Greetings from the Co-op!
October is National Co-op Month, so it’s a perfect time to highlight and celebrate this special business model. At a time when the news includes reports of businesses intentionally harming their customers and placing “company over country,” it’s all the more meaningful to be part of a movement that prioritizes shared values, sustainability, and community service.
The cooperative model is alive and well nationally and globally. It is now estimated that there are 3 million cooperatives around the world with membership totaling at least 12% of humanity and also employing 280 million people. In the United States, there are about 65,000 cooperatives, and one out of every three people is a co-op member. Regionally we are part of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, which includes 40 food co-ops and startups locally owned by more than 164,000 people, providing good jobs to 2,460 people, and selling more than $100 million in local products every year.
All these co-ops exist to serve their members and their communities. Here at Hunger Mountain Co-op, we have been doing that for over 49 years. The past year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging. We faced COVID, labor shortages, supply interruptions, and societal upheaval as we worked to maintain the flow of healthy and local food and advance our mission to “create and sustain a vibrant community of healthy individuals, sustainable local food systems, and thriving cooperative commerce.”
A few numbers help tell the story of this past year:
- Our membership grew to 10,454, which is the equivalent of about 18% of the population of Washington County.
- We doubled our community donations and sponsorships to $77,345 last year. Much of that support went to the Montpelier Food Pantry and Vermont Food Bank as our community responded to the hunger crisis heightened by the pandemic.
- Together, shoppers purchased $12.9 million in organic products, $11.8 million in fresh foods, and $9.3 million in local products (retail value) from the Co-op last year, helping to sustain our network of Vermont vendors.
- At year-end, 100% of our employees were earning at least the Vermont Livable Wage. The Co-op offers exemplary benefits, including excellent medical, dental, and vision insurance, generous paid time off, paid breaks and holidays, a 401(k) retirement program with matching contributions, a shopping discount, a gain-share bonus program, and for virtually the entire year an essential worker pay raise of $2 per hour. It is no surprise that 30% of our employees have worked at the Co-op for ten years or more.
- We continue to support cooperative development. Our investment in other co-ops and associated loan funds grew to $630,535 and 6% of store sales were from the products of other co-ops.
Given the challenges of the past year, we should be especially proud of these results and the benefits that our co-op generates for our community. I hope you can join us to hear more about this impact and more at this year’s Annual Meeting on November 4 at 6 pm. You are also invited to join one of our online member roundtable discussions for a more intimate opportunity to ask questions and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you.
Have a great rest of your Co-op Month!
Kari Bradley, General Manager
Proclamations are official forms of recognition issued by the Governor to call attention to a specific cause or event. Governor Phil Scott has proclaimed October 2021 as Co-op Month in Vermont. Click to view the official proclamation.