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Vancouver has some significant experience with local farm produce selling coops and other services, including NOWBC (, Home Grow-In, and Eternal Abundance (  Not all such ventures have been or are successful, especially when competing with heavily-subsidized industrial agriculture and its "well-developed"--aka highly wasteful, unhealthy, and ecologically destructive--distribution model, but they are playing a key role in providing alternatives to an unsustainable system.  

This article below from the Washington Post tells of a success story in the cooperative marketing of local, organic produce.  

Success breeds success; so lets take this lesson to heart.


Smarter Food: A farmers market with a difference

(Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - A small chalkboard entices customers with today's Local Roots Cafe specials on December 15, 2011. The cafe uses only local ingredients and always offers a seasonal dish.

  • (Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - A small chalkboard entices customers with today's Local Roots Cafe specials on December 15, 2011. The cafe uses only local ingredients and always offers a seasonal dish.
  • (Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - Many varieties of apples are available from Mooreland Fruit Farms, a local fruit farm, for sale at Local Roots Market & Cafe on December 15, 2011.
  • (Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - A sign outside of Local Roots Market & Cafe beckons passersby to explore the elcectic surprises that may be found inside.
  • (Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - Wooster locals, Marla Bastin (left) and Chris Acker, shop for locally produced goods at Local Roots Market & Cafe on December 15, 2011.
  • (Ben Leitschuh/ BEN LEITSCHUH ) - Fresh locally-produced bread is lined up for sale at Local Roots Market & Cafe in Wooster, Ohio, on December 22, 2011.
  • By Jane Black, Published: January 3

WOOSTER, OHIO — Martha Gaffney had high hopes five years ago when she arrived in Ohio and began farming. She had grown up in the Ecuadorean Andes, where the only way to farm, she says, is what we Americans call “organic.” With local foods booming, Gaffney thought it would be easy to grow and market vegetables and pastured meat from her six acres in the small city of Ashland.

Except it wasn’t easy. Gaffney was able to sell some of the crops at farmers markets. But that required long hours away from Martha’s Farm during the height of the growing season. The rest she hawked at the local produce auction, where the going rate often was barely high enough for her to break even.

(Ben Leitschuh/BEN LEITSCHUH) - Market manager, Jessica Eikleberry is Local Roots’ only full-time employee.

Then in 2010, Gaffney found Local Roots, a market in nearby Wooster that saved the farm. The local-foods co-op allows as many as 150 producers to stock its shelves six days a week, year-round. Customers can buy milk, cheese, meat and produce from any combination of producers and pay at a central checkout. And the farmers receive 90 percent of the purchase price, nearly three times what they would get if they sold it to a wholesaler. “We were so happy,” says Gaffney, who now sells almost all of her meat and produce through Local Roots. “We won’t be slaves. We will be able to make a business.”

Local Roots is a new kind of co-op. It helps small farmers such as Gaffney make ends meet. It also caters to customers who like the idea of buying local but find visits to farmers markets and weekly buying clubs, such as community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, inconvenient.

Launched two years ago in a renovated warehouse off Wooster’s main drag, the market is thriving. On a recent visit, the shelves were stocked with potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, arugula, nine varieties of apples, grass-fed milk, jam, maple syrup and locally milled flour. And this is the slow season.

To date, the co-op has grossed about $750,000 and is making a profit. The founders have added a small cafe and soon will build a community kitchen, where producers and entrepreneurs can preserve and can seasonal foods. This month, Local Roots helped to open a second market — what it calls a “sprout” — in Ashland, about 25 miles away.

Wooster is not an obvious place for a local-foods co-op. The city is home to just 26,000 people. And this is not, say, Vermont or Northern California, where local food has become a cause. But Wooster does have two big advantages. The rolling hills that surround it are dotted with small farms; the county is home to one of the largest Amish populations in the country. And it has a small, dedicated group of residents who wanted a different kind of place to shop.

Local Roots’ founders are a diverse group, including farmers, agricultural researchers, teachers, a banker and an architect. In 2009, the group began meeting weekly to figure out how to build a co-op without a lot of capital — which, co-founder Betsy Anderson says, “none of us had.” That ruled out traditional retail models, where the store sources and buys all of the food up front — and loses money on whatever goes to waste. “From the beginning, we were looking at how this would all fit together so it was environmentally and economically sustainable,” Anderson says.

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