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So what’s a food co-op, anyway?

The Fredericksburg Food Co-op is proud to have taken fourth place among 16 popular national retailers in The Free Lance-Star’s 2018 retail “wish list” poll.

That’s a great showing, but still, a lot of readers are probably asking, “What is the Fredericksburg Food Co-op?”

The Food Co-op seeks to build a full-service grocery store in the Fredericksburg region.

That sounds pretty similar to the perennial winner of this poll, national grocer Trader Joe’s.

If you’ve longed for a Trader Joe’s to open in Fredericksburg, there are probably a lot of things about the Fredericksburg Food Co-op that you’ll like—a break from the usual big-box grocery experience, a chance to discover new and delicious foods and the opportunity to bring home food to your family that everyone can feel good about.

But there are also some important differences that might convince you to stop wishing and hoping and start taking some simple, concrete actions that will help make our store a reality.

1 – Local ownership, local control.

A food co-op is a special kind of business owned and controlled by its member-owners. Rather than seeking to maximize profits, cooperatives make decisions to maximize service to their owners and the community.

You don’t have to be an owner to shop at the Fredericksburg Food Co-op, but becoming an owner is one of the most helpful things you can do to move the Co-op closer to opening. As of January 2018, we have over 600 owners. We want to have at least 1,000 owners before we open our store.

Fredericksburg Food Co-op

2 – You’ll know exactly where our products come from.

Our focus will be on locally grown and locally sourced products. We will also offer a good selection of organic and natural foods and household products. We want to make it easier for Fredericksburg-area residents to enjoy local produce, meats, dairy and more.

3 – A food co-op is more than just a place to shop.

We’re not just building a business. We’re building a community.

You can participate now in cooking demonstrations, movie screenings and other events we’ve partnered with local organizations to host. (Check out our events calendar.) Once we open our store, we plan to offer more of these events, and be not just a place to shop, but also a gathering spot for people and ideas.

You’ll do a lot more than swipe your credit card here.

Fredericksburg Food Co-op

4 – Food co-ops strengthen their communities.

Co-ops exist primarily to benefit their owners—in this case, through providing good service, good products and good prices within a grocery store that can’t be bought by an unknown corporation or closed on the whim of an out-of-town owner.

And because ownership is local, the money spent at the co-op will stay right here in the Fredericksburg region.

But the benefits radiate far beyond that. Our Food Co-op will support local farmers and other local food producers. This in turn keeps more local land in agricultural use, which benefits not only our food system, but also our environment.

Concern for the community is one of the seven guiding principles of the cooperative movement, so food co-ops are honor-bound to operate with the well-being of their communities in mind. Historically, food cooperatives have been pioneers in the movement toward unprocessed foods, as well as fair trade and local foods–concepts that have now taken root in larger grocery chains.

5 – You can do something to make this happen.

We’re not waiting for a corporate VP to determine that the demographics of our region will maximize profits. We’re building our grocery store owner by owner, and we’re making progress! In 2017, we grew our ownership by more than 89 percent, ending the year with just under 600 owners. The two biggest things you can do to help us get to opening day are:

  • Become an owner. Households, businesses and other entities can purchase lifetime memberships for a single payment of $200.
  • Tell your friends. We know there are lots of people in the Fredericksburg region who would be interested in joining the Fredericksburg Food Co-Op but don’t know about us yet. Talk to your friends, bring them to an event, share our Facebook posts with them or forward them our e-mail newsletter. Help us spread the word!

Published January 25, 2018