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The Fertile Underground in 1000 Words!
Take a look inside our Grocery's 4 walls with a virtual store tour
Great Photo Gallery of the New Urban Farmers
We Got Recipes!
While opening a grocery store was not on the forefront of our brains 5 years ago, things changed when we realized that here an entire community with a common interest did not have a clear plan for manifesting that goal, even with a $90k grant and wide support of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. We began to feel that if our community cannot get what we want through cooperation, on as basic an issue as fresh vegetables, then how will we expect to move on toward futuristic hopes for renewable energies and any sense of sustainability? We must address the basic elements of our lives which are out of sync.
By now, supporters of the local food movement are all familiar with Community Supported Agriculture. It is a highly successful model that allows farmers security and flexibility. This agreement is dependent on trust, as the buyers are paying for a future product that is also causally related to the nature of that season’s harvest. With the trust rightly placed, in truth the most common complaint about CSAs is too much produce. There is a practical necessity that CSAs address: it takes time for a seed to become a fruit. The farmer must gather supplies, plant, work, and wait. Rightfully so, the eaters must also anticipate their future feast.
Community Supported Agriculture is arguably the most successful innovation in the business of local small-scale farming. That being said, the Fertile Underground are adapting the model to work in a new way, something we call Community Supported Grocery. The concept is the same: folks purchase a share ahead of time, allowing the supplier to gather what is needed to provide the service when the harvest comes. In this case, the grocery needs not buy seeds or soil, but rather to buy those food products that are in demand by the public supporters. As such:
Fertile Underground are raising funds by selling "Crop Cash" that is redeemable as credit at the store. Up front, these are essentially short-term loans that help us to fill the Grocery shelves at 1577 Westminster, without extra loans and interest. While these investments may not appear lucrative from a venture capital perspective, they are very much so from a Slow Money perspective, where investing is used to increase the health of communities and ecosystems, not just to collect money.
Fertile Underground are wisely investing our time, and the funds devoted to this project, toward creating a well-suited place for the storage, display, and exchange of food. We now ask if you will entrust us to store your food there, and maintain the supply of products you need. The concept is that of us all chipping in to make food orders as a united group, with Fertile Underground acting as the stewards of food, assuring quality, and working tirelessly to find the best values requested by the group.
We haven’t found any other group employing this method to open a food-store. In conversing about it, we get a strong sense that it can work. Everyone sees the utility, and straightforward need for a new model of funding. We speak of sustainability in the environmental sense, but we must also address social and economic elements. Rhode Island is a vanguard locale for new farms, with over 1,000 registered farms, growing at a faster rate than anywhere nationwide. There is a palpable need for a new, pragmatic approach to distribution, as existing supermarkets mostly do not buy from small individual farms. We have a chance here to experiment with a store model, being one of a handful of worker-cooperative groceries nationally, and possibly the first to employ the “Community Supported Grocery” model, whose simple group power could stimulate many communities to affect the food system in their own region.
Most importantly, we will prove to ourselves that a Community can collaborate and work to create the improvements they agree on. There is no more time to pass blame governments, corporations, or each other, however culpable. We each need to make our own choices about how to address the issues of the modern day.
The Fertile Underground have chosen local food distribution as a next step towards a better world, as it saves resources, improves health & quality of life, strengthens farm jobs and the environment. The most poignant way the community can meet us with support at this moment is by participating in the Community Supported Grocery plan to stock Fertile Underground Grocery.
Alternatively, Come in the Store and put some dough on a personal Tab - we'll use it to bring more of your favorite foods into the grocery!