Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Your Local Market Co-op: Joining the Movement

About a month ago a group of local-food-loving social entrepreneurs in Stratford followed through on the noble idea to create a downtown store where people could get quality local food every day at a price that was fair to the farmer and the consumer. 

These friends (above, left to right: Paul Roberts, Drea Kerr, Heather Walker, Chris Walker, and Kaitlyn Vere) sensed that the success of such a project would depend as much on social capital - the value produced when a community comes together around a goal - as it would on financial capital. I don't think they could have found themselves in a better place than Stratford to tap into the potential of community support for eating local... aptly, they adopted a co-operative business model for patrons as well and employees of Your Local Market Co-op to share in the benefits of sourcing and purchasing food for a collective.

I actually got to learn a lot about the co-operative food movement in Ontario on Friday when I spent some time with a few people who are experts in local food co-ops. Glen Valliere (left) manages purchases for the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, and he was accompanied by co-op developmental consultant Russ Christianson (centre) and Hannah Renglich (right) also from Ontario Natural Food Co-op. As part of a project that ultimately aims to create a network to support Local Organic Food Co-ops in this province, they are visiting 20 Ontario co-ops that grow, sell and/or support local and organic foods (sounds like a fun summer!). 

It turns out that the phenomenon of co-operative food projects is not completely unique to Stratford - it is part of a broader co-operative movement that has seen no less than six new food co-ops appearing in this province over the past year alone!

I'd be impressed if the other new operations were as well established after just one month as Your Local Market Co-op is already: the experts admired how far along - and busy! - the store was after being open only for a short time.

I took a look around the store and found everything from their house-baked bread (above, it's already become famous) to their selection of local dairy products, preserves, and seasonal fruits and veggies. 

It didn't take me long to make my decision: I went up to Drea (above) and demanded that she "Sign me up!"

My $120 subscription to Your Local Market Co-op entitles me to some real benefits: I get 10% off the already reasonable prices for groceries (see price list above), I get the newsletter and alerts when new products become available, and (I'm looking forward to taking advantage of this one now that pickling season is here) I get to share in the opportunity to buy bulk items at wholesale prices. The best place for people to keep up on Your Local Market Co-op's daily features is via their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The Twitter and Facebook updates will also tell you about the daily menu being served out of Your Local Market's lunch counter. World inspired street eats change all the time, and have so far included Thai menus as well as items like Ragin' Cajun Chicken Wraps and Nachos. I had a beautiful Honeyboy & Garlic Pork Wrap (above) that had some marinated sweet cress, roasted vegetables and a chipotle BBQ sauce that added good little bit of kick - a high quality handheld lunch for a great price.

Finding an alternative to the highly centralized, corporate, exploitative industrial food system has never been more delicious, and as co-op developer Russ Christianson pointed out, "The people are the best part".

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