Thursday, November 8, 2007

We're Lucky to Have a Co-op!

Last night at Just Food Co-op a few of us sat around talking about Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver and her family spent a year growing their own food or trying as much as possible to purchase it from local producers. She mentions her local farmers' market as one great source, and clearly enjoyed getting to know the people she was buying her food from. But she didn't mention having a local co-op.

People all over the U.S. are excited about the notion of eating more locally -- to lessen the fuel burden of cross-country food transportation, to enjoy a sense of connection, season and place in relation to their food, and so on -- but in many areas it seems people depend on searching out and going directly to farmers to find their local products. Not that there's anything wrong with that itself, but it can take more energy and dedication than most of us have to seek out these local producers and buy from them individually. It makes it much easier when a local store or market, like Just Food, does that research and legwork and brings a variety of local foods to one easy location -- and provides a place where those local producers can sell their products, helping them stay in business.

We're lucky to live in one of the areas (MN-WI) where co-ops are most prevalent. I hadn't realized that in some regions they are not at all common. We're also fortunate that Just Food has a real commitment to supporting local farmers and producers, since some co-ops and natural food stores, while focusing on organically grown food, don't (yet) make local food a priority.

On another locavore blog, people were recently discussing how they find the local food they eat, and the fact that it can be quite difficult. Here's what I wrote:
I foresee that our local co-op will be my major source of local food throughout the winter, though our little farmers' market, which closes regular operations about now, does offer an occasional indoor winter market. The co-op is pretty committed to supporting local providers, so if there is something reasonable I'm looking for that they don't have in stock, I imagine they would have a good network for tracking it down, if it's available. If they weren't here, it would be a very different story. I "heart" my co-op!
And I do!


Rob Hardy said...

The loaves of bread I baked yesterday were made with a mixture of organic Swany White Flour from Freeport, Minnesota, and King Arthur Whole Wheat flour from Norwich, Vermont. Minnesota and Vermont are consistently at the top of Best States lists when it comes to quality of life, education, etc. I'm sure that co-ops (like the great co-ops in Northfield, MN and Middlebury, VT) are part of the equation. (As are tolerance, beautiful and well-managed landscapes, access to cross country skiing, and good public radio, among other things.)

Rob Hardy said...

P.S. Despite the MN and VT ingredients, when I slice my loaves, the slices are always shaped like the state of Wisconsin!