The cooperative launched the Online Market in 2014, since then the board has reflected on the true amount of work required to maintain an online business while charting a path toward a brick and mortar store.
Friends & Farmers, while sustaining itself, has limited financial and human resources. Without new membership or new sources of community interest, the cooperative lacks the funds to open a brick and mortar store in a reasonable timeframe.
After much consideration the board has made the difficult decision to deprioritize the goal of opening a brick and mortar store and instead has decided to focus on the maintenance and growth of the Online Market.
We must maintain a manageable set of goals and priorities. Focusing on the Online Market gives F&F the best chance for survival, success and sustainability. We appreciate your faith in our organization and despite great challenges we have increased the awareness of the local food movement and we value your continued role in its vitality.
Good News for the Online Market
The F&F board has been hard at work stabilizing the Online Market with sound business practices. We have significantly reduced losses and momentum toward profitability continues. Some of our recent achievements and goals include:
Cutting overhead: Friends & Farmers has asked a little more of its producers, including delivering products to F&F that we used to pick up at the Boalsburg Farmers Market. Friends & Farmers has reduced its “Cost of Goods Sold” (COGS), an expense of the business that reduces profit from over 80% to approximately 70% in one year The end goal is to stabilize COGS at 60-65%.
Buying in bulk: Friends & Farmers now carries a small inventory of limited items purchased in bulk, concentrated on shelf stable products like frozen meats and hearty produce (think carrots, potatoes, onions, etc). You can now find lower prices on the OLM (some meat has gone from $9/lb to $6/lb), saving you money, as well as offering new shoppers some great deals.
Streamlining: The F&F website will be streamlined for easy access to the Online Market, with a focus on making the shopping experience as user friendly as possible. A general re-branding will follow.
The board has been concerned for some time about the increased competition in the local food economy since the cooperative’s inception. In the last five years, we have seen the maturation of Trader Joes, and the launch of online food businesses like Instacart, as well as meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Plated. Help from the community is necessary to compete and survive.
We are in need of:
* member engagement
* new board members
* consistent shoppers
We need you to shop
We remain committed to strengthening the local food community. A refined focus can bring new energy and contributors, bridging the gap between consumers of local food and our neighbors who grow and produce it.
“Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.”
What can you do to help right now? Currently, Friends and Farmers is averaging 50 orders per week (members and non-member shoppers). We currently have 520 members. All it would take to keep F&F growing is for each member to purchase $24 of goods a month. For example, you could purchase $6 Rising Spring sausage, $12 in Fasta pasta and sauce, and $6 of veggies to go with your meal. That's all it would take to keep F&F going and growing!