Nebraska farmers and ranchers who produce local foods are joining with consumers to organize the new Nebraska Food Cooperative. A meeting to shape the structure and direction of the group will be April 16 at Central Community College in Columbus.
The cooperative is for any farmers or producers who are interested in selling directly to consumers and any consumers interested in purchasing local foods, says Mark Hutchison, a food industry consultant for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Food Processing Center.
"The new co-op will bring together those who want to sell their foods locally into a single cooperative that will leverage their marketing power," he explains. "Having both consumer and producer perspectives will strengthen the organization. "The cooperative aims to improve access to reasonably priced, high quality, sustainably produced foods from Nebraska."
It will take about a year to get the organization up and running. The co-op eventually will offer diverse ordering and delivery options, including home delivery and Internet ordering.
Boosting rural economic development and environmental sustainability also are goals.
"We've needed something like this for a long time," says Jim Knopik, a Fullerton farmer who sells meat products directly to consumers. He has participated in Lincoln's Haymarket Farmers Market since 1998 and also delivers to consumers around Fullerton, Lincoln and Omaha. Knopik has been looking for an alternative for several years because of the time and costs involved with those marketing approaches.
The idea for the cooperative grew from a Food Processing Center marketing study that examined local food systems. The new co-op is being modeled after a food cooperative in Oklahoma. The idea of a cooperative for consumers as well as producers is generating a good deal of interest.
For more information, call Hutchison at (402) 472-0381 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.