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      Macomb Food Co-Op launches real life Farmville

      It's an app that lets users plow, plant and harvest crops. But no, Farmville is not a game just for farmers. It has 38 million Facebook likes from all walks of life.


      "There's just been kind of a growing concern about industrial agriculture and at the same time combine with a growing appreciation for something different from industrial agriculture," Dr. Joel Gruver said.

      Dr. Joel Gruver is a sustainable agriculture professor at Western Illinois University. He says knowing where your food came from, how it was raised and who raised it is a "... very hot trend right now."

      A trend the the McDonough County Food Co-Op is cashing in on.

      "Our end goal is to open a local food cooperative store," Jean Davenport, a Americorp Vista Volunteer with the Co-Op said. "In the meantime while we gaining ownership we've decided to start an online market that would sell local food."

      The co-op was created back in 2011. It's the only one in the Tri-State area. The next closest co-op is near Iowa City. Others can be found throughout Illinois in Carbondale, Urbana, Bloomington and a few in Chicago.

      What's even more unique about Macomb's co-op is it just launched an online market.

      "We've had more people shopping every week, our sales have gone up, our producers are expanding their operations," Davenport said. "So we're really happy about that."

      This is how it works; local farmers post what products are available for the week on the online marketplace every Thursday and Friday.

      Then Customers can start shopping Friday evening at 6 o'clock until Monday morning.

      Farmers then get a pick list of what the customers bought. They have two days to harvest what's needed then the goods are due Wednesday at the distribution center. A real-life Farmville.

      "There are a lot of people who don't go to the Farmer's Market, who don't want to grow their own food, who don't want to pick their own food but they can sit at home and order over the weekend and instantly have access to local food," Davenport said.

      "You see the signs all over, 'know your farmer,'" Margaret Ovitt said. "Well how can you know your farmer? This way you can go online, click on that producer and you can learn all about that particular farmer."

      Margaret Ovitt is the Co-Op's board chair. Right now the group has 331 consumers/owners and eight active producers.

      'It's kind of a hybrid," Ovitt said. "It's not just a consumer cooperative, it's not just a producer cooperative. It's the best of both."

      Ovitt says they need at least 400 members before they can open a brick and mortar store.

      Just like in Farmville, the more you plant and harvest, the more you win ... for both the real-life consumer and the real-life producer.