Laura's Food Co-op Roadtrip
At the beginning of this month, I took a road trip down to Asheville, NC and then up to Madison, WI. Along the way, I made it a point to stop at several different food co-ops. This is one of my favorite things to do in a new town or city- find the food co-op and get inspiration for our own! Here are a few highlights from the trip:
Mariposa Food Co-op
West Philadelphia, PA, est. 1971
Mariposa is one of the few examples of a hybrid food co-op, with a model similar to our own. They are a consumer- and worker-owned food co-op. "Our primary activity is running a food co-op owned by those who shop there, who actively participate in its governance and operations on an egalitarian consensus-seeking basis". This co-op recently expanded into a space 5 times the size of their old space, and had a great selection of products across the board. I liked this illustration of reusable container prices:
French Broad Food Co-op
Asheville, NC, est. 1975
This was a great co-op in downtown Asheville with an awesome selection of products across the board, but the best part of this co-op, as far as I'm concerned, was its massive bulk section! The entire back room of the co-op is dedicated to bulk goods, and you can find anything there. The wall of herbs was staggering, and there was a selection of herbalism books for shoppers to use to learn more about any herbs available to them, which is a great resource!
People's Food Co-op
Ann Arbor, Michigan, est. 1971
In the heart of Kerrytown in Ann Arbor is a great, bustling food co-op with an awesome cafe- Cafe Verde. You can really feel the sense of community in this co-op, with friends meeting up for coffee before doing a bit of grocery shopping. The staff was very friendly, and it was great to see the local products from the area highlighted with information about the producers. Members of the co-op also received 10% off all purchases at the book shop that's next door- what a great idea!
Regent Market Co-op
Madison, WI, est. 1998
Regent Market Co-op is a great, community-owned grocery store with a selection of products ranging from conventional to organic and fair-trade. The store opened in the 1920s as a sole-proprietorship, but was incorporated as a co-op in 1998. They are in the process of expanding their store, which is exciting! We had a good conversation about a policy that's in place at their co-op and several others, which is that non-owners are charged an additional 10% on their purchase. If you are a member of any other co-op, this 10% surcharge can be waived if you show your membership card. To me, this seems like it would alienate shoppers who aren't owners more than it would encourage them to become owners. They've heard a lot of feedback along these lines, and many would like to change the policy, but the board has yet to approve the change.
Do you have a favorite food co-op that you've visited? The next time you're traveling, see what food co-ops you can stop into. Send us a picture and let us know what you liked about the co-op, and we'll put it in our newsletter!
To All Members and Supporters of the Amherst Community Co-op:
In April of last year, the Amherst Community Co-op incorporated and began to build its membership base. Since that time, your steering committee has reached out across the community to explain the co-op’s goals and to get people to join us. We’ve been pretty successful in those efforts, and we now have 150 members, give or take.
Over the past year, we have been telling the community that, once we reach 150 members, we would commission a market feasibility study and business plan from our consultants, Cooperative Development Services (CDS). We made that plan on the basis of a commitment from our sister co-op, River Valley market in Northampton, to provide the co-op with a loan to finance the consulting work once we reached 150 members.
River Valley Market remains committed to supporting Amherst Community Co-op, but experienced people in the food co-op world have counseled us to wait until we reach the 300-member mark. The steering committee agrees that it would be prudent to build a larger membership base before we go forward with the consulting work.
We would like to move forward as quickly as we can to get more people to join the co-op. That’s where you come in: For those of you that are owners, we need you to help ensure that your investment in the Amherst Community Co-op bears fruit. That’s why we are asking you and your fellow supporters to:
Become a founding member-owner of the co-op if you have not already done so - click here to print out your membership brochure, or follow the link and click "join online"
Tell your friends and neighbors about Amherst Community Co-op and encourage them to join
Hold a membership-building house party – members of your steering committee will be there to help in any way we can, including attending the party and talking about the co-op
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to enlarge and strengthen the steering committee itself. We need people with a variety of skills and, most urgently, we need community organizers. There is no question that Amherst is ready – indeed demands – a full-service cooperative grocery store. But we need people with roots in the community who are prepared to promote the co-op’s vision.
Please attend an open meeting on Thursday, July 23rd, at 7 p.m. at the Jones Library’s Woodbury Room downstairs. The meeting will be an opportunity for you to meet with the
members of the steering committee, to find out where the co-op project stands, and to offer your skills and passion to making the Amherst Community Co-op a reality.
We look forward to seeing you at the meeting!
Amherst Community Co-op Steering Committee
Laura Mason, Elliott Crowe, Alex Kent, Christina DiMarco-Crook, Josh Cohen, David Ahlfeld
Why Join The Co-op?
by Alex Kent
People often ask me, "What is the benefit of joining the co-op?" I would answer this way: At all too many of the places where we do our shopping (including the online shopping world), we customers are viewed as little more than consumers, and as consumers we have little say in how stores are run. Sure, we can take our business elsewhere, and savvy retailers will respond by changing the product mix, redesigning the store, and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure that customers keep on coming in to shop. The beauty of a co-op is that, from its creation, its construction, and its operation, members have both the right and the responsibility to speak up and say how the co-op ought to be run.
That sounds a lot like what it takes to be a good citizen.
David Ahlfeld, one of the earliest members of the Amherst Community Co-op and now our newest steering committee member, has said,
"We citizens need more practice at creating cooperative institutions. The Market has gotten very good at gauging needs and interests and then quickly creating products and services. The average citizen can live without ever engaging with their community to create something. It is all just provided, from afar, at a price. The culture is diminished as a result. What a great opportunity the co-op provides to practice these skills."
A cooperative is made up of the very community it serves and it is governed by representatives of that community. Its success is measured by the degree to which it is inclusive of all the members of the community. In short, a cooperative is an excellent place to practice that most basic duty of a citizen: individuals participating and working toward the greater good of their neighborhoods, their communities, and ultimately their country. The Amherst Community Co-op will give everyone in the community quite literally the chance to design our own market, and beyond that, it will be a priceless opportunity for people to develop the habits of citizenship.
By joining the Amherst Community Co-op, you cast your vote as a member of the community that wants more autonomy, more of a say in what our town's market sells. By joining, you are telling our prospective lenders -- the financial institutions and foundations that will play an indispensable role in actually building the store -- that our community really wants its own market and is prepared to support it. Let's join together to build a market that is truly representative of our community's values!
Very exciting news- we've hit 111 founding member-owners!! What an incredible feeling this is, and thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far.
As you know, we can't make this co-op dream a reality without our founding members. Because of this, every member brings us that much closer to opening our doors!
We need just 39 more members before we can have our feasibility study conducted, and that's when the REAL excitement begins! Spread the word, help us get there, and become a member-owner today!
Click here to head over to our membership sign-up page and for more information.
Shopping Co-op: A Gift Guide for the Holiday Season
This holiday season, we know you've got a lot of great local options when it comes to making your way through that gift list. The holidays are a great time to share your passions with your loved ones, and if you're like us you love co-ops! So why not shop local AND co-op, and spread a little bit of that co-op love?
Every October, co-ops everywhere celebrate by spreading the word about why co-ops rocks. We are working to make a real difference in our communities every day, and that's a huge part of the cooperative difference. Below are some great examples of the work that co-ops are doing in our own community!
We had a great time at our Community Potluck at Groff Park on Saturday! Here are a few highlights.
What a great Summer send-off! A HUGE thanks to Bart's Homemade Ice Cream for providing us with the best vanilla ice cream you can get, and to Equal Exchange for providing us with incredible chocolate to share. Most of all, thanks to everyone who came out to share the afternoon with us and brought great food, music and conversation.
**Coming up in October: Co-op Month! We'll be sharing all sorts of information about the cooperative difference, and what makes this movement so great to be a part of. It's a great time to become a founding member!**
We had so much fun kicking off our Membership Drive on Saturday the 12th! Around 150 people came to show their support, and we couldn't have been happier with the turnout. [photo credit: Rebekah Hanlon]
Amherst Community Co-op is holding its official membership drive kickoff event on Saturday, April 12th. The event will be at the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 867 North Pleasant Street in Amherst, from 4 to 6pm.
The steering committee for ACC has worked for three years to gauge community interest and build support. Amherst’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, from the town planner to the Chamber of Commerce to the many shoppers at local farmer’s markets. The co-op is now ready to offer equity to the public. This event will be the first chance to buy founding member shares. There will be free food, music, and child care. The event is free and open to the public.
Numerous local co-ops and businesses will be there to promote this new cooperative grocery. Real Pickles has offered samples of their cooperatively-produced pickles and sauerkraut. Apex Orchards will provide a variety of locally-grown apples. Bart’s Ice Cream will serve samples of their ice cream, a Valley favorite. Backyard Bakery will be giving samples of hearty bread baked here in Amherst. Guests will be able to sample coffee from Rao’s Cafe, and snack on popcorn popped by UMass Five College Credit Union.
Gary Hirshberg, the chairman and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Hirshberg is a very successful agricultural entrepreneur, having founded the largest producer of organic yogurt in the US. As one of the first graduates of Hampshire College, he has strong ties to the Pioneer Valley. His choice of business shows his obvious commitment to sustainability and the local food movement, and starting this full-scale food co-op in Amherst is a logical extension of that philosophy. He will be introduced by Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash, who is spearheading the school’s Healthy Food Transition, an initiative supported by a grant of $1 million from Hirshberg.
Other speakers will include Art Ames, General Manager of the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington. Art will discuss the importance of maintaining the balance between providing responsible food and keeping important staple products accessible for all patrons who need them. The Berkshire Co-op participates in a program called The Basics that ensures that all customers can affordably purchase important foods, such as bread, eggs, peanut butter and beans. Amherst Community Co-op plans to implement a similar program.
We will also hear from Jessica Montagna and Angie Gregory, worker-owners of Simple Diaper and Linen, who will speak to the worker-ownership component of our co-op.
Parking for this event will be available on-site. We encourage any who are interested in attending to RSVP via email at email@example.com, through our Facebook page, clicking the orange button at the end of this post, or by filling out one of our self-addressed, stamped invitations that we are handing out at the Amherst Winter Farmers' Market and other events.
We have received the final amount that was raised through ticket sales at the February 1st screening of Food For Change - $1867.50! This brings a little more than 15% of the way towards our initial fundraising goal of $20,000, which is beyond encouraging and very exciting.
This event could not have been possible without the support and help from our friends at River Valley Market, Green Fields Market, The Old Creamery Co-op, and Home Planet Pictures. And of course, thank you to every person who attended the event!
Next up for Amherst Community Co-op is our Membership Kick-off Drive! We hope you will attend and join as a founding member of our cooperative.
Date: Saturday, April 12th, 2014
Time: 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Location: Immanuel Lutheran Church, 867 North Pleasant Street, Amherst MA.
There will be live jazz music, free kids' games, food and drink donated by local businesses (including Bart's Ice Cream!), and guest speakers. We are excited to announce that Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farms, will be our keynote speaker! Please shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further questions.
Happy almost spring!
- Amherst Community Co-op