Six years ago a small and passionate group of people came together to discuss the need for a Cooperative grocery store to serve State College and the surrounding communities. The passion stemmed from a desire to support our burgeoning local food economy and to create a business where members and the community could feel positive about their dollars going to support the local area and not line the pockets of large chain corporations. We proved to ourselves that this was something the local community wanted as we quickly added 250 members in a very short amount of time.
As we continued to add members and the Co-Op continued to grow, an idea to kick start our sales process and support local farmers through an Online Farmers Market started to take shape. With the help of a local food grant we launched the OLM 4 years ago, allowing our members and others to easily purchase fresh locally grown or produced food from the convenience of their home or office. Our local vendors found a new avenue to market their products and small subset of our members and local community found a new way to shop.
Continuing to grow our membership to the numbers needed to kick-off our brick and mortar location while running a fledgling business was an enormous undertaking. We’ve been successful on many of our endeavors while others have flagged as resources have been stretched thin. Through it all the one thing that has remained constant is the amazing people in this community that are passionate about local and sustainable food.
With the board at full capacity after a number of years operating at less than full strength, we have an opportunity to look at where the organization is and where we want to go. This coupled with a very rough growing season for our local vendors has led the board to the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of Friends & Farmers to suspend the Online Market and enter into a planning phase for the next 6 months.
During this planning phase we will empower board committees to evaluate the current state of Friends & Farmers and develop the best path forward for the Co-Op to fulfill its mission. We still believe strongly in F&F’s initial vision of a brick and mortar store and the viability of a convenient online shopping marketplace. In this time of strategy building we will need our members, vendors, and customers to help us steer the ship. A Co-Operative relies on its most valuable resource, its people, to be successful.
We thank our vendors, volunteers, customers, and past board members who started and kept the OLM alive for the past four years with tremendous amounts of effort, money, and time. We look forward to the opportunity to learn from our past and blaze a bright new path into the future for our community. A sailboat needs all of its crew to contribute in a myriad of ways for a successful journey. So it is for F&F at this time and we hope our “crew” is up to the task at hand so we may successfully navigate our way home.
What this all means is that December 18th will be our official last Online Market day and we will officially move into the planning phase hiatus at the beginning of January. We envision taking 6 months to finalize a strategy and put the pieces of the puzzle together so that we may be coming into our new form at the time that most of our local farms are hitting their season of abundance. We believe this to be an aggressive and ambitious timeline, but believe we are up to task to reach this target. The Board will continue to be in touch with you every step of the way so that members and the community are fully included in the possible actions of the future of the Online Market and the cooperative.
Once again thank you all for being part of the F&F family and we look forward to our journey at the beginning of 2019 with all of you!