Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

ORR Center buying club a boost to local food economy

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 6/23/17

ORR— The nonprofit ORR Center is making progress on another one of their key initiatives— increasing the local capacity and reliability of food production— through the start-up of a new buying …

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ORR Center buying club a boost to local food economy

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ORR— The nonprofit ORR Center is making progress on another one of their key initiatives— increasing the local capacity and reliability of food production— through the start-up of a new buying club.

Unlike some clubs, however, this one will be easy to join, says ORR Center Director Wendy Purdy, who notes that the club will be managed almost entirely by email. “People will get an email of what will be available each month and everything will be organic,” she said. “Some things will be standard, and we’ll be adding in local foods as they’re available.” Among the standard items the club will have available are: whole wheat flour, pastry flour, evaporated cane juice, oatmeal, popcorn, dried peas, beans, and lentils, along with wheat and rye berries.

Purdy expects the new club will be in operation by July. It will be open to anyone, not just Orr residents. To join, just send an email with your name and contact information to info@orrcenter.com.

One of the goals of the effort is to provide another outlet for local food producers, such as members of the Cook Farmers Market, who are hoping to provide produce to the new buying club starting this year.

“The ORR Center will be one element of the local food web we’re trying to build,” said Melissa Roach, one of the organizers of the Cook Farmers Market. As more people tap into local food sources, said Roach, it makes it possible for area producers to reinvest and ramp up their own production. “The need is out there, not just from farmers markets and the [Natural Harvest] coop, but increasingly from restaurants and other places, like the ORR Center,” said Roach.

Eventually, Purdy is hoping that the ORR Center will be able to include fish from its aquaponics system in the buying club’s offerings. The center recently received its certification for an aquaponics system that volunteers are currently installing at the center, located in the former Orr School. Volunteers are building the tanks from wood recycled from the former gym floor at the school. Purdy expects to be adding fish by August, in time for the center’s annual sustainability expo, set for Aug. 19-20.

The ORR Center has gotten some help from funders for its new buying club. The state Department of Agriculture donated $1,000 and Lake Country Power’s Operation Round-up donated $2,000 to fund the purchase of coolers to help keep buying club produce fresher longer.

The funds represent just a tiny fraction of the donations that the ORR Center has attracted in the past three years. Recently, the organization reached its million-dollar mark, noted Purdy, combining cash donations with volunteer time and donated materials. “We’re debt-free and we keep plugging along with the donations we receive,” said Purdy.

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