Some food co-ops buy some or all of their fruit and vegetables direct from farmers because of the benefits to the environment and local economy.

This has many advantages such as that the produce is likely to be much fresher and can be a lot cheaper than buying the same varieties from a 'middleman' such as a local wholesaler. You can also find out more about how the produce is grown and make links with the farms, for example by organising farm visits for customers once a year.

The main disadvantage is that it is unlikely that a single grower will be able to supply all the produce for a food co-op over a whole year, as not all farmers grow a wide range of different fruits and vegetables and many specialise in one type of produce, such as salads, potatoes or apples. You may therefore have to buy from several different suppliers which will makes things more complicated.

Also some large-scale farmers may not be willing deliver to very small projects, as they may not consider this commercially attractive as the extra admin involved and delivery costs may reduce profit margins.

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 co-operatives 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.

Click here to find out more about sourcing local produce.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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