In 2013, Monica Bongue received an NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher grant to develop a small farm cooperative food distribution model in Wooster, Ohio. By 2014, Bongue and a group of farmers formed a not-for-profit cooperative registered in the state of Ohio as Farm Roots Connection Cooperative.
The multi-farm Farm Roots Connection Cooperative CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivers weekly shares of high quality, fresh produce, dairy, eggs, meat, honey, maple syrup, and bread. They ensure that all of their producer members follow strict production and packaging guidelines, and adhere to health and licensing requirements. Growers are selected for the quality of their products, reliability, and a commitment to sustainability, including treating animals humanely with unlimited access to the outdoors and pasture. The distribution and delivery system of their products is owned and managed cooperatively by the farmers.
The Farm Roots Connection Cooperative board of directors meets once a month to discuss progress and future direction of the cooperative. They’ve developed producer documents that establish guidelines, membership rules, bid sheets, contracts, and grower interest cards. They’ve also established a program where customers donate CSA shares to People to People ministries, a local food bank.
Bongue believes this new model of cooperative distribution and marketing for small-scale growers will help their community of farmers thrive and protect valuable agricultural lands.
“We have succeeded in bringing farmers together to develop our own distribution system, owning and managing the organization as a not-for-profit,” said Bongue. “We are very pleased that we were able to incorporate a sharing component with the food bank.”
View a presentation on this project from the 2014 Farmers Forum below, or through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant: