First things first, we’re a cooperatively owned retail store. What’s a co-op, you ask? A co-op is a business, usually incorporated, that sells goods & services. In a cooperative, owner-members democratically control the direction of the business. Each owner-member has one share. Each share is equal to one vote. Owner-members elect a board of directors to monitor the business, set goals, and hire management.
The Skagit Valley Food Co-op has served Skagit County and surrounding areas since 1973. We are dedicated to bringing natural, wholesome, organic, and local foods to our community at fair prices. We sell food free from harmful ingredients and many items produced in our own valley. Our Co-op’s Produce Department was the first in our county to be Certified Organic.
Every day, our Produce Department is at least 98% organic. 98 percent! We feature more local produce than any other grocery store in the County, from farmers who we have done business with for decades. We love being in the heart of Washington’s agricultural corridor, and are grateful that the community has selected us as their natural foods store for over 40 years.
Every product in our store must meet our product guidelines before going on the shelf. Our mission statement guides us as we serve owner-members and the community, and as we support both a cooperative economy and sustainable agriculture.
As stated in the Co-op bylaws:
“The Co-op shall promote member welfare by utilizing their united effort for the purchase and distribution of commodities in accordance with the following criteria…”
- Maintain the not-for-profit status of the Co-op
- Offer high quality products that contribute to good nutrition
- Support a low-impact, non-harmful approach to the environment
- Support local suppliers and producers
- A commitment to building a cooperative economy and supporting others who share that commitment
- A commitment to educational programs relevant to members and non-members in the community
THE 7 COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”Wendell Berry
The “place” that Wendell Berry writes of – whether it be tangible or not – is essential for community building. And, more often than not, community building revolves around, interacts with, and is dependent on, food. On the farm, in the garden, at the stove, ‘round the table, these are places where many of us feel most at home, and most ourselves. I trust that it’s not a stretch to include the Co-op (this one, yours) in this list. For 41 years, your Co-op has been connecting the people of the Skagit Valley and its environs to local farmers, producers, suppliers, and those who production methods match ours — with holistic living, mindful sustainability, ethics, and community in mind.
In order to better understand just what it means to be a member-owner of the Co-op, let’s dive in to the 7 Cooperative Principles. Cooperatives are member-owned businesses that operate for the benefit of their members, or owners (that’s you!). They come in consumer cooperatives (like us, REI, Skagit Farmers Supply), worker cooperatives (PCC, Rainbow Grocery), healthcare groups (23 nationwide), credit unions, and more. Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same seven core principles. The roots of these principles can be traced back to the first modern cooperative, which was founded in Rochdale, England, in 1844.
When a group of people want something that is not available in the marketplace, the cooperative principles provide framework to help them get it. Like a good number of natural food co-ops across the country, our founding member-owners were interested in organic, natural, and unprocessed foods that were not readily available in grocery stores. Through the efforts of the original pioneers of natural food co-ops across the country, we now have a thriving organic and natural foods industry that is providing a market for producers who want to use earth-friendly and sustainable farming methods. What makes a co-op unique is that is it owned by the membership. Regardless of how much equity a member contributes, each member has only one vote and equal say. Although a co-op needs to remain profitable to stay in business, it also exists to serve the community. Shopping here makes the business profitable, supports local farmers, and employs your neighbors. We thank you for your member-ownership, and support.
The following is a list of the 7 Cooperative Principles that guide Cooperatives around the world in achieving and activating their values.
Voluntary & Open Membership
We’re open to everyone who wants to use our services and who is willing to accept membership responsibilities.
Democratic Member Control
We’re a democratic organization controlled by you, our members, through votes and elected representatives.
Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to and democratically control the capital of the Skagit Valley Food Co-op.
Autonomy & Independence
SVFC is an autonomous organization controlled by our members. We won’t be bought!
Education, Training & Information
SVFC provides education and training for its members, elected representatives, managers and employees, so they can contribute effectively to co-op development.
Co-operation Among Co-operatives
We serve our members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together with other co-ops through regional, national, and international structures.
Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, SVFC works for the sustainable development of our community.
Cooperative Education Column for Co-op Consumer News Nov/Dec 1996
Elizabeth Archerd, Member Services Director, Wedge Community Co-op
This article was used to further explain the seven principles. The entire article is quite lengthy, but provides a comprehensive explanation of cooperative history and development.