A unique type of business opened in Keene this April. It’s locally owned by over 1,500 community members. That’s right, over 1,500 individuals! It’s the Monadnock Food Co-op — a for-profit business created to meet our community’s need for more organic, local and healthy food choices and desire for a stronger local food system.
What makes a cooperative different from other business types? The people who use the business own the business, and they democratically elect a board of directors to do the governing. In years where the co-op earns a profit, the surplus is returned to its members, as a dividend check, or reinvested into the business.
Cooperatives follow common principles such as concern for community, voluntary and open membership, economic participation and cooperation among co-ops. This way of doing business serves its members and the local economy – for every dollar spent at a food co-op, $0.38 is reinvested in the local economy compared to $0.24 at conventional grocers.
While cooperatives are a unique business type, they’re not new to the Monadnock Region.
Credit unions are a type of cooperative. Just like the food co-op, it’s owned by the people who use the business. Members pool their money and lend it to each other, addressing their need for access to capital to grow their own business or invest in their home. Income earned by the credit union from these loans is returned to members through higher savings rates, lower loan rates and other products and services. One example in our region is the Cheshire County Federal Credit Union which started in 1959 Kingsbury Machine Tool Corporation employees. Now membership is open to anyone who “works, worships, or attends school” in Cheshire County. Find out more at http://www.cheshirecfcu.org or find the closest credit union to you at http://www.ncua.gov/NCUAMapping.
Individuals also benefit from housing cooperatives in the Monadnock Region. Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm is a cohousing community in Peterborough with 16 energy-efficient homes plus a common house and farm. They center their neighborhood on common values such as respect, environmental stewardship, openness and interdependence. Learn more at http://peterboroughcohousing.org. Another housing solution in our region is Base Hill Cooperative, to give individuals and families access to ownership of affordable housing. It’s a nonprofit manufactured home park in Keene. Members not only own their home, but the land that is sits on, allow them to build equity like other home owners. Learn more about Base Hill at http://www.basehillcooperativenh.com. Learn more about co-housing http://www.cohousing.org.
You don’t have to be a member to enjoy “the fruits” of many cooperatives. You may be harvesting these benefits when you shop. In the dairy aisle there’s Cabot Cheese, a dairy cooperative, owned by farmers since 1919. In the produce department and beverage aisle, Equal Exchange, a worker cooperative (owned by its employees) gives us access to fair trade products such as bananas, coffee, tea and chocolate from small farmer co-ops in developing countries. Stop into Hamshaw’s Lumber in Keene or Edmunds Hardware in Antrim and you’ll find yourself benefiting from another type of cooperative, a purchasing cooperative Ace Hardware. Members of Ace pool their purchasing power together to buy lower cost items to stock their shelves with, they’re independent businesses.
What other community need will be addressed with cooperatives? Access to health care? Worker unions?
Let’s celebrate the newest cooperative in our region. The Monadnock Food Co-op is open and their Grand Opening event, a week-long celebration, is scheduled for mid-June. To stay up-to-date, please sign-up for their E-Updates by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The co-op’s opening is the culmination of many volunteer hours, community support and member investment since early 2008. Over 1,200 Greater Keene citizens prioritized a food co-op as a top priority in the City of Keene Comprehensive Master Plan and close to 1,200 families have joined the Monadnock Food Co-op as Member-Owners, contributing over $100,000 in Member Equity and $800,000 in Member Loans to this start-up community owned business.
Where is the Co-op? The co-op’s address is 34 Cypress Street, next to Nicola’s Trattoria on Railroad Street. Go north on Main Street, turn right on Eagle Court (just before The Works Bakery & Café) and follow the road until you see the building on the right. Open seven days a week: And remember – everyone can shop, anyone can join!