About Farmer Direct Organic
On the Prairies and Great Plains, organic certification bodies host yearly meetings with farmers and buyers. Traditionally, buyers would tell farmers which crops they wanted to buy, but they wouldn’t reveal their prices. This was problematic. The buyers would receive inquiries from multiple farmers with the same crop, and the buyers would set the price based on the lowest price accepted by one of the farmers. Even worse, other buyers might be paying more, just a phone call away, but farmers often had no way of knowing this.
The year was 2002. Jason Freeman had been running a small organic hempseed food company at the time. He witnessed the economic stress his farmer partners were under as lack of price transparency reduced their profits. Freeman decided to do something about it, and he joined up with three family farms to begin attending those seasonal buyer meetings as Farmer Direct Co-op.
Farmer Direct Co-op wasn’t the biggest or flashiest crew, but heads turned when they offered prices at these meetings. It was something the farmers never experienced before, price transparency across multiple buyers. Farmers who sold to the Co-op could securely plan the rest of their season. They still had to wager the weather and yields, but they didn’t have to forecast commodity markets anymore. The Co-op changed the game overnight. Soon other buyers had to meet their competitor’s price to receive grain from any of the farmers in attendance. Sometimes, a simple solution can be revolutionary.
Organic farmers don’t take the easy path; they take the necessary one. From day one, farmers in the Co-op were committed to operating with uncompromising quality and transparency: Always 100% organic, 100% farmer-owned, and fair.
The global grain market has changed radically since the Co-op started, though, and not always for the better. For example, the United States became one of the world’s largest importers of corn, despite also being one of the largest producers. Well, all those imports walloped the market for domestic grain and flooded grocery shelves with fraudulent claims of organic certification hidden behind intentionally untraceable supply chains. How could organic family farms compete?
Initially, Farmer Direct Co-op sold grains, seeds, and legumes to organic food manufacturers in Canada, the USA, Europe, and Asia. Then, in 2013, they found a dependable grocery partner in Whole Foods Market who agreed to carry their bulk bin grains in its stores under the Farmer Direct Co-op brand name—not just in a few of its stores, in every store from coast to coast! According to the Whole Foods Market grocery buyer, it was the most successful independent brand launch for the chain in the past decade. Consumers resonated with the Co-op’s commitment to organic, family farms and fairness. In fact, Farmer Direct Co-op grew so rapidly that Freeman asked the farmers to hire a General Manager so he could focus on sales and marketing.
In 2016, after 14 years of service and leaving the Co-op in a strong, profitable, and growing position, Freeman left the Co-op to create his next entrepreneurial venture, Organic Trade Solutions (OTS), specializing in organic sales, sourcing, and market intelligence.
There was just one problem: Farmer Direct Co-op struggled in the absence of Freeman’s leadership and values. In the spring of 2018, Co-op members unanimously voted to sell ownership of their brand to Freeman to reestablish this successful partnership. In May that year, the Farmer Direct Co-op brand was relaunched as Farmer Direct Organic. Today, you can find us in the U.S. at Whole Foods Market, at your local food co-op, and at independent grocery stores.
Although a separate business, Farmer Direct Organic still buys grains from the farmers of the Co-op as well as from other growers who are committed to organic, fair, and responsible family farming. We’re also leveraging Organic Trade Solutions to ensure safe, ethical, and environmentally conscious handling throughout the supply chain, from our family farms all the way to your kitchen.
What all of our farmers have in common is a shared vision of a food future that is good for you, for your family, for farmers, and for the planet. We don’t expect our customers to accept that bold claim at face value, though. In fact, we hope people exercise due suspicion of unverifiable product labeling. That’s why we adopted a rigorous pesticide monitoring regimen for all our grains, why we built our business on unprecedented transparency and traceability from the store back to the family farm, and why we developed a world class Food Safety System that you and you family can trust.