Why Join The Co-op?

Why Join The Co-op?
by Alex Kent

People often ask me, "What is the benefit of joining the co-op?" I would answer this way: At all too many of the places where we do our shopping (including the online shopping world), we customers are viewed as little more than consumers, and as consumers we have little say in how stores are run. Sure, we can take our business elsewhere, and savvy retailers will respond by changing the product mix, redesigning the store, and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure that customers keep on coming in to shop.  The beauty of a co-op is that, from its creation, its construction, and its operation, members have both the right and the responsibility to speak up and say how the co-op ought to be run.
 
That sounds a lot like what it takes to be a good citizen.
 
David Ahlfeld, one of the earliest members of the Amherst Community Co-op and now our newest steering committee member, has said,
 
"We citizens need more practice at creating cooperative institutions.  The Market has gotten very good at gauging needs and interests and then quickly creating products and services.  The average citizen can live without ever engaging with their community to create something.  It is all just provided, from afar, at a price.  The culture is diminished as a result.  What a great opportunity the co-op provides to practice these skills."
 
A cooperative is made up of the very community it serves and it is governed by representatives of that community. Its success is measured by the degree to which it is inclusive of all the members of the community. In short, a cooperative is an excellent place to practice that most basic duty of a citizen: individuals participating and working toward the greater good of their neighborhoods, their communities, and ultimately their country.  The Amherst Community Co-op will give everyone in the community quite literally the chance to design our own market, and beyond that, it will be a priceless opportunity for people to develop the habits of citizenship.
 
By joining the Amherst Community Co-op, you cast your vote as a member of the community that wants more autonomy, more of a say in what our town's market sells. By joining, you are telling our prospective lenders -- the financial institutions and foundations that will play an indispensable role in actually building the store -- that our community really wants its own market and is prepared to support it. Let's join together to build a market that is truly representative of our community's values!

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Amherst Food Co-op
A start-up worker- and consumer-owned food co-op in Amherst, MA