More Options for More People
With the cost of food rising 4 to 7 percent a year, affordable food is rapidly disappearing from the commercial marketplace. A new food co-op under development aims to fill this gap. A group of dedicated people has been meeting for many months. Their guiding principle is that the availability of high-quality, nutritious, reasonably priced food will only come from the cumulative actions of individuals who expand the market for local food production. The Santa Fe Community Co-op intends to grow its own organic food, using energy and water-efficient technologies and to buy from local farmers.
Small-scale, local ownership encourages self-help and reciprocal relationships, promoting local economies and social development. Due to their size and commitment to mutual support, both internally and across cooperatives, more stable economies are created. Cooperatives hold the potential for transforming local economies.
Although food cooperatives do exist in New Mexico, they don’t all have the same form. For example, La Montañita Co-op has membership, yet members do not work in the store. As more co-ops form with diverse structures, there will be more options for more people. The Santa Fe Community Co-op intends to provide low-cost food with a small amount of labor provided by each member.
Natural-food grocery stores, both corporate and local, typically mark up food from 45-to-100 percent. The model being used by the Santa Fe Community Co-op is the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, N.Y. That co-op lowers the markup to 21 percent. One of the top five independent grocery stores in the country, the Park Slope co-op, saves shoppers 20-to-40 percent per year. At the outset, the SF Community Co-op’s markup will be 29 percent. The co-op’s intention is to reduce this over time.
In some regards, food co-ops and employment-creating co-ops are examples of returning to the old ways. Recognition of the early roots of cooperative concepts is appropriate when looking at northern New Mexico. Native Americans have practiced the pooling of labor and redistribution of resources as an economic form for thousands of years. In some local tribes, extended families still work this way. Hispanic communities have also traditionally practiced many forms of collaborative work, such as the acequia system and the sharing of seeds.
Today’s co-ops are owned by their members and managed by democratic voting—balancing financial viability with the needs of members and their communities. The full participation of members in the cooperative’s operations promotes the co-op’s economic and social development through elimination of profits for those who are not members, collective involvement in determining working conditions and pay, environmental stewardship and social networking. In other words, cooperatives embody and foster a true sense of community.
The Santa Fe Community Co-op’s 5-Year Goals
1. Establish a sustainable community food cooperative in Santa Fe
2. Establish a small farm with a solar-powered greenhouse
3. Create a community composting facility for farms and gardens
4. Establish satellite outlets in outlying communities
5. Provide outreach and subsidies to support food equity
You can help make possible the co-op’s planned fall, 2014 launch:
Pay an annual $25 membership fee, make a one-time $100 pledge and fulfill the co-op’s work requirement: currently two 3/4 shifts every four weeks. All adults over 21 in each household must join. You can pay the full amount or sign up for monthly or quarterly installments. The first year’s $25 membership fee is being waived for the first 400 founding members. You can join at one of the co-op’s regular community meetings or through its website. For more information, email email@example.com or visit
Susan Guyette, Ph.D. is of Métis heritage (Micmac Indian/Acadian French) and a planner specializing in cultural tourism, cultural centers, museums and native foods. She is the author of Sustainable Cultural Tourism: Small-Scale Solutions;Planning for Balanced Development, and the co-author of Zen Birding: Connect in Nature.firstname.lastname@example.org