Co-op FAQ

Why a co-op?

Cooperatives provide small producers the opportunity to enter larger markets by aggregating and distributing the product of multiple small growers under the unified banner of a single organization. The co-op allows smaller family farms to remain viable by giving them access to markets that they would otherwise be unable to serve on their own. Additionally, the co-op allows growers to share the costs of transportation and administrative duties. Due to the extensive geographical range of our member farms we are able to produce a wide variety of produce throughout the year.

How Deep Root operates

Deep Root was founded to extend the reach of farmers in Vermont and New England.  Instead of competing with each other in local markets, they use Deep Root to funnel their high volume crops out of state to other parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, and occasionally further down the East Coast.

Deep Root doesn’t operate like a traditional distributor.  We do not own any of the crops we ship, and do not maintain an inventory at our headquarters in Johnson, Vermont.  Rather, we aggregate product on a weekly basis from our growers based on their availability, send out pricelists to our customers, process orders, and then ship out the product with a quick turnaround–usually 1-3 days between pickup and delivery.  Our growers maintain their own inventory and pack out produce to order, ensuring high quality and freshness.

Deep Root is comprised of 20 member-growers, made up of farms of various sizes throughout Vermont and Southern Quebec.  Our organizational resilience comes from our diversity of farms and their geographic locations. Some members ship year-round, and others ship certain crops at certain times of the year.  Deep Root is flexible in how it works with members and what place our distribution has for their businesses.  Some members only ship a small percentage of their overall sales through Deep Root, and others ship 70-80% of their total sales with us.

The co-op makes its income through case fees on each item shipped and a sales commission.  We also have annual membership fees and equity fees like many other co-ops.  We operate as a not-for-profit, and any net income at the end of the financial year is distributed back to the growers.

We are always looking for new members, and we even work with non-members on occasion to fill specific crop gaps.  If you are interested in working with Deep Root, see the Contact Us page.

Cooperative Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Cooperative?

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Put another way, a cooperative is a farm, business, or other organization that is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.

The following co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
As defined by the International Co-operative Alliance.

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
    Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. People serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
  3. Member Economic Participation
    Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  4. Autonomy and Independence
    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training and Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
    Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community
    Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.