Straight From the Board, Fourth Quarter by Claudia Piper
We are Mountain View Market Co+op. Co+op being short for Cooperation Plus Opportunity.
As I write my final contribution for Straight From the Board, I think of the past and of my vision for the future. I have participated in cooperatives for much of my life: food coops, tenant organizing, a worker-owned print chop. When I moved to Las Cruces 14 years ago, I wanted to eat organically and to find community, so the first organization I joined was our Co+op. After being elected to the Board of Directors in 2004, I've served for over 12 years. I'm grateful to have worked with so many dedicated people- board members, staff and owners- and I leave my position optimistic that new board members will be inspired by the energy of this board and carry on that dynamic and energetic leadership.
When I first moved here, I shopped primarily at the Co+op but also at other grocery chains. As I grew more committed to making responsible choices for the environment, I weaned myself from non-organic food, paper goods, and health and beauty products, and I try to spend money only at the farmers market and local stores. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was- and withhold it from companies that, through political contributions, actively work against the interest of our community. My motto became, "I the Co+op doesn't carry it, I probably don't need it." I'll admit that over the years I've become a bit of a fanatic. If you know me, you know I never pass up an opportunity to talk about co-ops. Bypassing corporate-owned grocery chains - not to mention Amazon- isn't the most convenient option, but I feel good about it. The main job of the Board, apart from hiring and terminating the General Manager, is to provide a collective vision for the future. Our Ends Statement spells this vision out:
"As a result of all we do, we will have systemic inclusivity grounded in a fun, healthy, equitable, and democratic economy reimagined by the people of the desert for whom this is home."
Our vision is to provide a model for local support and sustainability. We know some items are less expensive elsewhere because corporate chains can harness enormous buying discounts. We also understand that tight budgets mean you must sometimes go with the cheaper option. This is why the Co+op provides products aimed at saving money for our community.
- We pride ourselves on having the largest (mostly organic!) bulk department in town. Items purchased in bulk can cost 20 percent less that their prepackaged counterparts. Bulk is also great for cooks who need only a small amount of an ingredient and it cuts down on food and packaging waste.
- As Owners, you can order packaged goods in bulk. If we don't stock what you want, we can usually order it for you at a price likely to match what corporate grocery stores charge.
- We carry tone of value-priced Field Day items, from A to Y (All-Purpose Cleaner to Yellow Mustard). Their organic, GMO-free, and environmentally friendly products usually match, and sometimes beat, prices at other stores.
- If you forgot to pack a lunch and want to pick something up in town, the MVM Kitchen and Cafe is an excellent choice! Healthy, tasty food, quick service, and, as one Owner told me, "the best cheapest lunch in town". Several programs and initiatives further demonstrate the Co+op's commitment to those who live and work in the Mesilla Valley and beyond- the people of the desert for whom this is home.
- First, we support local farmers, ranchers, and other local vendors. No other grocery store in town puts more money back into our community; approximately 50% of our 300+ vendors are local.
- The Owners of our Co+op also give back through the Round Up program, which started in November 2016. We have been partnering with other local nonprofits, giving customers the option to round up their purchases to the next dollar, and people have been really generous! Last year, cooperating with La Semilla Food Center, we provided full Thanksgiving dinners to 14 local families. A trap, neuter and return program run by Broken Promises SW received $1,500 for their work taking care of feral cats (services include vaccination and microchipping). And in cooperation with Organ Mountain Outfitters, we just raised enough money to provide 1,260 lunches for children in the Las Cruces Public Schools' reduced-cost lunch program.
- Our Outreach Team tabled at a Health and Fitness Expo at White Sands Missile Range and has spoken at Las Cruces High School about the cooperative business model. They also did a presentation for local kids enrolled in the winter Fit Camp, hosted by the City of Las Cruces, about healthy food choices and the importance of eating well to fuel fitness.
- We are committed to providing bilingual service to our customers. About one-third of our staff speak both Spanish and English- including two folks in Health & Wellness who are also incredibly knowledgeable about herbs and natural remedies!
As I said at the start, we are the Co+op, short for Cooperation Plus Opportunity. As I leave the Board, I think most about the opportunities ahead. The Co+op and Board have weathered valleys and peaks and still more valleys; now it feel that we are on our way to the next peak. We've been around for 42 years and have had a consistent hand in bringing the community together in cooperation. As we face the future, inundated as we are with disasters both natural and man-made, I'm heartened to see more local businesses and nonprofits seizing the opportunity to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, and socially responsible. And I'm proud of the Co+op's ongoing role in this movement.
I thought I'd conclude by giving shout-outs to the many organizations that are finding ways to share resources, work together in harmony, respect the environment, and cooperate in all ways. Honestly, though, there are too many to list- so I hope you'll continue talking with your family, friends, and neighbors about the kind of world you want to live in and leave behind for future generations.
It's been difficult- sometimes even painful- but it's also been a pleasure.
See you at the Co+op, Claudia Piper