Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Argus Farm Stop is an independent local food retailer that is changing the way their community members access local food. They work with over 200 farmers and food producers, and operate as an in-store farmers market. Their mission is to help grow the Michigan local food economy, foster relationships between farmers and consumers, and have their customers rethink the way they shop.
On average, today’s Michigan farmers receive less than 20 cents of every dollar sold for their products. Argus Farm Stop wants to give back to their community. Their farmers own and price their goods and receive 75% of the selling price. This is a significantly better margin than they receive in any other retail setting. Since starting 5 years ago, the team at Argus has returned over $5 million dollars to their farmers.
Breaking into new markets
It wasn’t long before Argus Farm Stop started to realize the demand for their local food was extending far beyond just the average consumer walking into their store. On several occasions, local chefs would walk in and clear out the aisles purchasing produce for their restaurant. Local schools, and even churches became customers, and the success of Argus Farm Stop started to outgrow just a single location.
Looking for a new way to service these customers, they decided to start a wholesale food hub! Since Argus Farm Stop already had great relationships with over 200 Michigan farmers, they started taking orders for wholesale clients for pickup in the store. For each delivery, the farmer would bring the products for the retail store, but also bring the pre-packaged products for wholesale clients who were coming to pick up. This was a great solution because it prevented the shelves from being cleared out by chefs, and allowed them to come in-store and pick up exactly what they ordered.
“Do you think we bit off more than we can chew?”
Success is great, but it comes with its own unique set of problems. At the time, the Argus Farm Stop team were running both their retail store and new wholesale ordering by using their in-store POS and spreadsheets to track everything. Unfortunately, this was difficult to manage and made the team feel like things were getting a bit out of control! More orders meant more inventory, more tracking, more payments, and more internal communication with the team.
After asking other food hubs how they managed it all, Argus Farm Stop found Local Line. They were very excited about the flexibility of the system, and how easy it would be to start using right away.
“Houston, we have SOLVED our problem.”
Since joining Local Line, both the retail store and the wholesale food hub have been thriving. Local Line has allowed them to properly organize their orders, track their inventory, and quickly reference invoices and payments after orders have been picked up. Communication between staff, customers, and farmer goes seamlessly and efficiently.
“It is so convenient! We can check when orders have gone out and what still needs to get addressed.” says Meghan from Argus Farm Stop
With their new online food hub added to their in-store farmers market, Argus Farm Stop is reinventing the experience of shopping for local food in their community, in their state, and is setting a great example of a local food model that works.
When asking what their customers think of the system, Meghan exclaims, “Our chefs love it – especially those who are new to buying and using local food in their restaurants. It has never been so convenient to order local food! They can do it all online, and order whenever they need to. We’ve found that existing customers are increasing their orders as the convenience of ordering from home gives them time to explore the entire online catalog and order things they might otherwise miss.”
More than just your consistent everyday use of Local Line for the retail store and wholesale food hub, the Argus team is experimenting with seasonal catalogs for special occasions. Because it’s so easy to add an additional price list, this past holiday season Argus Farm Stop decided to offer local turkeys through their Local Line store. The idea worked amazingly, and is something they can keep doing for promotion-style opportunities in the future.
Crawl, Walk, Run!
“When we started we were a baby hub, and now, four months down the track, we’re a toddler hub. We still have a lot to learn and more ideas to explore. Stay tuned!” says Meghan.
The folks at Argus Farm Stop are an exciting example of the changing local food economy. We are thrilled that we got to be a part of their food hub journey and anticipate even more great things in the future. To check out everything they are doing, visit their website!
Nina Galle writes blog posts, templates, free tools, and other helpful resources for farmers and markets.