Iowans who want farm-fresh products grown the old-fashioned way but who also want to order it on-line now have a couple of options. Jason Grimm is the founder of the Iowa Valley Food Coop, which serves the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area.
Grimm says it’s a win-win for the 80-some farmers and 300-plus consumers in the cooperative. “Our system has an online shopping cart feature so our farmers can list their products for sale, set their inventory and the prices, and then our customers once a month can log on and place an order for what they want to purchase from those vendors,” Grimm says.
“They chose who they want to buy from and how much.” Once a month, the food is trucked to a centralized distribution center and customers can pick up their orders. A similar venture is known as the CSA, for community-supported agriculture, except consumers have little input about the products they’ll receive from week-to-week.
Grimm says that’s the advantage of the online food co-op model, as consumers only buy what they want. “We carry every grocery line from produce to dairy, like milk, cheese and butter, we have eggs, grains like flour and cereal mixes, we have herbs,” Grimm says.
“We have and all kinds of meats, anything from pork to beef and chicken up to duck and elk and bison.” The list of niche products is long, too, from pastas and garlic to veggie burgers. The Iowa Valley Food Co-op is marking its second year of operation this month. In its first 18 months of operation, the co-op generated about 120-thousand dollars in sales.
It’s growing in popularity, he says, as 100% of the products are locally-grown or produced and 100% of the money stays local. Another online food co-op is based in Des Moines, the Iowa Food Coop.