Feb 21 2017
As with any new business, there are a number of hurdles to overcome when starting a local food cooperative. The fact that the residents of Long Lake, Minnesota chose to form a co-op during the 2007-08 economic downturn was just another obstacle.
But with a lot of community support and an extra boost from the Food Co-op Initiative and USDA’s Rural Co-operative Development Grant (RCDG) program, those hurdles were overcome and the Harvest Moon Local cooperative Foods opened in Long Lake in June 2010..
USDA Minnesota State Rural Development Director Colleen Landkamer recently visited Harvest Moon to highlight how the RCDG award has helped get the co-op off the ground and to learn more about the co-op’s economic impact in the community.
Landkamer and members of the cooperative’s board of directors stood in front of a wall with the signatures of the cooperative’s founding members, a visual that symbolized popular support for the project. Harvest Moon CEO David Giedd highlighted how the co-op filled a gap by providing access to fresh, local and delicious food that is not readily available in the community. “We are also a big supporter of the local economy,” said Giedd. “We’re going to be here for a long time, creating good jobs and buying from local farmers. “
Based in Dennison, Minnesota, the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) has used RCDG funds for the past three years to support the start-up of retail food co-ops across the United States. Using a specially designed development model, FCI strives to enable a faster and more efficient start-up process to develop new retail food co-operatives that create local jobs and establish new markets for them. local producers. FCI provided technical support and advice as Harvest Moon went from an idea with strong community support to a reality.
“The need is there,” said FCI manager Stuart Reid. “We work with over 100 co-ops like Harvest Moon, trying to make it a bit easier for them by providing them with valuable advice and resources. “
Rural = Unique
As Giedd led a Harvest Moon tour – through the deli, past the local meat and cheese section, and past the dairy cooler that featured milk in glass bottles from local grass-fed cows – he spoke about unique strategies and challenges for starting a co-op in a rural area.
“I think a key is not to dictate what this co-op needs in a rural community,” said Giedd. “We have a few products that people may be familiar with, but which are still 100% local. It helps people come in and get them involved so they can learn more on their own.
To learn more about USDA’s support for small businesses and co-ops, Click here. Learn about other federal investments for local food businesses at the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.