People are always asking me how the Niagara Local Food Co-op got started.
When there could be a boring answer I am happy to say it wasn’t just a group who wanted to be different in a time when buying food online was unheard of.
We were different than anyone else at the time, but we weren’t trying to be. It just happened that way, sort of…
This is the boring part, but I will try to make it exciting…In 2007 a woman by the name of Yvette had applied for a grant to get a farmer’s co-op started, but grants take so long to get she hadn’t actually talked to any farmers yet. Simply put, she applied for a grant in hopes that she would get the funding. Kind of like the lottery; and she won!
Yvette quickly invited a group of farmers to meet to see if anyone was interested in this idea…or I should say, interested in the beginnings of an idea. We all agreed that there was a good idea somewhere and we took it upon ourselves to find that idea. Our common vision was simple…we wanted to find a convenient way to get locally grown and produced foods into the hands of local people.
This is where it gets interesting. The grant covered a co-op consultant who met with us and helped us to determine what kind of co-op we envisioned. There were 15 people at the table and we had 15 different ideas of what a farmer’s co-op should be. We all had completely different ideas ranging from having a farmer’s market with a cooperative business model to having a co-op grocery store…and a dozen ideas in between, but nothing really felt right.
One day the consultant emailed us to suggest we look up the Oklahoma Food Coop model. www.oklahomafood.coop
We all LOVED it! It had all the features we felt would work for us.
- online shopping which was becoming popular
- producers made retail prices instead of wholesale
- consumers got to select amazing produce picked fresh for them
- consumers could buy what they wanted, when they wanted, 24 hours a day…so much more convenient that running around from farm to farm to get their foods farm fresh
- farmers could actually FARM instead of sitting at a market trying to sell what they had already picked
I could go on, because I am really passionate about our co-op….
The grant also covered our travel costs to Oklahoma to see what it was like first hand. We went when it was really cold and Oklahoma was nice and warm. The travel team consisted of Yvette, Jan Campbell-Luxton, Chris Frere, Mario Pingue, Clayton Rosario, Beth Secord, and me, Linda Grimo. The seven of us had a wonderful learning experince and our Oklahoma hosts provided a plethora of valuable information.
We came home convinced it was the model for Niagara.
To make a long story short we opened our first shopping cycle in November 2008…and so it began.
Your first board members were:
- Chris Frere, President
- Yvonne Richard, Secretary
- Beth Secord and Linda Grimo, Co-Treasurers
- Jan Campbell-Luxton
- Mario Pingue
We were full of great ideas and put in a lot of hard work to set the foundation for things to come.
Ok, I know this isn’t a really exciting story, but it was a really exciting journey with a group of people who were truly passionate about local food and having the best our local farmers could provide.
I am so proud of how our co-op has grown and stayed true to our vision of getting local food into Niagara homes. Soon we will be growing again, but that’s another story for another time.