West Michigan Cooperative is the region’s first online farmers market, an innovative way for local farmers and consumers to stay connected all year long. Formed in the fall of 2006, the Coop is a nonprofit organization providing local farmers within the Grand Rapids region with another product outlet.
Both selling and shopping with the Coop is by membership only. There is an annual membership fee of $35.00 (although new members have a two month free trial period before their membership fee is due). Click here to read more about membership and shopping.
Strengthening West Michigan’s economy by increasing market opportunities for local farmers and artisans while providing consumers access to their products in a yearround marketplace.
Supporting Michigan Farmers The Coop aims to support local farmers and expand markets for their products. Co op producers represent a range of farming practices, conventional to certified organic, reflecting the true story of Michigan agriculture. Ours is not a perfect food system, but with cooperative members voicing a demand for healthier, more humane food, we believe we can get there!
Supporting the Local Economy
The Michigan Department of Agriculture reports that if every Michigan household spent just $10 of their weekly food budget on Michigan made or Michigan grown products, we would put $37 million per week into our state economy. The Coop is proud to help facilitate that effort.
Many Coop producers use sustainable methods to raise crops and animals – methods that ensure a secure living for local farmers; maintain the integrity of the environment and resources; and, offer respect and fair treatment to all involved in the food cycle.
The food in an average meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to table, consuming great amounts of fossil fuel in the process. Thus, purchasing food grown in our community is better for the environment instantly.
Organization and Funding
The Coop is an all volunteer run organization. It is managed by a board of directors, management committees, and many monthly volunteers. Click here to read more about our leadership.
Funding for the Coop’s operations is provided by the annual membership fees paid by users and producers, and a 5% surcharge on all goods bought and sold.
Technology and Innovation
We like to think that the West Michigan Coop model combines the best of two worlds: the convenience of online shopping and the facetoface meetings between farmers and shoppers at pickup nights.
Our founders built the Coop on an ecommerce model in order to provide a convenient platform for both our shoppers and our producers. Shoppers find the website convenient because they can place their order online at their leisure, while researching products and producers. Producers find the website convenient because the online ordering system provides them with the ability to plan their inventory and bring only the product necessary to pickup night.
The Coop is viewed as a leader for our innovative approach to connecting farmers and shoppers, and we’re happy to give back. We have assisted with the establishment of other online cooperatives around the country, in such places as Ann Arbor and South Bend, by sharing our opensource website software. And we are often asked to speak to a wide range of audiences including farmers, school children, and those concerned about the modern food system.
The Bottom Line
Know Your Farmer
The key to a sustainable food system in West Michigan is the participation of local consumers. It's ultimately up to you to take responsibility for where your food comes from; educate yourself about the issues surrounding modern agriculture and don't be afraid to ask questions when you shop. Farmers who are as concerned about the food system as you are appreciate it.