Values-Based Food Supply Chain Case Study: Home Grown Wisconsin Co-op
Posted September 2013
Home Grown Wisconsin was a cooperative, multi-farm wholesale and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) food business founded in 1996 in south central Wisconsin. Home Grown Wisconsin successfully sold fresh produce to upscale restaurants and CSA customers in the Chicago area for more than 10 years. In 2009, after being significantly impacted by floods, a downturn in the economy and mounting overhead costs, the cooperative tried to shift to a 100 percent CSA business model. Unable to subscribe sufficient CSA members in the Chicago area that year, they could not cash flow the enterprise. In the spring of 2009, Home Grown Wisconsin closed its business operations and transferred its assets to a newly formed business that folded after several years of operation. The core farmers of Home Grown Wisconsin continue to farm and market their products, and several of them have been quite successful.
While this case does not provide detailed information about the logistics and economics of Home Grown Wisconsin, it does illustrate some of the opportunities and challenges, internal and external, confronted by a small-scale, farmer-owned marketing cooperative.
These publications are part of a series of case studies and Research Briefs examining values-based food supply chains—strategic business alliances formed between primarily midsize farms/ranches and their supply chain partners. Values-based food supply chains distribute significant volumes of high-quality, differentiated food products and share the rewards equitably. Farmers and ranchers function as strategic partners rather than easily replaced input suppliers. All participants in these business alliances recognize that creating maximum value for the product depends on significant interdependence, collaboration and mutual support. These supply chains attach importance to both the values embedded in the production of the food products AND the values that characterize the business relationships.