Happy Co-op Month!

Food co-ops are retail cooperatives owned by the people who shop there. Each member-owner has a say in decisions that affect the co-op. Co-ops are committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit and operate according to the Seven Cooperative Principles.

One of those seven principles, known as “principle six or P6,” is “cooperation among cooperatives.” This initiative is an attempt to promote, nurture, and encourage cooperative businesses and small, local farmers or producers, with the goal of generating thriving cooperative commerce. Hunger Mountain Co-op contributes time, money, and expertise to the development of other cooperatives in our area. This has included equity investment, loans, start-up advising, training, operational support and other efforts, in places like Morrisville, Plainfield, and Barre. 

Here are updates from two of the youngest co-ops in the region, in Morrisville and Granite City Grocery in Barre:

An Update from Morrisville Food Co-op
As expected with new ventures, the question on everyone’s mind is, “How is the co-op doing?” This annual report (and more thoroughly in our annual meeting) answers that for our first fiscal year with the store operating, July 2017-June 2018. During that time, membership grew to 990. Both sales and expenses exceeded our budget and the store is on track with the business plan. Store operations covered the last 9 months of this fiscal year; during that time, sales grew by 23.8%. We currently have 136 local vendors (our definition of local is Lamoille County and surrounding counties) – that is 74% of our vendors!

We completed the SNAP application and can now accept EBT. Accomplishing that during our first year was important to fulfilling our mission of being “accessible to all.” The General Manager, Mike, and the staff work daily on creating balanced pricing through participating in purchasing programs, reviewing margins, and seeking products that meet the needs of our community. You will see more and more of the results of this work over the coming months.

MoCo again sponsored the annual Morrisville Community Corn Roast in August, along with holding community talks, a plant swap, and participating in other community events. Both the staff and Board have focused on improving operational procedures – a good example is that much effort has gone into the store’s computer system, to ensure proper price labels, accurate data reports, and easier customer check-out.

We’re open, operating, and moving in the right direction.

I would like to thank our hardworking staff, numerous community volunteers, and all of our Member-Owners. Because of your dedication, support, and shopping, the first year of MoCo has been a success.

Looking forward, our focus is on increasing sales to meet our financial goals. Key projects for that include forming a Marketing Committee. We also will be revitalizing the Community Engagement Committee and strengthening relationships with local producers and community organizations.

It is my pleasure and privilege to be part of MoCo. I invite you to participate in this dynamic, growing co-op. Your involvement will help to ensure we continue to grow during our second year – it can be shopping more regularly, getting involved on a committee, or volunteering at an event. All the information you need to get started is on the bulletin board in the front of the store. Together we can do it!

All the best,
Carol Lauber
MoCo Board Chair
Morrisville Food Co-op
46 Pleasant Street, Morrisville, VT 05661

A Co-op Is Growing in Barre
Barre City always had a downtown grocery store providing fresh meats, produce, and affordable packaged goods. But when Grand Union left in the early 2000’s, no full-service grocery store replaced it and the USDA subsequently identified the downtown area as a Food Desert. National and regional grocery chains reviewed downtown and chose either to not open a store, or open one 1.5 miles, or more, away. People who lived or worked in Barre, patronized businesses in Barre, or were part of the significant population unable to drive to these other grocery stores, wanted to be able to shop locally again.

In response to the situation, and in classic co-op fashion, the community stepped up to start their own grocery store to serve their needs. With over 700 members and their sights on a couple potential store locations, the Board, Committees, and volunteers of Granite City Grocery (GCG) are working hard to keep the dream moving forward and on track.

A great deal has been done to refurbish downtown Barre in the last few years, and we envision GCG as a key element in a vibrant, affordable, and healthy downtown where all people – no matter where they live or what their financial means – have access to the resources and support they seek to achieve their goals.

At the beginning of the last century, Barre had one of the earliest cooperatives in Vermont, “La Cooperativa Italiano” or “The Union Cooperative Store.” Our plan is to revive that spirit and again provide Barre with its own grocery store supporting local producers and bringing healthy, affordable food to our community.

In this month devoted to celebrating all the different types of cooperatives serving our communities, we at Granite City Grocery invite you to come to our next Board Meeting to relive the earliest days of your co-op’s founding, or see for the first time what it’s like to start a co-op from scratch. Come join us at 6pm on Tuesday, October 9th, upstairs in Aldrich Library. RSVPs will be appreciated.

Clay Whitney
GCG Vice President
Granite City Grocery
Barre, Vermont