More Ways to Support Local Food Producers
Farmers’ markets gather local food producers and consumers, providing convenient access to seasonal specialties. These markets help us to eat local, support local producers and feel confident in the safety of each week’s groceries. Encouragingly, other easy and efficient ways to purchase food and goods from local sources, and to take ownership in how and where they are produced, are becoming more available.
A food cooperative, or simply a co-op, is a distributing organization owned and democratically governed by its members. Though co-operation has been a human trait since the early hunter-gatherer societies, the first formal co-op wasn’t created until 1844 in Rochdale, England. A group of weavers pooled their resources to create a business that operated for the benefit of those that used it rather than strictly for the economic gain of the owner.
Pogue’s Run Grocer is the only food cooperative with a storefront in Indianapolis. Offering local and in-season produce, meat, dairy and other whole-food grocery items, primarily from local sources in a small neighborhood grocery atmosphere, it also has a sandwich counter with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Membership to the nonprofit co-op is not required to shop at Pogue’s Run but members receive discounts and voting power on co-op issues. The fee for a lifetime membership is $125, which can be made in separate payments of $25 or $50. All proceeds from the co-op stay in the local community.
If the convenience of shopping online at home is appealing, Hoosier Harvest Market is a producer-run co-op based in Greenfield. Instead of customers buying into the co-op, Hoosier Harvest Market is run by the local farmers and other producers that sell their goods through the market. Any farmer or producer of natural goods made in Indiana can apply to join it. Customers shop online for produce, meat, baked goods, dairy, laundry detergents, soaps, herbs, cookbooks, and other items between Sunday and Tuesday. When each weekly ordering period ends Tuesday at midnight, orders are emailed to the producers that deliver products to Greenfield on Thursday morning. They are then separated and dispersed to various pick-up points around the Greater Indianapolis Area for added convenience. There is no initial fee or multi-week commitment to sign up as a customer.
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is another way to ensure fresh groceries weekly while supporting the local farmers and economy. Customers are considered shareholders that invest in the CSA at the beginning of a growing season. Shareholders receive a share per week for approximately 22 weeks that includes a portion of the week’s harvest or production, and are usually delivered directly to the shareholder or made available at convenient pick-up points. Depending on the CSA, shares can include fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, honey and other items produced by the farmer. A shareholder isn’t just sharing the benefits of the farm, though, which is why their role is of the utmost importance. Starting a farm, especially an organic or chemical-free one, can be costly. Unforeseeable problems like weather and pests can have a major impact on harvests. Shareholders encourage these farmers by sharing the risk, making the potential financial risks of starting a farm seem conquerable. There are a number of CSAs located throughout Indiana. For a comprehensive listing by county, visit Indy Local Food Guide at IndyLocalFood.org.
Also, there are local markets with more standard storefront hours that source their own produce. INgredients Field to Fork Market, in Indianapolis, incorporates a market, cafe, takeout and cooking school, with an emphasis on local, sustainable, nutrient-dense, organic and homemade foods. INgredients provides raw foods to take home plus cooks and prepares quick and nutritious ready-to-go meals for busy professionals and families. The shop also has a fully equipped kitchen for catering and a robust schedule of cooking classes utilizing local and organic ingredients. Cofounder/ owner Tom Wiles spends much of his time at the store and tending to their organic farm—INgredients Acres – and onsite gardens. “When you visit us, take a moment to check out our raised bed gardens around the shop,” encourages Wiles, “many of which are in their prime right now, and offer a great educational experience for the family.”