How the farm stop will work

Project Overview 

Opening in 2021, the Bloomington Farm Stop Collective, Inc. is a non-profit agricultural cooperative, operating as a consignment based retail and aggregation space that exclusively sells local food, grown and raised by area farmers or prepared by food artisans.  This project is inspired by the successful Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and represents an important step toward building a stronger local food system in the Bloomington community.  We seek to increase the amount of food that consumers buy from local farms and empower farmers with greater ownership of the food distribution system.  The Bloomington farm stop will include two key food sales components: 1) a direct to consumer retail store front and 2) an online market platform connecting farmers & food artisans with institutional food buyers.  A small in-store cafe with a full menu of coffee, teas, and baked goods will subsidize operations.

Ownership and Administration

The Bloomington farm stop is owned by a non-profit agricultural cooperative, the Bloomington Farm Stop Collective, Inc.  Its membership is composed of all participating farm vendors.  The Cooperative is guided by a set of bylaws which dictate the organizational mission, membership requirements and processes for decision making and leadership.  The Cooperative will hold annual, democratic member elections for open seats on the Board of Directors.  The Board will in turn have the authority to govern the Cooperative, including, but not limited to, developing operating policies for the store, hiring staff, and ensuring that the mission of the Cooperative is articulated and carried out.  The store manager and staff will oversee the day-to-day operations of the store and serve as the primary point of contact for vendors and customers.  They will handle all product ordering communication, product deliveries, display stocking and inventory management, customer service, store book keeping and maintenance.

Look and Feel

The farm stop will look and feel like a professional, small neighborhood grocery store.  It will be open 7 days per week, 12 months of the year, with refrigerated display cases for produce, dairy, meats, prepared food, and flowers; shelves and tables to showcase storage crops, artisan breads, tea, honey, and other dry goods.  One big difference from a regular grocery will be that signage for each product will include details about the farm or food business that the item came from, the place it was grown or made, and the production practices used in that operation.  There will also be signage explaining to customers that the food on display is owned by the farmers and food artisans who grew or made it and that they will be receiving 70-75% of the sales price for each item.  There will be a checkout counter and sales register.  To subsidize retail food sales, there will be a small in-store café with a full menu of coffee, teas, and pastries.  This component of the store will serve to build community by encouraging customers to hang out, and interact with each other and farmers who stop by to make deliveries.  We will also have a small garden center outside featuring annual & perennial plants grown by local farms as well as organic gardening supplies & inputs and seasonal items like pumpkins, Christmas trees and wreaths.  In the future, once COVID restrictions are lifted, we also plan to host special events for community members about local food, agriculture, and healthy cooking.

Online Store

An online market platform will be available for store vendors with surplus product or large product volumes who are interested in selling to institutional food buyers in the Bloomington area, including restaurants, specialty grocery stores, early childhood centers and area schools. Participating vendors will upload their available product on a weekly basis and then make a delivery to the store at a regularly scheduled day and time to drop off orders.  Staff will coordinate product pickup for participating buyers. Vendors will set their own prices on this platform and consignment rates will be the same as for the retail component of the store.  More information about this option will be made available in spring 2021. 

Bloomington Farm Stop Collective, Inc. Commitments

  • Provide a local only retail space 7 days per week, 12 months of the year (excluding some holidays) 
  • Provide an online virtual food hub for aggregation and connection to institutional buyers
  • Cultivate a mixture of local products attractive to consumers including vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy, grains, mushrooms, honey & maple syrup, flowers, plants, prepared foods, value added foods, soaps and other agricultural products.
  • Offer a central check out point, taking multiple forms of payment 
  • Provide refrigeration equipment for retail display & limited storage of products 
  • Hire and train professional staff to refresh and restock product from available supplies, communicate sales and inventory supply information to producers  
  • Work with producers to create signage for their store display, including information about their methods of production and farms/facilities.  
  • Pay 70-75% of gross sales to vendors on a biweekly payment schedule.  
  • Operate an in-store café to encourage a sense of community for customers and to subsidize store operation costs. 

Vendor Commitments

  • Vendors will own and set the price for their products.  
  • Vendors will provide fresh, clean, high quality products, appropriately packaged and ready for display.
  • Vendors will do their best to provide a sufficient supply to match demand through regular deliveries of perishable items, and as needed for non-perishable items. Maintaining availability of products is critical for customer satisfaction and returning business. The store will have limited cooler and dry storage space available for vendors to store inventory.  
  • Vendors should plan how to best display and care for their products in the store and communicate that to staff. Communicating about how to care for your products is key to success! 
  • Vendors should work with staff to make sure their products are properly labeled with barcodes (provided by the Cooperative) before leaving them at the market.  
  • Vendors authorize the Cooperative to act on their behalf for replacement items and returns.

Product Delivery 

Staff will communicate with vendors on a weekly basis about product availability and store needs.  Email will be the preferred method of communication about these matters but phone calls and texting may also be options. 

Vendors are welcome to deliver products at any time during regular store hours.  You will come in through the back door, check in with a staff person to fill out the required forms, make sure all products are properly labeled with barcodes, and bins properly labeled with your business name and product name and delivery date.

Please note that staff will need to prioritize customer service at all times, so vendors are encouraged to make deliveries during slow times of day and plan ample time for the check-in process. 

There will be limited storage room for back stock of cold, frozen, and dry good products.

Product Labeling and Barcodes

Please note: we are still in the process of setting up the POS system and the system described below may change in the first months and year of operation as we develop the most efficient procedure for tracking product sales.

The store will track vendor sales through the use of product labels, a point of sale management system, and cash register.  To ensure that vendors are accurately paid for their sales, each product must be properly labeled.  The Cooperative will provide barcode labels which must be used if the product does not already have a UPC/barcode. 

Items that are not properly labeled WILL NOT be put out for display in the store.

The Vendor is responsible for:

  1. Providing all the information needed for product labels: business name, product name, price, etc.
  2. Working with staff to ensure that all products are properly labeled before completing a delivery

Signage

The Cooperative will provide product signage for each vendor, featuring the name and a photo of the farm or business, a short description of the production practices, and place of origin.

Vendors are required to provide the information for this signage, including a photo, description of production practices, and geographic location in their application.

If vendors want to provide additional signage and display materials, they must be approved by staff.

Packaging

Vendors may package products at their discretion.  However, we recommend using units that will be clear and easy for customers and staff to understand.  We recommend selling products by weight or individual units, such as each, bunches, bags, pints or quarts, etc..

All packaging materials must meet federal, state, and local health requirements.  Compostable and recyclable packaging materials are encouraged.

The store will provide produce bags and scales for customers to use for items that are sold by the pound.

Pricing

In this consignment based system, vendors still own the products they deliver for sale to the store.  Ultimately it is up to each vendor to decide on their own product prices, however, staff can provide guidance and suggestions for product pricing.  We recommend that vendors consider all of their production costs in the pricing process, including supplies, land, utilities, equipment, transportation, vendor fees, paid labor, and their own time, etc., so that their operations can recoup all costs and remain viable over the long-term.    

Sales Tax

The Cooperative will collect and pay the sales tax on all taxable items.  The tax amount will be automatically added at the cash register.  Vendors do not need to include this amount in product prices.

SNAP

We plan to accept SNAP payments for eligible items, but because of the USDA application process, this option may not be available during the first weeks and months of operation.