October is National Co-op Month and this year’s theme is ‘By the Community, For the Community’. If this doesn’t sum up the nature of a co-op precisely, I don’t know what does. I wish this celebratory month had a butterfly as its symbol because that is how I feel the community and the Co-op grow and dance with each other in a continuous cycle.
Born from the dreaming and co-operation of a group of community members, the Springfield Food Co-op has developed and changed, experiencing different phases, some of which were difficult, but always the support and desire of the community has helped their Co-op to the next phase.
Follow us on our butterfly journey…
Eggs: A scattering of tiny precious eggs made the beginning of the Co-op we know now. Pre-order Co-operatives or Buying Clubs were very present in the Springfield area in the 1970s. Made up of individuals interested in buying items in bulk they would gather together their orders to meet the minimum requirement of a distributor. A store front called The Pantry opened downtown to make excess bulk available to more of the public, accompanied by a handful of other items. Unfortunately it did not end up being successful, but the eggs were still there.
Caterpillar: And then the Springfield Food Co-op hatched! With a life of its own, a board of directors was formed from the continued desire to make healthful and more socially responsible alternatives available to the community. The Chester Road location was opened and continued to be successful for 13 years! After those 13 years the Co-op was notified that they had to vacate the building without enough time to relocate. This resulted in the selling off of stock, the closing of their Chester Road doors, and a retreat into a place of waiting and hope.
Chrysalis: Though the wait looked to be long, it amazingly only took 8 months and a generous amount of help from volunteers to procure the Springfield Food Co-op’s new and current home on River Street. It has been a beautiful residence in which we have transformed and grown, carrying a huge variety of products which have multiplied over the 13 years we have been in this location. Did you know that 29% of our product purchasing in 2019 to date was local, meaning it comes from within a 100 mile radius of community? Or that we have over 200 local vendors? Not only are the local products important to us, but also those from communities farther afield trying to do the right thing with products that are exotic to our lands and frequently grown, harvested, and transacted in unfair and wrong ways. Our wonderful home is bursting at the seams and we are dying to supply more of the goods of our community to the community.
Butterfly: Our dreams of becoming a downtown source of healthy food and a community building block can be seen through the chrysalis walls, in fact the walls are disappearing and the wings are beginning to spread. We haven’t fully inhabited this form yet, but it is a certainty of our future that we must grow and expand in order to continue to fulfill our Mission to:
“…operate as a member-owned store that provides healthy, natural foods, emphasizing local and organic products in keeping with the International Cooperative Principles and Values.”
As a result of all that we do, there will be:
- An enriched community life among our members and beyond;
- Accessible wholesome food options as inexpensively as possible;
- An increase in production, consumption and use of local organic and sustainable products;
- A stronger local economy;
- A better-educated community of consumers; and
- A workplace community where employees are valued and treated equitably.
The best part is this joyous butterfly form is not a final destination. It is a stage to be savored on our journey which we hope will never end, but continue winding through adventure after adventure which we would love for everyone to experience with us and be a part of.