Good food requires the investment of a whole community. We continue to maintain that investment even during this challenging time. Seward Co-op’s direct relationship with small-scale, local, cooperative, sustainable and/or inclusive producers allows us all to have access to exceptionally high quality food and other products. This access is a lifeline when the supply chains around us are strained due to rapid shifts in demand. Our Community Foods partners keep us well fed and healthy. We support them, in turn, by buying their products at a fair price. A few of our Community Foods partners shared the impact of our cooperative support.
Coffee farmers, like many farmers around the world, live on the economic edge. The bulk coffee offered at Seward Co-op is sourced from small-scale farmer cooperatives helping coffee farms survive. “For every pound of coffee that Peace Coffee purchases, we invest three cents into the Cooperative Coffee’s Impact Fund, which supports farmer-to-farmer training, agronomic assistance, and climate resiliency strategies…$130,000 of this fund has been committed to immediate COVID-19 relief,” said Anne Costello, Peace Coffee’s Director of Coffee. A farmer co-op in Mexico that supplies Equal Exchange was “able to provide food for two weeks for 490 coffee co-op members in order to keep them at home and protect the most vulnerable people and prevent the spread of the virus.” This is the power of cooperation; by working together, we help one another survive difficult times.
“The directness of our supply chain benefits us in times like now, with COVID, because supply chains are being disrupted and delayed at every interval: from farmer to warehouse, warehouse to port, port to boat and boat to NY [New York] then to EE [Equal Exchange]. Because there are less steps in our model, it means that while we are experiencing delays, there are fewer hurdles to overcome before receiving this coffee,” said Equal Exchange’s Coffee Buyer Kim Coburn.
In this economically unprecedented time, many small-scale farmers have lost markets for their products, such as restaurants and farmers’ markets. Seward Co-op is a lifeline offering a reliable and predictable return on all their hard work. When we shop at Seward Co-op, we support not only our co-op; we also support a strong network of small-scale food producers.
When restaurants closed or went to carryout service only, a number of local meat producers suddenly lost much of their market. According to Andy Peterson of Peterson Craftsman Meats, “If we did not have our relationship with Seward, once the restaurants shut down, we would’ve been in a serious pickle. The [coop’s] orders literally kept us afloat!” Aaron Johnson at Kadejan chicken told us, “Without the co-op business, Kadejan would not be able to continue operating.”
Perhaps nearly as much as we take pride in knowing who raises much of the meat sold at our stores, Seward Co-op farmer producers value the relationship we share, not only the business transaction. According to Paul Smith of Blooming Prairie, “There’s just something about actually knowing the person at the other end of the conversation. Problems and different accommodations can be resolved almost instantly.”
Throughout the summer, please fill your cart with fresh, locally grown and raised items, and coffee sourced from small-scale farmer cooperatives. When in season, most of the vegetables and fruits on our produce shelves are grown by real people right here in the upper Midwest. Community Foods purchases are important, everyday investments in a sustainable and equitable food system. Your purchases help Community Foods producers survive and thrive for another year. Our collective investments provide them the financial resources to keep their businesses safe and their staff employed. We are so grateful—together we are building a strong local food system!