Before I jump into this month’s article, I want to take a moment to give a shout out to our peer food co-op Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Congrats to another successful start-up food cooperative – one that’s provided a lot of support for our effort here in the Cedar Valley. (We love Cooperation among Co-ops!)
Speaking of starting a food co-op, did you know that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is getting close to announcing a site location? If all goes well, we should have an announcement by the end of the month. Keep watching our Facebook page for details!
In the meantime, it’s time to revisit an article I wrote a few years ago, The Top 6 Myths About the Food Co-op. I think it’s time to expand that list. So, without further ado, here are 6 additional myths about food co-ops and the Cedar Falls Food Co-op:
Myth #7: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is like the NewBo City Market
FACT: The NewBo City Market, located near the downtown in Cedar Rapids, is a space filled with separate businesses, operating much like a business incubator. In contrast, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is one business—a grocery store, which will purchase goods from local growers and producers, and sell those on their behalf. A better picture of what the Co-op will look like is in this video.
Myth #8: Because of its name, the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will only be for Cedar Falls residents
FACT: Anyone can shop the Coo-op! In fact, my wife and I shop at food co-op across the country, often going out of our way to visit food co-ops for lunch or to grab some food for the journey. Not only will the Co-op serve the entire Cedar Valley, it will generate tourism dollars from other folks who stop by on their way through town. Also, don’t forget that unlike businesses like Costco, you don’t have to be a member (or really, owner) to shop the Co-op.
Myth #9: The Co-op will be bad for the farmers markets
FACT: On the contrary, the Co-op will be a boost for the farmers markets. Between promoting/advocating the value of purchasing locally and providing the farmers with yet another outlet to sell their wares, food co-ops across the country work in collaboration with their local farmers markets. One of my favorite examples is the Neighborhood Co-op (Carbondale, IL), which hosts their community’s farmers market in its parking lot. Talk about synergy!
Myth #10: The Co-op will benefit from numerous grants
FACT: While it’s true that cooperatives are sometimes eligible for grants, and that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op was the beneficiary of one such grant ($300 for to help cover expenses to attend the annual food co-op conference), the reality is that grant opportunities are few and far between, especially for us here in Iowa, which doesn’t have as robust a cooperative infrastructure as many other states. Don’t forget that cooperatives are not nonprofits (see previous article).
Myth #11: It will be expensive to shop at the Co-op
FACT: Prices at food co-ops are competitive with conventional grocery stores. Sure, it’s true that the Cedar Falls Food Co-op will pay workers more than conventional stores, and will give back more to the community (as a percentage of its profits). (And it’s true that our prices might be a bit higher during our first few years after opening.) But the Co-op also benefits from being a member of a national organization and supplier, which will help make some prices even lower than the competition. But even if the prices were a bit higher, wouldn’t that be worth it if you factor in how much money is kept locally, how much co-ops nurture community, and how much co-ops benefit the environment? I thought so.
Myth #12: Opening the doors of the Cedar Falls Food Co-op is inevitable
FACT: The Cedar Falls Food Co-op is close to announcing a location, but that doesn’t mean there’s not much work left to do. In fact, the final stage of opening a $2.5 million business requires a lot of hard work. Many thanks to all the volunteers who’ve helped with this process so far. However, there’s much left to be done – if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves to help with governance, marketing, finance, or events, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much for reading this month’s column. Please let me know if you have other ideas for future articles.