What is a Co-op?

What is a Co-op?

Every dollar that is spent at Common Ground goes right back into supporting our store, our staff, our community partnerships, and our local farmers and producers. When you shop at Common Ground, you are making a commitment to strengthen our community.


A Co-op is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.


Cooperatives make business decisions based on their values. Self-help, self-responsibility, equality, equity, and solidarity are the guiding values that forward cooperative organizations. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative owners believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. 


Common Ground is part of a larger, international community of Co-ops that are an important force for economic democracy. There are consumer Co-ops (food, housing, rural electric power, credit unions), producer Co-ops (farming, fishing), and worker Co-ops (carpenters, mechanics). There are Co-ops for housing, daycare, health care, farm supplies, insurance, tourism, and more. A primary Co-op has human beings for members; a secondary Co-op has whole co-ops for members. It is estimated that more than 750 million people in the world are members/owners of one or more Co-ops. Common Ground is a primary consumer Co-op.


Developed over almost two centuries of cooperative businesses, Co-ops around the world are guided by eight principles by which they put their values into practice.

Voluntary Ownership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of ownership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.


At Common Ground, everyone is welcome to become an owner. We have a variety of options to assist with paying your equity, and you can cancel your ownership with a full refund at any time.

Democratic Owner Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their owners, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Cooperative owners have equal voting rights (one number, one vote).


Common Ground owners elect our Board of Directors, nominate and vote for our monthly Round Up For Good recipients, and are always encouraged to share their ideas and concerns with our staff and Board.

Owner Economic Participation

Owners contribute equitably to the capital of their cooperative. Owners usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of the ownership. Owners allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: reinvesting in their cooperative, returning to owners in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative, providing owner services, and supporting other activities approved by the owners.


A one-time $60 equity payment grants you an ownership share in Common Ground.

Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their owners. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their owners and maintain their cooperative autonomy.


Common Ground is not controlled by a CEO or corporation. We accept input from our Owners, and frequently reach out to staff before making any significant changes in policy or procedure. We strive to be as democratic as possible in all realms of our business.

Education Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their owners, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperation.


Our Flatlander Classroom was instituted in 2011 and has offered hundreds of classes to Owners and other community members. We focus on providing information and resources about food issues in our community and on a global scale. Topics include cooking classes, solar power, wellness, and foraging.

Cooperation Among Co-ops

Cooperatives serve their owners most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.


We sell products from a number of other Co-ops around the world including Organic Valley, Equal Exchange, and Frontier. We support other Co-ops nationwide and have assisted in helping up and coming Co-ops get started.

Concern For Community

While focusing on owner needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies and programs approved by the Co-op’s owners.


Each month, our Round Up For Good program provides thousands of dollars to a local organization selected by our Owners. Your generous donation dollars go directly back into helping our community. Common Ground also showcases local artists in our Art Gallery, helping them achieve wider recognition and transforming our store into a cultural hub.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Cooperatives seek to incorporate diversity, perform equitably and ensure inclusion at all levels of their organizations to better serve members, show members they are valued, and ensure members receive equitable service.


Cooperatives believe we are stronger when a proactive effort is put forth to engage everyone in governance, management and representation.