I recently read an inspiring story in the Burlington Free Press about Phoenix Books, an innovative independent bookstore in Vermont that has managed to survive and thrive even in the era of monolithic online retailers. My favorite quote in the story comes from Mike DeSanto, who co-owns the business with his wife, Renee Reiner. “If the community is an organism,” Mike said, “then the bookstore or library can be viewed as a vital organ of that system.”
As a voracious reader, I certainly agree. I also believe this sentiment applies not just to community bookstores, but also to community food co-ops. Just as local bookstores nourish the mind, local food co-ops nourish the body, and local businesses nourish the community. Local businesses offer a level of trust and service that can’t be matched by the anonymity of a faceless online retailer.
I frequently write about our commitment to the local market, particularly local agriculture. Local accounts for a significant portion of our revenue and drives many of our programs and initiatives:
• Our advocacy work continues to build a vibrant network of farmers, business people, and elected and appointed officials, all of whom are working together to protect and further our local economy.
• Our support of Local First Alliance promotes neighboring small businesses throughout the Upper Valley.
• Our yearly Growers Meeting brings together area farmers in order to coordinate the growing season and ensure fair prices for crops.
• Our Pennies for Change program collects thousands of dollars each month in community donations from our members and shoppers, all of which goes to area nonprofits and our neighbors in need.
It’s easy to take from this that our Co-op supports local, but that’s not the way it is. Instead, the relationship is inverted. Allan Reetz, our forward-thinking, tenacious director of Public Affairs, puts it this way: “The Co-op doesn’t support local,” he says. “Local supports us.”
This holiday season, I want to thank all of our members for making our Co-op a vital local community resource. I hope you always remember that your support is doing good in the world and making our communities stronger. Want to talk more about it? Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open.