This year's co-op conference gave an unusual "milestone" award by recognizing a generation of food co-ops: ones that have recently reached age twenty-five. In those years, what has changed, what has been accomplished? Here's one view:
Then: Co-ops were heir to the ideals and methods of many earlier struggles (the 1960s lasted until about 1975). But co-op stores typically had no capital, no competition, no coffee or chocolate or carcasses, and no one in charge.
Now: Most co-ops have survived, most have changed. Business practices have gone from the theater of the absurd to the theater of food. Cooperators young and old have less hair and more grey hair, more ties and more tattoos. Since the early 1970s, these co-ops have created thousands of jobs, provided services to hundreds of thousands of coop members, generated millions of dollars in cooperatively owned equity, and realized hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. In their communities and far afield, they have had a major impact on sustainable agriculture and other issues; they have been living examples of democracy and cooperative ownership.
All of us who have been part of this history can be proud of these endeavors. They are an enduring contribution from an era whose agenda is still with us: can there be real democracy in this country?
Much remains to be achieved - especially in three directions touched on in this edition's pages:
- fulfilling more of our original and enduring social justice mission by reaching new communities needing co-ops;
- expanding the scope of programs exemplifying cooperation among co-ops including buying clubs, small and large retails, and other co-op sectors;
- improving our operating performance -- always essential for keeping members and potential members returning and keeping the co-op open.
Below are retail and wholesale food co-ops begun in 1970-1972 and recognized at the CCMA conference (compiled with Karen Zimbelman).
1970:Cleveland Food Co-op
Community Food Co-op / Bellingham
First Alternative Co-op
Good Day Market
Good Earth Co-op / St. Cloud
Kokua Co-op Market
Outpost Natural Foods
Whole Foods Co-op / Duluth
1971:Eastown Food Co-op
Fort Collins Food Co-op
GreenStar Co-op [Ithaca Real Food Co-op]
Harvest Co-op Supermarkets
Marquette Organic Food Co-op
New Pioneer Cooperative Society
North Country Co-op / Minneapolis
North Farm Co-op
People's Food Co-op / Ann Arbor
1972:Ashland Community Store
Bluff Country Co-op
Davis Food Co-op
Good Foods Co-op / Lexington, KY
Grain Train I Petosky, MI
Lexington Real Food Co-op / Buffalo
Onion River Food Co-op
Ozark Natural Foods Co-op
Port Townsend Food Co-op
Stevens Point Co-op