Become a Local Vendor
A guide for local farmers and producers
Thank you for your interest in becoming a vendor at Open Harvest Co-op Grocery. This guide provides everything that is required for us to have a healthy and profitable working relationship. Please read through this guide carefully before filling out an application. New Vendor Applications are available at the end of the guide. Once we receive an application from you, you can expect to hear back from us within 5 business days.
Local is at the heart of what Open Harvest stands for and that is why we value our professional business relationships with local vendors. We are always on the lookout for new local products and we look forward to hearing from you!
Liability Insurance Requirement
The Co-op requires that vendors have liability insurance naming Open Harvest as an Additional Insured. The minimum limit for General Liability should be no less than $1 million per occurrence and include coverage for products and completed operations. A certificate of coverage from the insurance carrier must be sent to the Co-op annually.
Product Selection Guidelines
Open Harvest Co-op Grocery is Lincoln's trusted source for high quality food, personal, and household products, making healthy and sustainable choices accessible to a diverse community of member owners and shoppers.
To do this, we look for products that:
Meet or exceed our product standards
Meet the needs of our customers and will sell well
Have an adequate and consistent supply (while in-season)
Retail-ready: packaged or presented in a manner that is ready to sell
As a new vendor, or a current vendor submitting new products for consideration, it is highly recommended to send photos and/or samples along with the product information, ingredient lists, and costs.
We prefer products that are:
CLEAN: Organic and/or non-GMO ingredients, free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, fragrances, antibiotics, growth hormones, herbicides, and pesticides.
SUSTAINABLE: Organically grown, biodynamically grown, or other sustainable practices.
LOCAL: Produced within 200 miles of the Co-op or within the state of Nebraska.
CLOSE TO THE SOURCE: Fresh, minimally processed.
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE: Cooperatively run, fair trade, small scale, not tested on animals.
APPROPRIATELY PACKAGED: Minimal packaging that is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.
Packaging & Presentation
All product should be retail grade and ready to sell. All packaging should be new and food-grade. BPA-free is encouraged.
Produce should be clean (dirt, sand, bugs or any other materials needs to be washed off and/or appropriately removed).
Bunched produce should be appropriately twist-tied (preferred) or banded. If using bands, ONLY NEW, food-grade rubber-bands may be used. The vendor is responsible for providing and twist-tying or banding bunches accordingly. If certified organic, ORGANICALLY GROWN or CERTIFIED ORGANIC twist ties should be used. If produce is not certified organic, LOCALLY-GROWN twist ties should be used.
For packaged goods, we advise vendors to register UPCs for your products with GS1, and include barcodes on your product. It makes your product appear professional and speeds up checkout.
Preference will be given to produce that is Certified Organic and/or Certified Naturally Grown (www.cngfarming.org).
Farms that use sustainable growing practices but do not have certification, or conventional produce included in the Clean 15 (www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php) may be considered if a local organic option is not available. A visit to the farm may be conducted to ensure proper growing practices.
Meat & Dairy
Our Meat and Grocery departments purchase products that contain no added preservatives, nitrates or nitrites, from livestock that are humanely raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Preference will be given to organic practices and pasture-raised livestock.
The Co-op buys fresh local eggs from cage-free birds that are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Preference will be given to pasture-raised and those using organic practices.
All vendors are required to have an egg license to sell eggs to a retail store in the state of Nebraska. Eggs should be washed and refrigerated from the time of collection. Eggs are purchased in whole cases (15 dozen per case) only. Prices paid by the Co-op are based on volume.
Our shoppers love local eggs so much that we ask egg vendors to call the Co-op before delivery, so we can let people know when their eggs will be available.
Department managers will contact vendors to place orders as needed. Orders are not guaranteed, but based on sales and customer demand. Only product ordered by the Co-op will be accepted for delivery.
Price of the product must be communicated by the vendor before product will be ordered.
For seasonal and perishable items like produce and dairy, communicate availability of product, including quantity and date available to department managers by email. Establishing a weekly communication routine as the season commences is recommended, so both vendor and department manager can count on a regular conversation about upcoming availability.
Revolving and auto-fill orders must be initiated by the department manager, after a vendor has established consistent communication and delivery.
The Co-op or vendor may terminate the business relationship at any time.
Only product ordered by the Co-op will be accepted for delivery. Product must be retail grade and accompanied by an invoice.
We recommend that vendors establish consistent delivery days and times with the department manager, and communicate if deliveries will deviate from those times.
The Co-op's department managers and staff have the right to reject any product due to damage, decay, and/or if it is not retail grade. The vendor will be contacted within 24 hours of delivery for a return of the amount of product not sellable.
The Co-op pays within listed terms (Net 14 or Net 30 days.) NO CASH ON DELIVERY.
Retail grade is product that is ready to be put out on the shelf and sold to customers. It is cleaned and appropriately packaged. For produce, any dirt, sand, bugs, or any other material needs to be washed off and/or appropriately removed. Discoloration, blemishes, scrapes or other external deformities will be left up to the produce manager's discretion as to whether it can be sold.
Vendors must deliver produce in their own food grade boxes or containers. Boxes must be new or very gently used produce boxes (waxed or similar) or unmarked boxes. Produce box markings need to match the produce in the box. For example, no apples in pumpkin boxes, no organic produce in conventional produce boxes. Items delivered in inappropriate boxes (examples: used electronic boxes, potato chip boxes, unclean or worn boxes, alcohol boxes) WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED and the vendor will not be paid.
Boxes or other delivery totes must be labeled with identifying producer/vendor, weight or count, item description, certification (if applicable), and delivery and/or pack date.
Upon request, boxes & similar may be saved for a produce vendor to pick up. Boxes/delivery receptacles MUST be picked up in a timely fashion (10 days or less) or they will be disposed of or recycled appropriately.
Any delivery fees must be discussed between vendor and department manager prior to ordering. If a delivery fee is not expressly stated as part of the purchase, delivery fees will not be paid.
Deliveries should be made through the back door. Please park in one of the two allotted parking spots, or use the loading dock for large trucks. It's recommended that large trucks time their deliveries outside lunch hours, as it's difficult to back into the loading dock during busy times. Ring the doorbell to let the Co-op know you're here.
Delivery parking spots are short-term parking. If you will be shopping or intend to stay for more than the duration of the delivery, please move your vehicle so other vendors can make their deliveries.
If a vendor makes purchases after making a delivery, please exit through the front doors. No product should go out through the back door.
Monday – Friday: 8 AM – 3 PM
Saturday: 8 AM - NOON
Any other times need to be negotiated with the department manager in advance before becoming a vendor.
Vendors with any last-minute delivery changes that fall out of the required times must notify the department manager as soon as possible (due to weather, emergency, etc.) so that we may arrange for the delivery to be received and stored properly.
Open Harvest Co-op Grocery must be provided with a typed invoice upon delivery. Each invoice line should be clearly labeled, whether it is a product, credit, or delivery fee. To be paid, every invoice must be signed by a Co-op staff member.
Invoices must include:
Date of Delivery
Terms (Net 14 or Net 30)
For each product delivered:
Product Description (if certified organic, please indicate)
Per unit price
We encourage local vendors to keep their own copies of invoices for reference. The Co-op is not responsible for making copies of vendor invoices.
Example of an ideal invoice: Sample Invoice PDF
As a local vendor, it is important that you know your costs and what you need to charge for your product, and communicate these clearly. The Co-op will provide feedback on pricing as needed, and will try to work with vendors to establish a fair price for all parties.
Any cost changes must be agreed upon by the buyer prior to delivery of product.
The Co-op reserves the right to set the shelf/retail price of products. As you know your costs best, we know ours, and set appropriate margins to meet our operating expenses while providing a fair price to the shopper.
Payment (Net Terms)
The Co-op pays within listed terms. If your terms are not listed on the invoice, we assume the standard 30 days. Net 14 is the lowest term permissible, in which payments are made by the Co-op within 14 days of the delivery date.
Rural Food Business Toolkit
Lone Tree Foods
Starting Your Business
Nebraska One Stop Business: https://www.nebraska.gov/osbr/index.cgi
Starting a Business in Nebraska: http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/business/bus_regist.html
Nebraska Business Licensing and Permits: http://www.nebraska.gov/business/business-licensing/
Cooperative Development Services: http://www.cdsus.coop/
Nebraska Food Code: http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Documents/Food_Service_Code_Book.pdf
Nebraska Pure Food Act: http://food.unl.edu/documents/actaw.pdf
Nebraska Requirements for Food Establishment Operations: http://www.nda.nebraska.gov/publications/foods/preopenlist.html
How it works and what coverage is right for you:
All prepared food items must have all ingredients listed, including ingredients of ingredients. For instance, if soy sauce is an ingredient in your food item, the ingredients for the soy sauce must also be listed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has guidelines of how this must be done.
Labeling & Nutrition Guidance: https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/default.htm
Small Entity Compliance Guide: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm402549.htm
The FDA requires that all food manufacturers whose products would carry a gluten-free label to be able to prove that their product is gluten-free. Gluten-free foods have a limit of containing gluten in less than 20 parts per million (ppm). This applies to any food product that is labeled as “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten”. Food manufacturers may choose to use effective quality control tools to ensure that any foods they label gluten-free do not contain 20 ppm or more gluten, such as in-house testing, third-party laboratory testing, or becoming a certified gluten-free facility.
Gluten-Free Labeling of Food: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362510.htm
Gluten-Free Food Labeling Questions and Answers: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm362880.htm
The USDA regulates use of the organic on labels. If you are not certified, you must not make any organic claim on the principal display panel or use the USDA organic seal anywhere on the package. You may only, on the information panel, identify the certified organic ingredients as organic and the percentage of organic ingredients.
Organic Labeling: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
Product Related Definitions
Organic products are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
The USDA oversees organic standards and certification.
Organic Regulations: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic
Organic Certification: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification
Certified Naturally Grown
Certified Naturally Grown is a third-party non-profit certification process for smaller-scale farmers that use organic practices but find the paperwork and costs associated with becoming Certified Organic prohibitive. Certification requires the same standards as the USDA'S National Organic Program.
Fair Trade is a movement that unites marginalized farmers and producers with traders and consumers in a commitment to fairness, equity, and environmental stewardship. Fair Trade Certification most directly applies to internationally traded commodities such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and sugar.
Fair Trade Federation: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/
World Fair Trade Organization: http://wfto.com/
Domestic Fair Trade Association: http://www.thedfta.org/
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Ingredients at high risk of containing GMOs include Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar Beets, Zucchini, and Yellow Summer Squash.
In the absence of GMO-labeling laws, the only way for customers to be certain that a product is GMO-free is to be Certified Organic, or obtain certification through third-party organizations such as the Non-GMO Project.
Non-GMO Project: https://www.nongmoproject.org/
Artificial growth hormones, such as Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), are used to stimulate growth and milk production in food-producing animals. Questions and controversy over the impacts of these added hormones on human development and health continue.
Cage-Free / Free-Range / Pasture-Raised
Cage-Free means that the fowl are not kept in battery cages; Free-Range means that fowl had access to the outdoors; Pasture-Raised means that the fowl had ample space and time to roam outdoors.