What is a Co-op?
October is Co-op Month, and that makes it the perfect time to address one of the most common questions we get asked: what is a co-op, anyway? According to the International Cooperative Alliance, "a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."
That’s a lot of words to say that a co-op is owned by its members and operated for its members. City Market’s Membership is made up of folks who shop at our stores. Anyone can become a Member (and owner!) when they purchase equity in the Co-op.
At City Market, Members pay $200 for a full share of equity. Most Members make annual installments of $15 until they reach a total of $200. Members exercise their ownership by investing in the Co-op’s success, patronizing the store, and electing a Board of Directors from among our Members to hire, guide, and evaluate the general manager who runs day-to-day operations. Our Board of Directors is responsible for holding the General Manager accountable to our mission – which at City Market is referred to as our Global Ends.
Our Global Ends
As a co-op, we’re accountable to our Members and to supporting our Global Ends. These Ends state that “The Onion River Co-op will be central to a thriving and healthy community, where:
- Consumers have local access to progressive environmental, social, and healthful choices;
- Residents enjoy an enhanced quality of life;
- The local food system is strengthened;
- The cooperative model is supported; and
- Our owners have a sense of pride in their cooperative.”
Notice anything missing from that list?
That’s right – our Global Ends don’t mention sales, or profit, in any way. Of course, financial sustainability is an important component of ensuring that we can continue to serve our community, but profit is not our benchmark for success. We measure success by providing a wide variety of local, organic and conventional products at a fair price to all. At the end of the day, we’re here to strengthen our community. That’s why we work with hundreds of Vermont vendors to feature the widest selection of local products in the state.
Our Global Ends drive our work beyond our store walls, too. Our community outreach initiatives focus on these same core principles, working with programs that alleviate childhood hunger and promote the sustainability of agriculture. From our Rally for Change program, to our sponsorships, to our annual tree sale benefitting the Committee on Temporary Shelter, our outreach isn’t just a nice add-on – it’s a critical component of our mission.
Help Make a Difference
Membership is the engine that drives our Co-op forward. The City Market – Onion River Co-op came into being to fulfil our original Member’s need for better food choices. Our Members contribute to our Global Ends by volunteering with our Community Outreach Partners (and earning in-store discounts), by contributing to strengthening our local food system, and by participating in co-op governance and holding us to our principles. If you share our goals, we’d love for you to join us.