Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Community co-op launches buying club

The Lake County Community Co-Op issued word this week that it is launching its buying club. The first order will likely have been placed by the time you read this column.

The buying club is offering various types of packages depending upon whether the buyer wants to purchase from strictly local or regional growers or whether the buyer is willing to buy from an organic supplier that may not be distributing items that are locally or regionally produced. The first order also allowed buyers the opportunity to mix and match for “hybrid” orders or shop from an overage table.

Watch for services to be fine-tuned for consecutive orders as the buying club hears from its buyers.

The buying club is an early step toward what is envisioned as a retail co-op. My adoptive community of Ashland, Ore. has a very successful co-op that has taken on a mentor role toward another co-op in nearby Medford. I read the members’ newsletter with interest because I anticipate that our local co-op may experience similar challenges.

It’s also an opportunity to see local dreams made manifest in educational classes and other forms of community outreach. Imagine what it will be like to go to a workshop or seminar right here in the County of Lake that teaches you how to make the most of community-sustained agriculture. Don’t know what to do with the crops that have just come into season? Maybe an ongoing lecture series with hands-on food preparation.

Sometimes I get caught up in a vision of a storefront that sells dried goods as well as produce. Freshly-baked wholegrain bread produced at a local bakery.

Maybe a book stall that features local authors along with newspapers and periodicals. An outdoor patio to sit and drink tea or eat deli food prepared with fresh ingredients.

I think our local co-op members are going about things very smart by constantly asking and evaluating what the local community will sustain. It can’t just be my vision, after all, or that of any one person, that makes the co-op a reality.

If support doesn’t seem to manifest for some aspect of the vision, maybe that dream has to be deferred until circumstances are right. In the meantime, I am increasingly gratified with what our co-op is building locally. The Friday Night Farmers’ Market is officially up and running at Austin Park in Clearlake. Hours are 4 to 8 p.m. each week.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve seen in the co-op’s development is the growth of local partnerships. The co-op is partnering with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce to produce the weekly farmers’ market.

The “Hot Spot” in Clearlake is providing space for the co-op to meet each month and the Lake County Community Action Agency is making space available for a buyers’ club pick-up spot.

Published July 8, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee and July 9, 2008 in the Clear Lake Observer American

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