Färm is a Belgian wholefood retailing cooperative founded in 2015 which favours organic and local produce. It operates 16 shops, of which 11 are in Brussels. It brings together all the players from farm to fork, represented by six different categories of members:
- A Investors: the people providing the financial means necessary to achieve the enterprise’s ambitions, currently 4 of the project's founders: Emmanuel Hupine, François Stoop, Lionel Wauters and Olivier Van Cauwelaert. This category holds 94% of the shares but only exercises 50% of the votes. The board will consider applications from people wishing to invest in excess of €25,000;
- B Managers: the members of Färm's management;
- C Workers: members of staff working at Färm, who currently number 36;
- D Sympathisers: clients, or at any rate people who want to support the project without having a contractual or commercial relationship with Färm. Anyone can join this category, by buying shares worth a minimum of €105 (currently 5 shares of €21), and a maximum of €5,000. As of September 2020 the cooperative was not accepting new members;
- E Suppliers and producers: there is no obligation to hold shares in order to collaborate commercially with Färm, but the enterprise finds it nice that the two groups support each other;
- F Supporters: self-employed people who have opened a store under the Färm brand.
Each member has one vote. The members elect the board of 10 at the annual general meeting. Each category of members has at least one board member to represent them.
An innovative governance provision ensure that one group of members can dominate the others. In practice board decisions are taken by consensus. In the event of a vote, each director has one vote, and except where the cooperative’s registered or internal rules provide otherwise, decisions are taken by simple majority of those present or represented. But in the event of a tie, if the votes of a group of voters all belong to the same category, the votes of the other categories prevail.
To ensure that members are committed to the cooperative’s values, vision and objectives, to guarantee its long-term finance and to limit financial speculation, shares are not transferable for a period of four years.
Members receive a 2% discount on purchases.