By David Mortimer, Co-op Marketing Committee Chair (Sacred Heart Hospital, Com. Department)
Two years ago, the Producers & Buyers Co-op was launched to remove sourcing barriers and to link local farms and institutions. Today, the Co-op facilitates local food sourcing for three Chippewa Valley hospitals and schools, universities, and other institutions in western Wisconsin have expressed interest in Co-op membership. Just last June, the Co-op was cited in a speech by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as a best practice example of a cooperative expanding local food capacity and developing markets.
In only its second year of operation, the Co-op could sell half of a million dollars in local food—an entirely new market in western Wisconsin, thanks to founding partner Sacred Heart Hospital (Eau Claire) and new partners, St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chippewa Falls) and Luther Midelfort Hospital (Eau Claire).
It is a sad irony that across the nation, local family farms have been largely shut out of institutional markets, even though institutional buyers may be located just a few miles away. For large institutions, like universities, school systems, and hospitals, established supply chains work hard to ensure the safety, availability, variety, and quantity of food products. By creating an infrastructure to source local food in western Wisconsin, the Co-op creates new markets in our community—markets that help family farms, create jobs, and support the local economy. This new production also enhances a self-sustaining food economy and provides a far superior product.
Long distance food sometimes has more frequent flier miles than the people that eat it. During winter months, seasonal fruits and vegetables may even travel through international borders and even across the hemisphere before they reach their destination. Not only does globetrotting food consume a lot of jet and diesel fuel, its quality and nutritional content suffers. Even worse, it may have been picked before it naturally ripens or have been treated with preservatives to lengthen its shelf life.
Building capacity to produce, process, and transport local food is the mission of the Co-op, and today anyone can support this worthy cause by purchasing stock in the organization. Financial investments from members of the community will help build a safe and secure link between sustainable farmers and our schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and universities.
The Co-op board and members are pleased to announce preferred shares of capital stock as an investment opportunity. Funds will be used to reach out to local schools, hospitals and universities as well as to expand the list of producer members and provide new business opportunities.
Each share of Preferred Stock has a par value of $500. The Co-op will divert all profits to the reserve and re-investment fund until 2015. At that time, the Board will review the profitability of the Co-op on a yearly basis and, when appropriate, will pay dividends to stock holders at a rate to be determined by the board (not to exceed 8% as per WI Statute 185). There are 500 shares available.
The Co-op’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws mandate that all those interested in purchasing preferred stock in the Co-op become non-voting members (requiring a membership application and one-time fee of $50.00). To request a brochure, prospectus information packet with Frequently Asked Questions, and a request form, call 715-579-5013 or write: Producers & Buyers Co-op, PO Box 295, Elk Mound, WI 54739.