Friends & Farmers began as many wonderful things do in the presence of delicious, local food and abundant community spirit. The seeds were planted in December 2011 at a community potluck held by Spring Creek Homesteading, a community nonprofit supporting local sustainability initiatives. At that potluck, community members brainstormed ideas for improving the community. A community-owned co-op was a very popular idea, and a separate group spun off to work on the project.
Over time a mission formed:
- To support the local economy by giving local producers a priority on store shelves
- To offer convenient, health and delicious locally prepared foods
- Inspire healthy eating habits through education and transparent labeling
- Draw the community together in an inviting atmosphere
Through the summer of 2012 we developed early drafts of bylaws and the membership program, making initial contacts with other cooperatives for advice (including Ben Sandel at CDS, Weaver’s Way in Philadelphia, and East End in Pittsburgh). A local mural artist painted our logo, which we put to immediate use with our first promotional materials: a brochure, business cards, and t-shirts. We began tabling at local festivals and building our mailing list.
In the fall of 2012 we continued with community outreach and held a major fundraiser at Greenmoore Gardens, a farm owned by a steering committee member. Attendance exceeded capacity, and with ticket sales at just $10 a person we raised $1,100 for the Friends & Farmers Cooperative (half the ticket sales). Another community member held a fundraising dinner that raised $350.
We enlisted the Rural Development Law Clinic at Penn State University to assist us in choosing the legal entity for our incorporation. By our last meeting in December 2012, the steering committee had voted to incorporate as a cooperative. During the fall we also fit in a Skype call with the general manager of Weaver’s Way, giving us an opportunity to discuss questions about membership, inventory, and business structure.
With help from the Rural Development Law Clinic, the cooperative incorporated in March 2013. The clinic reviewed our bylaws, oversaw our conversion to an Interim Board of Directors, and filed our incorporation paperwork. Representatives from the clinic noted that they had never worked with a more thorough group.
The cooperative has spent 2014 focused on outreach through events and education programs. We held three “Local on the Menu” fundraising events at Whiskers, Spats Café and Elk Creek Café + Aleworks. The cooperative hosted the inaugural Crop Mob, planting 9,000 garlic bulbs. Crop mobs offer community members a chance to go out to a farm to help farmers and producers with an overwhelming task that would otherwise take them days. State College Crop Mobs has now become its own organization.
Friends & Farmers took a big step in March 2014, launching its membership campaign with a kickoff party at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. We were blown away by the initial support, amassing a large amount of members in the first three months of our membership campaign.
In the spring of 2014, two Friends & Farmers Interim Board Members were awarded scholarships to attend the 58th Annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference.
Our e-mail list has grown to more than 1,500 names, and over 1,700 people are following us on Facebook, which we have used to educate the community about co-ops and local food. We also have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence.
Board elections on October 11, 2014.
November 28, 2014 was the launch of the Friends & Farmers Online Market.
Hire Market Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator