A group of farmers and niche producers have banded together to form I.Farm, a producer-owned co-op with a specific purpose. I.Farm intends to open and maintain a retail outlet in the historic City market, set to reopen this spring in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, about 100 miles south, several livestock producers are banding together in a private venture to open a retail, fresh meat outlet in a strip mall in Sellersburg, about 7 miles north of the Ohio River, and Louisville, Ky. Their niche will be naturally-produced meats.
Both are examples of farmers, particularly but not exclusively, livestock producers, trying to capture a share of the profit that usually defers to middlemen- brokers, distributors and the like. Although the two examples presented here are trying to get there through different types of business organization and by offering differing products, the goal is the same: attract consumers to buy what they hopefully perceive as a better product, and do it while paying a fair price that puts more money in the producers pockets, not into the accounts of large supermarkets or other huge retail chains.
Both groups have one thing in common. They both commissioned highly-detailed surveys of the buying public in their respective regions of Indiana. And both report the results with glowing enthusiasm. Both groups claimed their individual survey showed a huge, untapped market potential. In fact, both indicate that the challenge could be keeping up with supply, not hunting for customers.
Time will tell, But both are looking to open this spring for business. I.Farm, managed currently by a board of directors, says the target date for opening their year-round store will be May. Farmers who join the co-op will have a chance to sell their produce. It's not a commission operation, says Stanley Poe, Franklin, one of the directors. Instead, the producer will be paid for his goods when he delivers them to the store. Then the store, owned by I.Farm, will add a margin and retail products to the buying public. Profit goes back into the cooperative.
I.Farm's product list will include major meats, including lamb, produced by Poe. He's the same person who has successfully developed markets for lamb at various Indiana restaurants, working with a state-inspected meat processing facility, and catering to the needs of the chef at the various restaurants he serves.
I.Farm will also market vegetables in season. The store will be open throughout the year, offering Christmas items and other goods in -season.
The Board recently issued a call for applicants for their General Manager position. The successful candidate must believe in and be willing to promote I.Farm, plus also manage the retail operation, Poe says.
Applications are still being accepted this week. Send resumes to: I.Farm- General Manager Resume, P.O. Box 10, Indianapolis Historic City Market, 222 East Market Street, Indianapolis, IN 46142.
Meanwhile, the Sellersburg store will feature naturally-produced meat. So far beef and pork are locked in. The owners also plan to offer free-range chickens and turkeys. They point out that it isn't organically-produced meat, but instead is meat produced without antibiotics and hormones.
"We feed shelled corn, protein supplement and selenium, because we're short on selenium here," says Rodney Hager, Orleans. "Our cattle grow out on schedule. They do really well."
He and his partners hope to have their operation open by Kentucky Derby Day. Watch for more details on these operations soon.