by BARB BERGGOETZ
There have been talks of a farmer-owned agricultural cooperative in Bloomington for more than a decade, and with the opening of the Rose Hill Farm Stop storefront at 912 W. Kirkwood in August, the community finally has one.
Co-ops like Rose Hill Farm Stop provide consumers with greater access to locally grown, seasonal foods and help connect area farmers with a larger market. Rose Hill Farm Stop organizers hope the store will help boost the number of farms, grow the local food community, and become a gathering place.
Open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day, Rose Hill Farm Stop features an in-store café that serves coffee, teas, and baked goods and offers seating for up to 35 people.
To be Farm Stop members, about 40 farmers from Monroe and nearby counties have consignment contracts, receive 75% of their selling prices, and pay an annual $300 fee. They supply fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheeses, and frozen meats. Local farms also offer fresh flowers, yarn, honey, coffee, teas, and handmade soaps.
“Farm Stop will give us an opportunity to elevate lots of different kinds of folks, so we can all take part in the multi-faceted food community and create a space for people to share their knowledge and be together around food,” says Liz Thomas, store manager, who works with six part- time employees.
For organizer Rachel Beyer, Farm Stop benefits the community at large by expanding availability of healthful foods, reducing food transportation costs, and improving overall sustainability. “One of our primary goals, too, is to help farmers earn a decent living by growing food to feed their neighbors,” says Beyer, a farmer and Farm Stop member who is paid by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to work as the City’s local food coordinator.
Farm Stop received $216,000 in grants for start-up costs, renovations, and operating costs, including a City of Bloomington Recover Forward grant to help entities rebuild from the pandemic.
Salem Willard, one of five farmers on Rose Hill’s board, says Farm Stop plans to host events about food and agriculture, and cooking classes in its kitchen. “We want this to be a community gathering place for everyone.”
Visit rosehillfarmstop.com for more information.