Harvest Co-op In Trouble, Needs $300K:

But Here's What You Can Do

The Harvest Co-op might be forced to close this summer, according to the board. Here's how to save it.

JAMAICA PLAIN, MA — The Harvest Co-op Market may close in August unless it can scrape together $300,000. That's according to a letter the co-op board president Lydia Peabody sent out this week to members and the community. There is some hope, she said, but it involves you.

"We can work together and have the opportunity to make the Co-op successful," said Peabody in the letter.

Peabody said that 50 member-owners met in April and came up with a plan to keep the Co-op going in the short term, including upping the number of local, natural and organic foods it stocks, according to the letter. 

Peabody also suggested seven ways shoppers could help save the beloved Co-op, including just shopping more there, using cash and buying more bulk items, prepared foods, supplements and body care items. Another idea was to buy a $200 Harvest gift card, but not use it for a couple of years.

Wednesday afternoon there was no sign at the JP location that indicated anything was out of sorts. Shoppers still showed up grabbing grab and go items from the deli section, other shoppers perused the frozen food isle, which was packed with everything from Annie's Organics to Los Tres Papusas. In the cereal isle a woman was scooping bulked items into a bag as she chatted with a man wearing a Harvest Co-op T-shirt chatted.

That duo seemed to be aware of the letter and told Patch they were all for getting behind the suggestions in the letter, while others told Patch they hadn't heard the news.

"I come here every day," said Sarah Ruprecht on her way out of the market back to work across the street with a snack. "I'd be so sad if that happened. It's where I go to get my lunch."

Others agreed. Shirley Cruz was just walking out with her lunch said when Harvest came to 3815 Washington Street near the Forest Hills T stop, she was excited because it was so close to where she worked, at a place where food options are limited.

It appears that the news would impact both the Cambridge and the JP locations.

Harvest Co-op is a community-owned cooperative food market specializing in natural, organic, local, fair trade and commercial food.

It started in 1971, as The Boston University Student Union Food Co-op as a way to pre-order bulk food coop where all members lent a hand rather than having a staff out of a "run-down, old, forgotten gas station" on Comm Ave in Alston.

The Co-op came out of the environmental movement of the late 60s and early 70s and has seen ups and downs throughout the past four decades.

The Co-op grew, hired hired a staff, started a recycling program and offered cooking classes as membership rose to the point they couldn't accept any more members for a year. Some Co-op members opened a separate business called the Cambridge Food Co-op to be a cooperative market for low income residents of Cambridge, and to encourage multi-cultural participation that later turned into the Cambridge Harvest in the early 1980s and the two spaces joined forces in the early 90s.

It wasn't until 1993 that the markets started actually making money.

The Allston store relocated to JP in the space formerly occupied by the old Arborway Natural Foods store in 1998. And in 2012 opened a new store at 3815 Washington St., part of Arboretum Place on the Jamaica Plain – Roslindale line.

But in early 2015, the lease on the South Street Store in JP was set to come up and although they tried, the Co-op couldn't convince the landlord to let them stay. The South Street Harvest closed April 12, 2015, according to the Co-op website.

Peabody's letter on how to help:

Dear Harvest Community, 
In case you missed General Manager Brian Peat's email earlier this month, Harvest has been losing money for the past few years. 
We are at a critical juncture--our financials indicate that Co-op will close by August if we cannot bring in $300,000 in a blend of increased profits, member equity, and contributions. 
Our 90-day Plan
Over 50 member-owners came together in April for an event that led the Board to approve a short-term plan to buy us the time we need to become the thriving Co-op our community deserves. Our plan focuses on increasing our emphasis on local, natural, and organic foods; devoting more resources to marketing and community organizing (including hiring a new community & membership organizer); and raising the capital we need to strengthen our Co-op.

Although we want the Co-op to succeed, we recognize that bringing in a quarter of a million dollars in a couple of months is an ambitious task. Unless you step forward. Each person who steps forward and commits to the Co-op's success will significantly increase the likelihood that we will survive this and become a wonderful, sustainable, diverse, nourishing Co-op.
So we are asking you to make a decision. 
Decide whether you are willing to work hard, now, to keep a food Co-op in your city. Decide whether you are willing to commit financially to keeping Harvest going. 
If you decide yes, we can work together and have the opportunity to make the Co-op successful. If you and other members decide no, then we need to say goodbye to Harvest Co-op, for it will not survive the summer. 

How You Can Help 
Change your shopping to help Your Co-op
  1. Pay off your equity payment early.
  2. Buy more bulk items, prepared foods, supplements, and body care items.
  3. Shift more of your shopping to the Co-op (especially the items listed in #2).
  4. Buy a $200 Harvest gift card and pledge not to use it for the next 18-24 months.
  5. Scan your member card each time you shop.
  6. Make your purchases with cash.
  7. Introduce members of your community to shopping at Harvest.
Commit your time and energy to our effort
1. Apply to be (or help us find) our new community & membership organizer!

2. Contact Adam Frost, Board Outreach Coordinator, to find out how you can make a difference now, and so we will know we can count on you as our community organizer gets going. Email Adam with your name, member number, and phone number.

We're looking forward to working on this together. Thank you in advance for your willingness to commit to our Co-op. 
Lydia Peabody, Board President on behalf of the Harvest Co-op Board of Directors
By Jenna Fisher, Patch Staff | May 23, 2018 
Photo of Harvest Co-op Jamaica Plain by Jenna Fisher
Jamaica Plain Patch https://bit.ly/2IIRUal

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