|Image from the Willimantic Food Co-Op|
Let's back up and explain what a co-op is. It's what is sounds like - a cooperative, which implies input or cooperation among its members. Although they've been around for quite awhile, food co-ops have had quite the resergence in popularity with the whole foods/hipster/new-age patchouli-wearing hippie/collective action/community movements - whatever you want to call it - among 20- and 30-somethings (though, your age is not a requirement in shopping at them). A number of them are becoming more than just bulk buying clubs, but rather hubs for natural foods and community activism.
By becoming a member of a food co-op, you essentially become a part owner in the operation. You have a say in business practices and the type of inventory carried, among other benefits. Members receive additional discounts on food, year-end dividends, and, in most cases, are asked to volunteer as part of their membership.
What's so great about co-ops, specifically the Willimantic Co-Op? Well, a lot of things:
- Access to a wide array of whole and natural foods at discounted rates to both members and non-members alike.
- An amazing selection of bulk grains, flours, grains, herbs, etc., and organic and/or local produce.
- A warm, welcoming environment with people who want to work and volunteer there, and often share similar ideals on environmental sustainability, human and animal rights and a commitment to good, fair food.
- Reasonable membership fees and flexible payment options.
- As a member (and, sometimes, non-member), you often have access to in-store demonstrations, workshops, and lectures.
- You save money! (Click on the comparison guide when you click on the page.)
Want to learn about co-ops or at least find one in your area? NOFA's current issue of "The Natural Farmer" has a terrific article on co-ops that's worth the read. To find a co-op in your state, check out this directory from the Organic Consumers' Association. And, if you're really interested, order a copy of the National Co-op Directory.
**Willimantic Food Co-Op: 91 Valley St., Willimantic, CT 06226; 860.456.3611. Hours: M - F: 9-8; Sat.: 9-6; Sun.: 10-5