Natural Foods Merchandiser
Farm to phone: How one co-ops new app brings farmers' stories to the aisles

Farm to phone: How one co-ops new app brings farmers' stories to the aisles

Steve Cook, creative director of marketing agency Neon, says he never really considered himself a foodie. It was only when his wife, then general manager of Reno-based Great Basin Community Food Co-op, encouraged him that he started tagging along on her drives out to the area’s farms. But then things started to change.

“I saw the passion and effort the farmers put into the food,” Cook remembered. “Meeting them really connected me to the food movement and I thought, how could we make that connection in the aisles of the co-op? Instead of driving out to the farms, how could we have thousands of people doing this in the store?”

The answer came in the form of the co-op’s newly launched Meet Your Farmer mobile app, which allows anyone with a smartphone or tablet to view short introductory films about the farmers whose produce stocks the co-op. Scattered throughout Great Basin Community Food Co-op, shoppers will find stickers near the produce, bearing the origin farm’s logo. Shoppers can point the app’s finder at the sticker to automatically load a short video introducing the farmer, farm and resulting produce; for those without smartphones, the store keeps an iPad handy. Because shoppers’ time is limited in the aisles, the videos are very short. But for those looking to learn more, extended versions are housed online.

Funding for the app’s development and implementation came from a grant awarded by Nevada’s Department of Agriculture. But stores looking to do something similar need only reach out to Cook to collaborate. “We are working with the National Cooperative Grocers Association to roll this out to every co-op across the country,” Cook said. “We are also talking to the Australian Department of Agriculture, since they obviously have huge farms spread out across their country, and they want to tell those farmers’ stories.”

In the meantime, Cook is glad to work with any natural food store interested in bringing this app to its shoppers. Interested retailers can email Cook at [email protected] for more information and to get started.

“It’s a great differentiator to be able to tell those farmers’ stories,” he said, noting that the app helps shoppers understand why local, organic food is worth the investment. “But what was most exciting for me was the farmers’ reactions. I thought they may not be interested in the technology, but once I showed them how simple it was, they were proud to share their stories. A lot of them have worked very hard for generations and are very proud of the level of produce they deliver. So that was the most heartwarming thing for me.”

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