so may be more willing to supply food co-ops. They are also generally run by producers who want to work with the local community.
Read more about the benefits of buying and selling local produce.
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