• Miller Kern

Local grocery store, deli does it all the organic way

This article originally appeared in the Ball State Daily News

On the corner of Mulberry and Main streets, painted in red, sits the Downtown Farm Stand. This corner shop is home to an organic grocery store, dine-in deli combo.

Dave and Sara Ring have run an organic farm in Albany, Indiana, since 2000. Each harvest season the Rings had products they couldn't sell. They spent the majority of their time trying to market their products to buyers and noticed this as a trend among other organic farmers. So, the couple opened the Downtown Farm Stand in May 2007.

The Farm Stand is a place where organic farmers can drop off their products and know they will be sold. Around 40 different local farms sell products at the Downtown Farm Stand.

But the Downtown Farm Stand offers more than just organic groceries. Customers can take a break from their shopping and enjoy an organic, freshly made meal at the Farm Stand’s deli counter. Tables and chairs are scattered throughout the store for dine-in purposes. The Farm Stand even offers a variety of organic beers and wines from local breweries for dine-in and take-home purchases.

“Delis and grocery stores go hand-in-hand,” Dave said. “That’s kind of an old model, but they feed off of each other.”

The deli allows the Rings to use produce that might otherwise go bad. Every item in the deli is made from scratch: bread, aioli, soups – everything. Because they always use fresh ingredients from the store, the Rings have freedom to regularly come up with new recipes.

“It allows us to do a lot of really creative things,” Dave said. “We always have something good to make a special out of.”

On top of groceries and ready-to-eat food, the Downtown Farm Stand offers a grocery delivery service.

Customers can fill their cart online and a bin will ship directly to their doorstep. With a $35 or more purchase, customers receive free shipping for their groceries.

The delivery service is an outlet for farmers to sell more of their produce. After starting deliveries, the Farm Stand saw sales double almost immediately.

“It just made sense for us,” Dave said.

After Indiana’s transition to industrial farming, many organic farms lost their sale outlets. The Rings wanted to increase contact with consumers. They saw a store as the perfect outlet.

“If we’re going to build a local, sustainable food system, which I believe we have to,” Dave said, “then this was the first way to do that.”

Dave believes the Downtown Farm Stand gives consumers hope and a place to go for support from people who think the same way they do. The Downtown Farm Stand is “the first keystone building block in the community towards building a local food system.”

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