Food Co-ops a Growing Trend in Vermont

Riding the Latest Wave of the Cooperative Movement
A backhoe is clearing what will soon be the new face of the Morrisville Food Co-op. The project is located in the old Lambert Furniture store on Pleasant Street just off the village's main drag and has been in the works for the past five years.
"Our goal is to be a full-service, meaning that you can stop here and get everything you'll need for the family dinner, so that you'll be able to make a one-stop shop," said Nancy Banks, a member of the Morrisville Food Co-op's board.
Without even opening its doors, the co-op has signed up more than 600 member-owners who have contributed $200 each. It's part of the more than $800,000 it will take to open the co-op's doors sometime this fall.
With large Price Chopper and Hannaford supermarkets less than five minutes away, it might seem there's no scarcity of local shopping options. Co-op organizers say while their prices may not be cheaper, their focus on fresh, locally grown food will set them apart.
"They're getting food that, hopefully, has not been sitting around for two weeks. And they're getting food that's supporting-- most importantly-- the farming community that is so important in Northern Vermont," Banks said.
Morrisville isn't alone in its co-op efforts. Earlier this month, the community of Underhill celebrated its new community-owned grocery store after the Country Store's retiring owners agreed to work with locals to form a co-op. And in Barre, multiyear efforts continue to find a good location and attract members for what will be called Granite City Grocery, a $2 million effort that's already signed up more than half of the 1,200 paying members.
Co-ops started in the 1940s and have come in waves, like natural foods in the '70s. But this latest grass-roots effort is different.
"It's not a focus necessarily on natural foods, it's again about food access in the community-- a lot of them are being located in food deserts where corporations won't go in-- and also a big focus on local foods," said Kari Bradley of the Hunger Mountain Co-op.
Hunger Mountain and Burlington's City Market have helped foster these new startups, both financially and through donated expertise. Bradley says it's part of their mission.
"The more outlets we have for local foods, the better it's going to be for the local food economy," he said.
Back in Morrisville, local residents we spoke with are supportive.
"I think supporting the local farms is really important," said Megan Roy of Wolcott.
"It brings more people in and downtown is expanding, and it's looking up," said Ann Danforth of Morristown, who plans to shop at the co-op.
"I think it's very important, especially over here in Morrisville, it's very up and coming and we actually come up here from Stowe just to do things like shop," said Samantha Gilbert of Stowe.
Riding the latest wave of the cooperative movement.
May 26, 2016 4:14 PM EDT
by Alexei Rubenstein  

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