FarmFED Co-op helps area farmers find bigger buyers

Local farmers and community members are joining forces to meet the needs of food grown in the central Illinois region.

A new idea in Mount Pulaski called the Illinois Farm-Fresh Enterprise Development Cooperative (FarmFED Co-op) will operate a facility that preserves the freshness and nutrition of local foods through processing and freezing, allowing producers to bring in bulk produce to installation and manufacture them. available in a form suitable for larger buyers such as schools, hospitals and retail grocery stores.

At present, there are no local opportunities to access this type of resource without a huge investment on the farm.

The co-op, led by a council of local farmers, community members and advocates, plans to purchase the old Johnson True Value hardware store, 423 S. Washington St., in Mount Pulaski and modernize it to accommodate a processing line, commercial kitchen, and 4,000 square feet of cold storage.

Farmers will be able to sell their produce to the cooperative, as well as get personalized treatment and rent a cold store. Local food entrepreneurs will be able to rent commercial kitchen space to expand their businesses into a licensed facility.

Ted Maddox from Maddox Sweet Corn Farm in Warrensburg liked what he heard when he pitched the idea.

“It’s a daily challenge to sell and distribute our crops on a timely basis,” Maddox said.

“The proposed FarmFED cooperative would help distribute our crops to outlets that we cannot access and has plans to process the produce in ways that most producers cannot afford. This project will not only provide support to farmers in the region, but will serve our community by bringing our farm-to-table fresh produce.

Kaitie Adams of Savanna Institute and Red Crib Acres in Urbana said three of the biggest hurdles many farmers face are being overcome with the new program.

“Processing, cold storage, and marketing are three of the biggest barriers preventing local food scaling up in central Illinois,” Adams said.

“With over 90% of what we eat coming from out of state, innovative and community-based solutions are essential for Illinois farmers to produce more food for Illinois families. I am more than happy with the plans for the FarmFED cooperative. As a producer and small business owner, this facility would give me the confidence to adapt products to larger markets and create new ones. “

Mount Pulaski was one of 15 communities across the country to receive a Local Food / Local Places (LFLP) grant through the Environmental Protection Agency, which resulted in the opening of the Market on the Cooperative grocery store. Hill in June 2020.

The goal of the new cooperative is to connect farmers and community members in central Illinois through fresh food and cooperation.

In March of the same year, the city’s Economic Development and Planning Council hired two local farmers to explore the feasibility of a “food hub,” an entity that helps local farms access new markets and resources. .

Tom Martin, chairman of the co-op’s board of directors and longtime Mount Pulaski resident, farmer and community organizer, said he hopes the co-op will expand well beyond Logan County.

“One of our goals is to develop a regional local food system that provides farm-fresh food to consumers in central Illinois,” said Martin.

“Our community remained vigilant in working to make this goal a reality, and we realized early in the process that if we were to be successful, we had to take this project beyond Mount Pulaski. Today, through collaboration with producers, consumers and community leaders from across the region, we have developed a concept and business plan that we believe has a high chance of success.

The Board of Directors of the FarmFED cooperative is currently seeking investors and hopes to raise $ 100,000 through the sale of shares in the cooperative.

Shares provide the ability to vote on the decisions of the co-op, with three different levels of shares providing various benefits to owners.

The first level is the preferred stock and sells for $ 1,000 per share with a minimum purchase of five shares. The second level is the A common stock, which sells for $ 500 per share, and the last level is the B common stock which sells for $ 100 per share.

The rules limit the number of shares an individual can own.

“Each individual is limited to a total of 10 shares, regardless of the category of shares. However, members of the same household can own 10 shares each. For example, a married couple could each buy 10 shares, for a total of 20 shares / votes for their household. An individual can also invest in different classes of shares, but the total number of shares held cannot exceed 10. This ensures that no individual controls the company, making it a truly cooperative company ”as stated in the pledge slip page for the co-op.

Katie Funk, who is the project’s interim co-director with her husband, Jeff Hake, said she hopes the community will support their efforts.

“With this fundraising effort, we’re going to start turning all of our planning into something real,” Funk said.

“It is essential that we put our work in front of everyone and that we get buy-in from our community. We are thrilled to be a part of something that can offer so many benefits to our community and to farmers.

To find out more about the cooperative or to become an owner, send an email to [email protected] or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @farmfedcoop.

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About Cassondra Durden

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