Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market
Our SARE grant had two main goals: reduce the number of transportation miles for producers and co-op employees brining products to the store, and create a handbook for other groups looking to start similar co-ops. By creating two main routes that contain drop-off points and link multiple farms, we were able to reduce mileage by an average of 550 miles per week, which represents a 33% reduction in mileage. Up to 20 producers are involved in these consolidated routes per week.
We have nearly completed a first draft of our “Starting a community-scaled co-op” handbook, including interviewing four producers and one experienced co-op market manager, and writing a detailed account of our own experiences in starting a co-op. Key revelations include the need to create strong and open lines of communication with producers, the need to keep expenses minimized through the use of innovation and creativity, the need to engage and retain dedicated volunteers, and the need to create clear roles for the board of directors and the general manager.
We were able to reduce our transportation costs by our minimum target amount despite adding additional producers during the 2010 growing season, and we are confident that we have identified additional routes to further reduce transportation costs in the future. We have reduced the strain of transportation for many growers and for the co-op significantly.
the first draft of the handbook is almost complete, and re-writes/edits are currently in progress on some sections.
1) We were able to complete our inventory and map on schedule during the growing season. The inventory and map needed to be continually revised as growers were added to the schedule.
2) Consumer focus group: We decided to administer a survey for consumers rather than conducting a focus group in order to collect more responses. We received 105 responses via Surveymonkey.com. Our survey was closed in mid August of 2010.
3) Interview five farmers: Our farmer cooperators have interviewed four of their five farmers, and also interviewed the manager of a local, established co-op in the area. The information from their interviews completed interviews is being integrated into the sections of our handbook. The final interview will also be integrated into the handbook, and is expected to be completed by the first week of January.
4) Farmer Focus Group: This meeting is scheduled for January 11th, 2011. Scheduling conflicts prevented us from being able to complete this task in December.
5) Writing of handbook: Our rough draft nearly completed, but we still need to include information from our farmer focus group, one farmer interview, the local Chamber of Commerce, and from the Board of Directors. We anticipate being able to complete our final draft in February as scheduled.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Farmers who have seen reduced transportation stress are more able to focus on growing product and other pressing needs. The co-op has been able to maintain its time spent transporting product despite seeing double-digit increases in sales of local products including produce. (More quantitative impacts to follow)
The co-op was voted the Fulton County Small Business of the year, in large part due to our commitment to local producers. Our increased efficiency has helped make it easier for us to continue to expand without incurring additional expenses. Lower expenses has translated to fair prices for our producers.
We have not released the handbook yet, so we cannot speak to it’s impact, but we have received numerous requests for copies when it is completed from community organizations interested in creating co-ops specializing in local foods.
Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market
51 N. Main St
Gloversville, NY 12078
Office Phone: 5187060681