Bjorn Solberg is the Director of Wholesale Operations at Red River Harvest Cooperative. He graduated from Concordia College studying Social Studies Secondary Education.
“My first job was at SCHEELS on 45th in high school and I appreciated the overall business structure, management style and employee relationships they had instituted which originally got me interested in management. In a college Sociology class, I had an epiphany concerning our social structure and the various systems we operate within – especially our agriculture/food system. A passion to help change a system paired with the entrepreneurial spirit my mom has always exuded led me to pursue an opportunity to be an agent for change. I knew there was a need to address since my time in college and took advantage of an opportunity a little more than 5 years later to start addressing it.”
Red River Harvest Cooperative currently operates an online marketplace where customers can shop from a variety of local food products from numerous local producers. Behind the scenes, they are trying to continually offer other resources to producer members in order to help increase our community’s access to local healthy food. They aim to build stronger ties within our community by championing family farm agriculture, providing farm-to-table products and facilitating educational opportunities.
In general, Red River Harvest Cooperative serves both local food producers AND people who eat food. More specifically, they cater to customers who are conscientious of the benefits that local food offers, mainly fresher produce and keeping money local. They mostly cater to producers at all levels–whether they are just starting out or are on a wholesale level. Red River Harvest Cooperative offers services like an online presence such as a profile and a convenient order processing platform as well as delivery of products–among other things. In the future, they could offer more services such as product storage and processing.
Bjorn, a fifth-generation farmer, was operating at a wholesale level and due to various circumstances needed to pivot to direct sales to customers. “I did the easiest thing: make a Facebook post. I ended up taking around 50 individual orders for 50 bags of potatoes – but from a multitude of posts, comments and messages. There had to be a better way to reach customers and I knew I wasn’t the only producer with similar issues. Why not work together in ways that make sense for not only our business, but complement other local businesses too? Thus, conversations started and Red River Harvest Cooperative was created.”
“We believe that a resilient local food economy is not only beneficial in many ways, but also necessary. Our current food system has its flaws that are not being addressed–which aren’t as pronounced on a local level. Strategic partnerships can be greatly beneficial to businesses, so we work cooperatively in ways that make sense in order to strengthen the viability of our members. We provide our members the opportunity to save on costs and time among many other benefits.”
As he reflects on some of the high and low points of the journey of creating Red River Harvest Cooperative, Bjorn shares, “Every day can be a roller coaster ride – even in ‘normal’ times. The highest point has been to see the positive trajectory of things even in spite of the recent hurdles. The best part is definitely the encouragement from supporters giving you the boost to keep pushing.”
As he looks at how the community can support their next phase of growth, Bjorn said, “Visit our website! Also, supporting any form of local food promotion is a form of supporting us. Attending food events, asking your school board to pursue Farm to School programs, dining at local restaurants that support local producers, and attending farmer’s markets are also great ways to support our cause.”
Red River Harvest Cooperative
To learn more about Red River Harvest Cooperative, you can visit their website to sign up as a customer and for weekly emails, or check out their Facebook or Instagram!