More Co-ops Are Needed


Why don’t places, like Santa Cruz, California, for example, have more co-ops outside of colleges and universities?!?

From the Wikipedia definition of a cooperative:

A cooperative (“coop“) or co-operative (“co-op“) is an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic, and cultural benefit.[1] Cooperatives include non-profit community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use its services (a consumer cooperative) or by the people who work there (a worker cooperative) or by the people who live there (a housing cooperative), hybrids such as worker cooperatives that are also consumer cooperatives or credit unions, multi-stakeholder cooperatives such as those that bring together civil society and local actors to deliver community needs, and second and third tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives.

I lived a good portion of my life in Minnesota where farmer co-ops are giant businesses, controlled by the member farmers, like Cenex and Land O’Lakes. Credit unions are member owned co-ops, act a lot like banks with checking accounts and car loans, and yet credit unions made only one-fourth the number of bad loans compared to the big banks.

Look at what Minneapolis is doing! From a Minneapolis Star Tribune article, “Co-ops boosting retail on Central Avenue in northeast Minneapolis”:

Dan Nordley, a small-business owner who is also a leader in the cooperative movement that has deep roots in Minnesota history, said the success on Central is positive across many fronts.

“Too much business is disproportionately driven by people who just want to make money on money,” he said. “This one is more about providing goods and services to a community that needs it for its general livelihood.”

Co-ops already have set up shop in two other buildings in the area. The first was a co-op grocery, Eastside Food, that opened 10 years ago this week and now boasts 4,475 members. In 2011, some of its members formed Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) to buy, rehab and manage commercial property. It’s now filling its first building at 2504-06 Central.

Co-ops are business owned by the members who shop there. What a great idea for taking control of your own, and community’s destiny when disillusioned with a cold, corporate approach.

I am partial to co-op food stores. There were many good stores in Minnesota like Lakewinds and The Wedge. The best part is they answer to the customer-owner, stocking food that is requested, particularly organic or non-GMO foods, strive for great customer service, and when the store turns a profit a dividend check is issued to each shareholder-customer!

I discussed this on KSCO Presents on November 13, 2013, in light of New Leaf Community Markets in the Santa Cruz area being bought buy a regional chain out of Portland, Oregon, which is owned by a private equity firm. And I wondered aloud on-air why the center of the fresh, local, produce world doesn’t have more co-ops.

We need to consider a nationwide movement of creating customer friendly, community focused businesses that serve the interest of the dual-role customer and shareholder.

What better way to signal Wall Street we are unhappy with their ways?


One thought on “More Co-ops Are Needed

  1. As I sit outside of New Leaf on the west side and ponder 8 dollar a pound Organic Snap peas and 8 dollar a pound prepared brown rice and Greens in the hot bar, and I watch week after week of Organic food prices rise again and again by outrageous percentages, I wonder the same thing you do. Where are the Co-ops. I have been thinking about this a lot for the past year or so as I see Washington say low or no inflation and the only thing I spend freely on, Organic food, rise astronomically in price, I am more and more moved to gather like minded folks and start a food co-op. I have worked in Food co-ops in Hawaii and Oregon and yes here in Santa Cruz. Did you know that New Leaf started as a Co-op on the west side in the old tin buildings by the railroad tracks? I worked there. You work a certain number of hour a week and you get Co-op prices. I know workers in places like new Leaf need a fair wage, IF, they are good workers, however when I see young healthy bright people walking around the isles with an uncomfortable look on their faces, knowing they need good food but hardly able to afford these prices, it tells me something is out of whack and needs fixing… Shall we start an Organic food Co-op Ethan?

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