Not many retailers can boast they own a farm. Except for The Wedge Natural Foods Co-op — they bought the farm. Literally.
The Minneapolis institution acquired Gardens of Eagan Farm last year with the goal of keeping the 120-acre operation open after its longtime owners announced they were retiring. The thought of losing one of its steadiest providers of local, organic food was all it took to convince the officers of the co-op to pursue the purchase.
“At a certain point, it became very clear to us that it was the right thing to do,” said The Wedge's general manager, Lindy Bannister.
Approximately 35% of the farm's acreage is devoted to biodiversity habitats. Of the remaining acreage, about 70% is reserved for fresh market produce. As a purveyor, the farm sold direct to 10 natural food cooperatives, two natural food stores, the Lunds/Byerly's supermarket chain and three wholesalers.
With more than 13,000 members, The Wedge is seen by many as a leader in the co-op channel, and has garnered praise from throughout the industry as a progressive, forward-thinking retailer. Even conventional operators are impressed by The Wedge's commitment. It was the first certified organic store in Minnesota, and is heavily involved in charitable giving, administered through WedgeShare, a program established in 1997. The co-op itself was founded in 1974 in a basement apartment, not far from its current location, and today operates much like a large-scale supermarket. There's even a weekly meal program called What's for Supper?, which supplies shoppers with a written recipe, a shopping list and a sample of the dish.