I don't know about you, but I think there's something really powerful about neighbors who come together to make their community better. For me, this plays out in a variety of ways. Most recently with food. For the last two years I've had a community garden plot in my neighborhood. It was started by a neighbor, funded by neighbors and allowed to exist on the private property of a neighbor. I've met really great people and have truly enjoyed being a part of that particular community project. And of course, I love the produce!
When I heard about the effort to start the Richmond Food Co-op, I got excited. What a cool idea! Neighbors were getting together to start a business that would provide local and wholesome foods while creating a community. A community. People who've been a part of a coop before probably understand this concept instantly. It took me a while to learn it.
My first food co-op visit occurred in Olympia, Washington over a decade ago. It was a "grocery store"...but not like a grocery store I'd ever been to. It was essentially the exact opposite of every SUPERmarket experience I've ever had. I remember walking up and down the aisles amazed at what was on the shelves. Really healthy things along with some stuff I'd never heard of, but I was sure it was good for me. And the idea that the members owned it! Wow! That blew my mind. The staff, the volunteers and the members (aka shoppers) all had an interest in making the co-op succeed and benefit the community in a way that just seemed fundamentally different to me.
My second experience with a food co-op on the campus of SUNY Binghamton was just as enlightening. Campuses are themselves interesting and dynamic communities but the food co-op was my preferred location. I could spend all day there meeting with students and doing work. The students who ran and supported the coop were really proud of their efforts (rightfully so). I was absolutely energized by being in their company.
So like I said, when I heard about folks looking to start a Richmond Food Co-op, I got excited. Healthy food, member owned, dynamic people! Sign me up! (As an aside, I'm apparently a slow decision maker. It took me a little while to write that check. But I knew I was going to do it.) And I did it. And I'm proud of it. I'm looking forward to meeting new neighbors and seeing where the power of collective community action takes us. See you at the Co-op!
-Emily Francis, Co-op Member/Owner