I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought milk, butter, and toaster pastries (for my husband). The rest of our groceries for the month came from the IFC and what a good feeling it is to by food from sources I know and trust.
I mention this experience because we had a lively board meeting last Monday on a related topic. It came during our discussion of responses to our recent survey about two new practices aimed at increasing our product selection. One involves granting variances to non-Iowa producers so they can sell products we don’t have available. The other involves buying products (preferably from local or Iowa producers) not available from our producers and reselling them to our members.
The motivation for these new practices is so people like me don’t have go to a grocery store for items not available through the IFC, and we were gratified to learn that most of you support these methods to expand product offerings. Seventy-two percent of consumers and 80% of producers were okay with occasionally granting variances to non-Iowa producers if the reasons were compelling. On buying and reselling products not available from our producers, 92% of consumers and 70% of producers were okay with this way to increase product selection.
With these levels of support, you may wonder why our discussion was lively. It was because it included a passionate discussion of values – who we are and what is our mission? We are selling some non-Iowa products so the board has decided to employ an abundance of caution in moving forward, including developing clear guidelines to use when adding products through variances or buying products for resale. We also decided that we need to spend some quality time discussing and revising our mission statement, or what we stand for. In the interim, we decided to change it from:
“To facilitate farmer-consumer relationships and build our farms and communities through web-based marketing of Iowa products.”
“To facilitate farmer-consumer relationships and build our farms and communities through web-based marketing of primarily Iowa products.”
We will continue to put IFC producers and Iowa producers first. For example, if products like potatoes, onions, or shallots are missing during winter months, we will try to secure them first from an Iowa producer as opposed to producers from other states. Also, if these products become available from an IFC producer, we will end this practice. Truth be told, buying and reselling products is added work for us. But we want a shopping experience that allows our consumers to buy as much as they can from trusted sources so they remain engaged and shopping.
We respect that some of our members only want to purchase products directly from local producers who have grown, raised, or made those products. Our policy of full disclosure means these kinds of choices remain an option. This policy will never be changed, and the choice of what to buy from who is ultimately left with you – the consumer.
Be assured as well that the board understands that we need to move carefully and cautiously. We will make sure our Iowa producers get full preference, and we will continue to seek your input as well.
I look at this as creating community. If we can reach out to other producers who care about the land and the quality of their products to connect them to people who want those products our IFC community grows.