Trends of locally sourced food and sustainable practices have some Utahns working to create a grocery store owned by the customers.
250 cooperative grocery stores are in operation across the U.S. and 150 are in development, including one in Utah.
Barbara Pioli is a member owner, board member and development coordinator for the Wasatch Co-op Market. She got involved eight years ago and said much of the growth has happened in the last few years. The store isn’t built yet, that’s because the member owners have to hit benchmarks before they move to the next step.
“We just passed the 600 member owner benchmark, which means that we can start looking for a location for the store,” Pioli said. “In the last 18 months we’ve grown by nearly a third of our current membership.”
The efforts to build a co-op are in response for a growing trend across the nation for locally sourced food and sustainable farming practices. While there may be a disconnect between farmers and consumers, Pioli said more people want to know where their food comes from.
“Our member owners have very clearly stated that our mission is to support local farmers and producers, but also support sustainable practices for building a healthy community overall,” Pioli said. “That means we want products in the store that are both good for us or health, but also good for the environment. That’s in our DNA.”
Jodie Grant is the chair president of the Wasatch Co-op. After shopping at a co-op in Boise and studying its impacts on the community, Grant wanted something similar in her home state of Utah. She found out that others had already started.
Supporting local farmers is one of the top priorities, but Grant said there are some things you just can’t grow in Utah.
“For instance bananas or some of things kinds of things that you just can’t get in Utah,” Grant said. “You would still be able to purchase them at our co-op and we do that through the National Cooperative Grocers Association which gives us buying power.”
Grant said wherever the food is grown, the information about the food and the farmer will be at the stores to help bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.