We just got back from a wonderful weekend at the Circle Pines Center near Hastings, Michigan. This is cooperative retreat center located in the woods of central lower Michigan. We met with folks from other food co-ops around Michigan as well as folks from housing co-ops and worker co-ops. Folks came from as far away as Waterloo, Ontario and Durham, North Carolina. We had a very informative discussion of the current state of food co-ops with people who have been involved with food co-op management for years as well as people who are just starting food co-ops. We learned that there is a great deal of competition right now in the area of organic and natural foods, the very area that food co-ops developed! Now everyone is doing it! So what do food co-ops have to offer as the new, cutting edge niche? And perhaps more importantly to my rebel mind, why do the food co-ops always need to find a new niche? Why isn't our business model the dominant one and the "free" market capitalists the ones working around us? I hope these questions will generate some dialogue here. What are your thoughts? What do food co-ops offer today that makes us special? How can co-ops become a more important presence in the marketplace?
Linda Jones, Founder and Co-President.