Attending the "Up and Coming, Up and Running 2012" food co-op start-up conference March 9th and 10th, I was again proud of BCS stores and the teams of workers which make it all run smoothly. Of the sixty or so conference attendees, most were in the early stages of gathering member-owners and the financing needed to bring their co-op storefront dream into physical existence.
It made me realize again how many times we at BCS have struggled through obstacles, wondered how to find our way through complex problems and always come out better than we imagined. So much cooperation among staff, board, customers and the community is necessary in order to be successful.
Some of the start-up groups wondered if they would be able to compete with big box grocery stores as well as facing community fears that they might hurt the sales of local farmers' markets. It was great to be a shining example of being so supportive of our Bloomington farmers market that we actually arranged to have the mid-week market set up in the street adjoining our Near West Side store.
Having been in existence as BCS since 1976, it is easy to forget that we started out with a few friends and a good idea. Our founder/dreamers were determined to access the kinds of foods which were grown without harming the Earth and which would nourish healthy bodies; and they had the passion to "just do it." Of course, mistakes were made along the way, as there were few supportive mentors at the time. The new start-ups have access to all that the co-ops of the 1970's learned in their forty years of experience. At the same time, the present era often requires an upscale store and more capital.
The problems on the planet are even more numerous than they were "back in the old days." It appears that about every forty years (many co-ops were started during the Depression, then again in the 70's), we feel the need to reclaim our power to create systems which sustain our well-being and which we control at the local level.
2012 has been named "The Year of the Co-op," and it is exciting to see the increase in new co-op food store ventures. All of the people attending the start-up conference were filled with inspiration and determination. There is renewed commitment to create local food security, maintain healthy farms and enjoy the real life working together that has always made a strong community.
Thank you to all of our 10,000 owner-members for keeping us keeping on.
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