Five myths about co-ops

Spring and summer have provided many opportunities for meaningful conversations with Elgin area residents about our mission to create a cooperatively owned grocery in the heart of Elgin. Lots of folks are excited about linking consumers to affordable, healthy, locally produced food, fostering sustainable agriculture, and contributing to the economic and cultural vibrancy of the Elgin community! 

At this year’s Spring picnic, Elgin Pride Festival, Elgin’s Juneteenth Cultural Festival, and the downtown Elgin Farmers Market, we’ve enjoyed speaking with people who are excited to learn more and become part of Shared Harvest.

For those who haven’t held membership at other co-ops, or for whom a co-op grocery is a completely new idea — here are some common myths that we shared at Gail Borden Public Library presentation back in March: 

Myth #1: I have to be a member in order to shop there.

FACT: All are welcome to shop at nearly all grocery co-ops which are open to the public, just like any other grocery store. The difference is a co-op is owned by its community members. And if you enjoy shopping there, you may want to learn more about benefits of membership.

Myth #2: Co-ops are expensive and only sell organic food.

FACT: Co-ops offer monthly specials, coupons, and case order discounts to help trim costs. Many offer classes on shopping on a budget and offer affordability programs. Concern for Community is one of the seven cooperative principles that most co-ops use to put their values into practice.

Myth #3: Being a member means I’ll have to work there, or join the board, or volunteer (things I’m not sure I want to do).

FACT: Co-op members are certainly welcome to get involved by running for the board or attending events, but these aren’t requirements by any means. All you really need to do is enjoy shopping at your co-op. Beyond that, participation is up to you.

Myth #4: Membership requires an annual fee.

FACT: Most co-ops ask owner-members for a one-time investment of a small amount of money in the form of shares. Owning a share makes you a co-owner of the co-op along with other members.

Myth #5: Only vegan/vegetarian hippies shop at a co-op.

FACT: Anyone can shop at a co-op and experience affordable, healthy, locally produced food and products and support our local and regional economy. ALL ARE WELCOME!

For additional reading on co-ops, we recommend Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants by John Steinman. The book’s website has many additional reading resources as well, including This Could Be Ours, a photo album of over 270 images of consumer-owned grocery stores from across the US and Canada, designed to inspire our community’s dream to have its very own retail food co-op.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Shared Harvest shareholder, follow this link — and thanks for reading!

Become a Co-op Owner

While Shared Harvest will welcome everyone to shop, becoming an owner means so much more. Learn about the benefits of co-op ownership and consider joining us today!

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