- What is a co-op?
- Why do locally-minded, conscientious consumers want a co-op in Doylestown?
- How would a co-op in Doylestown benefit local farmers?
- What kinds of products can I find at the Doylestown Co-op?
- What happens when the growing season is over?
- Exactly how local is “local?” What if local supply is inadequate for co-op demand?
- I already shop at the farmer’s market, Del Val, None Such, Tabora, etc. Will the co-op be competing with these other established local food sources?
In general, a co-op is a business that is owned and governed by its members. A co-operative business is one whose primary goal is to serve its member owners by providing services or goods that are otherwise unavailable or to provide them at a lower cost than otherwise available. A retail food co-op is a grocery store that provides a variety of foods and services to its members and often to the community in general. Just as in any other co-operative business, a food co-op is owned and governed by its members (via a board of directors).
The Doylestown Co-op is being designed to provide a unique service that other businesses do not provide: one-stop, convenient access to the wide and abundant variety of foods grown and produced within a short driving distance (approximately 100 miles) of Doylestown, PA.
Why do locally-minded, conscientious consumers want a co-op in Doylestown?
Starting a co-op requires time, capital, and a whole lot of work, but the rewards are many. Because the focus of a co-op is to satisfy the needs of its member-owners, rather than to increase its profitability for the benefit of a single owner or business partnership, co-ops can, and must, look beyond the “bottom line” when making business decisions. For example, food co-ops historically have worked well with local farmers and food producers, whose smaller product lines, seasonality, and smaller crop yields may be unappealing to large chain supermarkets. Chain supermarkets rely upon a centralized distribution system that is less time and labor-intensive than an ordering and receiving system that services a variety of small, local accounts.
It often makes more “bottom line” sense to a chain supermarket to sell foods raised all over the world than to obtain the same products that are available just a few miles away from the store. Not so with co-ops. Because they are community-owned, food co-ops have a local sensibility. They are not held accountable to any central office. As long as the co-op can operate with sound business and financial practices, co-ops are free to explore unique ways of satisfying its member-owners’ needs.
The hope of the Doylestown Co-op is to get as many local foods in one place, at one time, as possible, so that our community has a reliable, convenient means of accessing these outstanding products.
How would a co-op in Doylestown benefit local farmers?
For our local farming community, the co-op will provide a stable, reliable, and convenient means of distribution of their products. We all know that farming is hard work. But when farmers are also taxed with marketing, distribution, and sales work (which also coincides with the labor demands of the growing season), farming can be downright daunting! Our food co-op will ease some of these demands for our farmers and food producers, allowing them to spend more time raising high-quality and ethically produced food and less time trying to get it to our tables.
What kinds of products can I find at the Doylestown Co-op?
Our community co-op stocks a wide variety of high quality, seasonal, and locally produced foods. We are so fortunate to live in an area with dozens of local farms and businesses that produce everything from traditional and heirloom fruits and vegetables to pastured meats (beef, pork, bison, duck, chicken, turkey, lamb, and mutton) and eggs, fresh milk and aged cheeses, freshly roasted fair-trade organic coffee, bread and other baked goods, soap, flowers, and more! In addition to these local products, the co-op provides members with access to bulk foods, such as grains and flours, nuts and dried fruits, cereals and pasta. We also stock natural and organic packaged foods and health and beauty products.
What happens when the growing season is over?
Because the focus of our store is on locally produced foods, our access to fresh fruits and vegetables will naturally be limited over the winter. Fortunately, a number of our farms continue to produce or else store their harvest over the winter. The co-op will continue to have access to fresh greens as well as storage crops, such as apples and potatoes. Meat and dairy items, eggs, and canned products will also be available over the winter. In addition, the co-op will continue to stock bulk and dry goods, and, depending on member interest, we will be able to contract with growers outside of our region to supply our members with natural or organic produce throughout the winter months.
Exactly how local is “local?” What if local supply is inadequate for co-op demand?
The primary goal of the co-op is to provide a convenient means for our members to access the products produced within approximately 100 miles of Doylestown. Therefore, we will always look as close to home as possible to supply our members with the products they want. Members will always have a say in the products the co-op supplies, and there may be times we have to look outside our preferred 100 mile radius to meet member demand. However, because the mission of the store is to provide convenient access to locally produced foods (rather than, say, to build a full-service grocery store), our preference will be to work with our local farms and producers to help them meet demand, rather than search elsewhere.
I already shop at the farmer’s market, Del Val, None Such, Tabora, etc. Will the co-op be competing with these other established local food sources?
We intend for the co-op to work collaboratively with our area’s established food sources. We think it is wonderful that you can buy Tabora cookies and Crossroads Bakeshop breads any day of the week right here in Doylestown. Just as you find Hendrick’s cheese at Altomonte’s, Penn View milk at Del Val, Meadow Brook beef at Tabora, and White Star hydroponic butterhead at None Such, so too our co-op stocks other businesses’ products for our members to buy. We are trying to increase convenient access to local foods, not limit it!