The Food Shed Co-op – a local grocery store where consumers are owners and decision makers – is gaining momentum in McHenry County. Learn about the perks of ownership, progress that's been made and what is still needed to break ground on the store.
It’s only a matter of time – as well as members and cash – before The Food Shed Co-op grocery store opens its doors in McHenry County. With more than 130 owners and a rate of five to 10 new owners weekly, The Food Shed is gaining momentum every day. This news is much to the delight of folks wanting to spend their dollars on healthier, fresher, locally sourced food that is produced ethically on farms close to home.
The Food Shed is a small part of a large global food movement and one of many cooperatives that have opened in the United States recently. Think of a food co-op as a year-round farmers market where quality control and decision-making is in the hands of consumers instead of corporations.
So how does it work? The food cooperative model is a community-owned grocery store that will operate according to the 7 Cooperative Principals and according to what its owners want.
Two shares of stock ($100 per share) must be purchased to become an owner. Owners have a stake in what is stocked on the shelves of the Food Shed Co-op when it opens.
The Food Shed has made great strides in fewer than two years since a dozen residents met to discuss a community-owned grocery store. In October 2014 alone, the owners elected their first board of directors and won a $20,350 grant from the USDA to fund a feasibility/market study, which will help determine store size and exact location within McHenry County. Woodstock and Crystal Lake are being considered.
Market study results – along with a financial analysis The Food Shed expects to have completed by the end of this year or very early next year – will provide the data to make educated decisions on narrowing down the location, how large the store should be, how much money we need to raise and number of owners needed.
The Food Shed’s goal of 215 owners by the start of 2015 is looking good. And once that goal is reached, there will be a new one until it reaches the 800 to 1000 members generally needed to get a store underway. The $1 million to $1.5 million needed to build a store comes from owner equity loans, grants, etc. It’s an exciting time for McHenry County consumers longing for control over their food choices.
Volunteers like Ryan and Katrina Ellison (at the McHenry County Fair) are needed to help spread the word about The Food Shed Co-op.
Bigger Picture of Co-ops
I’m involved with The Food Shed Co-Op because business as usual in regard to the environment, our food supply and consumption in general is neither sustainable nor desirable. Food co-ops like The Food Shed, on the other hand, provide the following benefits:
-A channel to take our global thoughts, joys and concerns and put them into action locally.
-A way for families and individuals to shop for the food we need and leave a smaller footprint on the planet, compared to where we buy food now.
-A vehicle to understanding the climate and social impacts of the foods we choose to put into our baskets.
-A way to connect communities in our increasingly disconnected world. For example, some envision the Food Shed as a destination for education (e.g., cooking classes) and a space for music, community events and group meetings. The possibilities are endless, which is why new members and volunteers are so important – to continue adding to the dialogue as we grow and eventually break ground. We hope you join us!
Scott Brix is a member of the board of directors of The Food Shed Co-op. He owns Wildzyme Bioproducts Inc., a Woodstock company that provides technical service and bulk sales of industrial enzymes and probiotics for food, beverage and nutrition applications. He lives in rural Marengo.