Locals attending the Salem Art Fair were enthusiastic to learn that Salem is heading towards a food co-op. A table in the “Free Speech” zone with news of the venture was often crowded with curious attendees.
“Everyone is thrilled,” said Penny Culp, a volunteer who manned a fair table to spread the word. “A farmer asked us about donating produce, and most people say they can’t wait until we open.”
The planned co-op will carry mostly local, organic, sustainable and affordable foods. It will serve as a venue for local farmers to sell their goods every day, rather than just at bi-weekly farmers markets.
“After fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy we expect to expand into grains and wines,” said Suzanne Jorgensen, who designed the group’s web site. “Later, we’ll even go into personal care items; all locally sourced.”
The idea has been in the works since November 2011, and those on the ground floor say that First Alternative co-op in Corvallis has served as mentor for the enterprise. A local attorney who is donating his time is writing bylaws and articles of incorporation; once incorporated, the entity will open a bank account and officially begin to acquire memberships.
The Art Fair table was an important step. The group collected contact information from interested people.
“We put up the table to raise awareness and get the community excited about it,” a volunteer told us. “Spreading the word and getting email addresses will help get folks involved and bring the co-op to a reality sooner.”
Twenty-five people are active already and the group’s email list is over 150. With the strong response at the Art Fair, co-op proponents expect their collection of supporters to increase dramatically in upcoming weeks.
“We live in the Willamette Valley with some of the most fertile land in the world,” Jorgensen told us, “and because of the enthusiasm of the people I’ve met I’m sure we have enough to support an excellent co-op.”
The Co-op web site answers general questions about the project, gives a timeline, offers surveys and provides “The 7 Principles of a Co-op”. salemfoodcoop.org