Tag Archives: community

On Being Cooperative

unity

In my previous post, I recounted my evolutionary steps through varying grocery store aisles. Today let’s continue on the black-cobra road (you know, reality’s version of the yellow-brick road) and if you’ll lend me your attention for a moment, I’ll tell you how the Fort Collins Food Co-op feeds me, with plenty to share.

I remember being virtually introduced to the Food Co-op through its seemingly simple, yet dense website. The signature blue-green, earthly hues of this vibrant brand immediately registered and resonated with me, which compelled me to dig in and read through the embedded pages.

“The Co-op is a place where people can reconnect with their food. This is a place built on understanding what we are consuming and why. These ideas grew out of a buying club started by CSU students and community members in the early 1970’s.”

Upon visiting the historic store front on 250 East Mountain Avenue (est. 1978) for the first time, I experienced a subtle inner knowing that this was an authentic place I genuinely wanted to be a part of, a local business I would happily support with my personal— admittedly limited, albeit significant—buying power.

That day I left handsomely, with a backpack full of provisions for a week and a heartfelt, longer-lasting impression, as if a tiny seed of a mighty tree had been planted within the food desert of my mind, body, and soul.

Frequent, returning visits to this shop for staples and splurges allowed me to not only begin to recognize friendly, familiar faces, but also to further develop the intrinsic kinship that interweaves each of us as singular, scrappy threads into a more reliable, more resilient fabric that is part-and-parcel of any co-operative true to its roots, true to its word.

“The Co-op seeks to serve all those in our community who want to support their local circle of profit through buying locally sourced grocery items. Anyone can shop at the Co-op, the member-owner structure simply exists to reinforce a local circle of profit by sharing the profits of the Co-op amongst its member-owners.”

I became informed of its not-for-profit business model—guided by the internationally recognized Seven Cooperative Principles—supported for 44+ years, sourcing primarily from the well-spring of the “community, volunteers, the people who shop once to those who are in every day, farmers and producers, local businesses and restaurants who buy from us, and from the greater need to create a more positive connection between people and their local community.”

So one day I decided to jump into the deep end of the community pool by becoming a fully invested member-owner because in doing so I acknowledged and honored the privilege of having an “alternative, eco-centric” business that exists to balance the triple bottom line, with potential for kick-backs for the ‘pillar’ people it caters to, consists of.

And while profit-sharing is indeed a welcomed, beneficial boost to anyone’s budget in theory, I soon realized for myself that this rare fruit can only be fully enjoyed through considerate cultivation of the crop, which honestly requires the kind of hard work and dedication that is not always convenient and seldom expedient, although I strongly believe in my experience thus far: It is well-worth the time, money, and energy invested.

One of the most common remarks our attentive ears receive is about expensive prices.

Trust me, we understand because we feel the pinch as much as you do.

Consider this: You are getting what you pay for. You are also giving when you pay for it.

When you shop our Co-op, you are helping contribute to 12 individual’s livelihoods—your fellow friends, neighbors, community member-owners, who are in the laborious service industry not simply because of its decent pay and modest benefits, but more truly because it is a labor of love.

When you select our Co-op, you are voting with your dollar—with each purchase—every time you choose local, chemical-free, certified organic, non GMO, humanely raised, and so forth.

When you support our Co-op, you are joining a global movement that engages each other’s awareness of the undeniable impact we are all having on our only inhabitable planet, on our fellow human people, all-too-often at the expense of profit.

The Co-op is one small part of a much greater whole, where those “some day…” ideas are put into practice every day, one day at a time.

Because to be a member-owner of our food co-operative is to be a catalyst of world change.

Inquire within.

 empowerfool

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Before I Became Co-operative

Seasonal-Vegetables

Growing up in suburban Upstate New York, I eagerly anticipated the weekly three-mile trip down the street to Price Chopper, the locally owned & operated supermarket chain.

The only knowledge and understanding I had about food—let alone the complex agricultural, industrial, and commercial web—was that it tasted good, although somehow it always looked bigger (“enlarged to show texture”) and better on the picture-perfect packages it arrived in (Photoshop).

Like a kid in a candy store with a tab I never had to pay (thanks dad!) and with the supersized metal basket with wacky wheels that became my go-kart, I would zoom by the produce section, opting instead for what I politely refer to, in retrospect, as ‘foodlike stuff.’

Nutrition, to me at that point, was just a boring bunch of black-and-white words and numbers on the otherwise colorful, intriguing boxes and labels.

The cartoon characters enticed me. The bite-sized stories of the brands enchanted me. The word searches, optical illusions, and brain puzzles entertained me.

Despite these silly distractions, those nutritional facts and figures still fascinated me. I remember having a lingering feeling about the lengthy laundry list of ingredients that didn’t even seem to resemble English in many cases.

Throughout my sleepwalking, awkward high school years and my awakening, awkward college years, I gradually recognized the greater implications of what, how, and why I was consuming, and it all slowly started consuming me. (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., and Earthlings each had profound impacts on me).

I suspected Walmart to be some secretly nefarious corporation, and yet I shopped there anyway because it had the cheapest prices and getting the most for my money seemed to matter more to me, rationalized by fixed mindsets: scarcity (“I’m broke”) and self-interested (“It’s about me”).

However, as time went on, I could no longer deny that the bottomless pit in my stomach was actually a different kind of hunger pang.

I discovered it to be an intuitive gut feeling that is fed only by following through with the moral compass directly connected to one’s better conscience. 

An inner, ethical revolution ensued.

It started with ending my subservience to the tyranny of King Soopers and tearing down the wall (mart) of my comfort zone—mindlessly consuming and unconsciously contributing to global catastrophe.

As a millennial might be inclined to do, I consulted the modern–day oracle, Google, who provided me with Maps to some alternative, health–food stores. (Indeed it is a rather SAD [Standard American Diet] state of affairs when healthy food is considered alternative).

Instantly Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage (now Natural Grocers) & Whole Foods showed up. While they all have an undeniably diverse array of quality goods they are also mega national chains, and I preferred something more homegrown, more attuned to the pulse of the community that supports it.

With fewer offerings for those with holistic, vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, there was plenty of room for improvement. I had just about resigned myself to settle. After much (re)consideration, I knew I’d feel better about supporting a local, family-owned business because it’s not all about me.

Still, I wondered if there might be another source of sustenance I had yet to tap into, where it wasn’t as much of an ethical compromise on either side as it was a cooperative effort on all parts…

And so, with the backdrop set up for the main co-operative act, I must respect both my word limit and your attention span! In my next blog post, I’ll be sure to write more about my evolving involvement with the Food Co-op.

Until then, I encourage you to keep reading our thoughts, keep visiting our store, keep conversing with each other, please keep co-operating more.

 empowerfool

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