We did it! All of us, together, the staff, the board, the shoppers, and all the owners of CGFC, survived the chaos of construction and celebrated throughout the grand opening festivities in February. It’s now easier than ever to lose yourself in the colors of the produce and the aromas of the kitchen, to pick up tasty local food and beverages for a gathering of family or friends, to meet a friend for a cup of coffee whatever the weather, or to enjoy a class in the new Flatlander teaching kitchen.
But as I’m now reminded every time I shop, by the beautiful display above the registers, there is something even more amazing going on here. Unlike most grocery stores, this whole endeavor isn’t designed to make some person or some company rich. Instead we are all owners, to share in the success, and there is a broader set of ideals at play. Both the board of directors and the store management are tasked with meeting these four ends:
- The co-op is the center of a vibrant, inclusive community.
- The cooperative movement is strengthened.
- The co-op serves as an educational resource on food issues.
- Our local food movement is equitable, robust, and environmentally sound.
Since these ends are the guiding principles for CGFC, the board is often reflecting on them, and this month I’d like to share my thoughts on the fourth end. For me, the term local food movement encompasses food production, distribution, and consumption, not only at the coop but also more generally in the community. Thus the farmer’s market, the student sustainability farm at the university, and stores and restaurants featuring local food all contribute to the local food movement. So do people growing vegetables in their yard or gathering with their friends to share local food! Equitable means both paying a fair price or wage at all stages of the process and making local food accessible to people of all income levels. Robust means capable of surviving fluctuations, whether they be financial or weather-related, and requires diversity and redundancy in the system. Environmentally sound practices are those that build the health of the ecosystem rather than incurring a debt for subsequent generations to pay off.
Why is a local food movement important? A local food movement keeps money you spend on food in the local community, rather than sending it to a large corporation with no sense of place or concern for what happens to our community. Such dollars are more likely to be spent supporting other local businesses, and local businesses are less likely to make locally harmful decisions like moving production overseas. Local food production also reduces transportation and packaging, lowering the fossil fuel use associated with the food and reducing our impact on the environment. Because of shorter transit times, locally produced food can also be fresher, making it tastier and more nutritious.
How is CGFC working to meet this end? A few highlights of CGFC’s work towards this end: Both the number of local food producers supplying CGFC and the revenue going to those producers is increasing each year. CGFC was supplied by 27 local food producers in 2011, and has been working with many of these producers to expand the types and volume of local products that are available, as well as actively seeking new local suppliers through outreach to farmers. CGFC also hosts farm sampling and sales events and sponsors classes and discussions related to strengthening the local food chain.
Inspired to help? Consider distance in your food purchasing decisions, whether at CGFC, the farmer’s market, or at a restaurant. Participate in a gardening or bee or chicken-keeping class at the coop and put what you learn into action, making part of your own diet local in the extreme. Fill out a comment card with your ideas on how CGFC can build the local food movement. Invite friends to a St. Patrick’s Day party or a Think-Spring celebration featuring local foods.