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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Considering Grocery Co-ops

Recently, a family member came to visit and ran to a grocery store for a few items. The Eastside Co-op is our nearest grocery store, so when she returned with groceries from a market farther away, I asked, "Why didn't you just run to the co-op?" She responded, "Well, I wasn't sure whether I could shop there. Don't you have to be a member?"

It dawned on me that the concept of the co-op might not be familiar to everyone, and that is why I'm blogging about it today.

What is a co-op?

According to the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA): "Cooperatives are member-owned, member-governed businesses that operate for the benefit of their members according to common principles agreed upon by the international cooperative community. In co-ops, members pool resources to bring about economic results that are unobtainable by one person alone."

More simply put, a cooperative is a business voluntarily owned by the people who use it, and operated for the benefit of its members. Regardless of the goods and services provided, co-ops aim to meet their members' needs.

In addition to a co-op's commitment to serving its members, most adhere to a set of seven principles to help guide the business. The seven principals are:

  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic member control
  • Member economic participation
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Cooperation among cooperatives
  • Concern for community

Why join?

Many grocery co-ops make a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. You can voice your opinion about issues that are important to you, whether it's prices, practices, or a special product that you'd like to have stocked. Also, since they don't have outside investors to reward, co-ops return surplus revenue to their members in proportion to the purchases they've made. While you don't need to be a member to shop at most grocery co-ops, members usually enjoy special opportunities and discounts that are not available to non-members.

Why we joined:

We shopped at the co-op for awhile before we became members to see if it worked for us. Eventually, it made sense financially to become members, since most of our grocery money was being spent at the co-op. We wanted to support a business that was stocking fresh, local products from local producers. We wanted to support a business with a strong commitment to green practices. We liked how shopping at the co-op was a friendly and educational experience for us and our community—we've learned a lot about sustainable practices from the co-op. We wanted the member discounts and to be on the inside track of what was happening at the co-op in terms of member offers and opportunities.

Find a co-op near you:

To find the co-op that works best for you, you might need to do a bit of research and shop there a couple times before you join. There are 12 businesses that run as grocery co-ops in the Twin Cities. They are community- and member-owned grocery stores that connect residents with food from small, local producers, as well as other healthy options for eating and personal care. Check out The Mix for more information on the co-ops in the Twin Cities. Outside of the Twin Cities, you can consult the Co-op Directory Service for information on co-ops in your area.

Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Jun 30, 2010 03:01 pm
 Posted by  Girl Detective

The Eastside Food Coop is about a mile from home. I can walk or bike there in good weather. There is a yoga studio there that has classes at convenient times for me. They have a great deli when I'm pressed for time. Like you, I shopped there for a bit before joining, then joined on the $10/month plan, so it was easy. Now I do all my family's shopping there; there MIGHT be half a dozen times a year or so that I need something from someplace else. I go to one place, everything I need is there, everything that's there is more healthful than at other stores, and it's a small, friendly store that's quick to shop in, which I need because I have 2 active little boys. Some people comment that they can get things cheaper elsewhere. I did a price comparison though, and found that buying at the co-op on sale is often cheaper than buying elsewhere, and elsewhere gets trumped by the fresh local produce plus the short, single trip.

Jul 4, 2010 11:57 am
 Posted by  bud dingler

There is a new coop in Long Lake/Orono called Harvest Moon. They are staffed by many long time coop veterans and have hit the ground running!

Anyone in the Plymouth, Maple Plain or Delano area should also check this out.


Sep 23, 2010 02:17 pm
 Posted by  reetsyburger

Sorry for the delayed response to your comments. Thanks for sharing!

Girl Detective - The Eastside Coop is now our coop as well. We were members at Seward when we lived in Longfellow, but now we're in NE, and Eastside is more convenient. And you're right about the folks there being friendly. They really are a nice crew - especially Ally!

Bud - Thanks for sharing! I don't get out to that area often. What are your thought? Anything special there that's worth a trip?

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