Though today most people know us as Valley Natural Foods, in 1977, we started out as Valley Community Foods Co-op, helping provide healthy food choices to the communities south of the Minnesota River. Since then, our co-op has grown and evolved, and during the month of October, we celebrate Co-op Month with all the other organizations that share the values of cooperation, involvement and community.
Cooperative businesses provide goods and services that run the gamut from natural and organic foods, fair trade coffees and teas, body care products, energy to power cities, even sporting goods and lines of credit. However, no matter the service we provide, all co-ops share the same basic guiding principles, including:
Community – All co-ops share a goal of serving and improving the communities where they are located. In the past year, our co-op has been proud to provide nutritional snacks to students at Echo Park Elementary, partner with 360 Communities to help feed those in need, and hosted the 6th annual Run For Hope 5K to benefit Early Family Childhood Services.
We are also proud to offer products from other cooperatives that serve their communities as well. Alter Eco Foods is part of the ANAPQUI Cooperative in Bolivia, where farmers grow quinoa using traditional farming techniques. Their co-op ensures that farmers in that region are paid a living wage for their fair trade goods. This allows them to reinvest in their farms, improve their living conditions and make sure their children receive an education.
Education and Empowerment – Another goal of co-ops are to help educate the community they serve, and provide avenues for self-improvement. Co-ops like Alaffia allow women in the west African nation of Togo to learn skills, support their families and encourage gender equality through production of shea butter. Divine Chocolate advocates for equal participation and access for women in their co-op, increasing literacy, allowing them opportunities for advancement, and empowering them to earn their own income.
Valley Natural Foods is proud to support these co-ops in their goals of education and empowerment by offering their products. We also help educate our community through classes, special events and offering on-site consultations with a registered nurse.
Membership/Ownership – Co-ops are owned by the community. Anyone who chooses to become an owner for a one-time, fully refundable fee of $100 has a voice in the future of Valley Natural Foods, from the charities we support, to the opportunities for growth. This is accomplished through the yearly Owner Survey, and voting (or serving) on the Board of Directors, who guides the co-op towards achieving its goals.
Other co-ops around the world operate similarly, where a group of individual members work to benefit the entire community. La Riojana Co-op in Argentina work to improve the well-being of their region by producing and selling wine and olive oil. They are working to further improve their business by obtaining organic certification for their 80+ growers. Valley Natural Foods, along with co-ops around the United States, is helping by making La Riojana the beneficiary of our Register Round-Up program for the month of October. Your extra pennies at checkout can make a huge difference in improving the lives of farmers around the world.
Cooperation – As you can see, the thread that links all of these goals together is cooperation. Co-ops like Valley Natural Foods wouldn’t be able to make a difference in the community, throughout the United States and around the world without cooperation. Valley Natural Foods teams up with other co-ops in the Twin Cities to help share knowledge and resources. We partner with local farms under our Down in the Valley label to provide meat products to other co-ops in the Twin Cities. As a member of National Coop Grocers, we increase our buying power to help stay competitive with large national chains. As we have shown, we offer products from co-ops around the world, allowing each to improve the health and well-being of their communities. And none of this would be possible without the cooperation of our owners, whose investments of time and money help us work towards our mission of a healthy community.
So this October, help us celebrate all the work that cooperatives do to make their village, city, country and planet a better place. If you are an owner at Valley Natural Foods, thank you for all you do to help us spread the values of Family, Relationships, Education, Sustainability and Health. If you are thinking about becoming an owner, stop by our customer service desk or ask any of our employees about the benefits of ownership – we’d be happy to answer any questions you have or help you start the process. And if you’re just happy to shop with us – that’s fine too! We welcome everyone to shop with us for whatever your natural food and wellness needs.
The fact of the matter is – in our community or worldwide – co-ops are living proof that we are all Stronger Together.