Friday, March 26, 2010

Where's the Food Co-op?

My husband and I moved to Chapel Hill from the Northeast for two reasons. One, to get away from the expenses of living in Skillman, NJ and the other, to establish residency so that my husband could pay in-state grad school tuition.

Chapel Hill was vastly different from where we’d been living and we were a little culture shocked. The pace was slower and the people were friendlier. I was called Ma’am for the first time ever! Chapel Hill, as a university town, has three calm and quiet summer months. Then, almost overnight, the city grows exponentially.

What my husband and I really enjoyed about Chapel Hill, however, and what we really missed when we moved to Harrisonburg 3 years ago, was Chapel Hill’s food co-op. Going there was a regular occurrence for us. We by no means did all our weekly shopping at the coop, but it was great for getting locally grown foods and organic foods that we couldn’t find at the regular supermarket. Food at the coop was always fresh, made that day or, if you were getting a sandwich, even while you waited. Cheeses, fruits, vegetables, milk eggs all from the farm went to our table. We still miss them.

When we moved here it was in the summer and we quickly discovered the Harrisonburg farmers’ market. Oh yes, we were happy. We knew that Virginia was famous for its farms and we figured that we would soon find a store or co-op just like what we had in Chapel Hill.

We were shocked then, and are still saddened now, that no food co-op store exists in Harrisonburg. I mean there’s the farmers market—which is great and there are CSA’s, also great, but no store? No place to go the other 5 days a week that the Farmer’s market is not going on or the other 9 months of the year that you are not a part of a CSA? No store that has fresh from the farm fruits, vegetables, cheeses and eggs? No store where you can go and get something for dinner that you know was picked that morning? No co-op?

Then after maybe a year here we discovered that Harrisonburg was planning on a food co-op store. There weren’t enough members yet to open it, but plans were seriously under way. We joined immediately. Two years later, we’re still waiting for that co-op store to open.
Buying fresh, buying local is healthy for the local economy, healthy for you. Buying fresh, buying local is easy. Buying fresh, buying local is not expensive. In Harrisonburg, I know the Buy Fresh/By local movement can be as vigorous as it was in Chapel Hill. We have it all here —the farms, the co-op starting up, the CSA’s. We just need now to put it all together. We need to spread the word and get that co-op open so we can have fresh food year round!

                                          --Lara Sokoloff lives in Harrisonburg


  1. Indeed, we need to get more people involved in this, we need to get the co-op open!

  2. Yes, Lara, thanks for getting the word out -- maybe more people will join now. And you're right: H'burg is the perfect place for fresh and local food exchanges to flourish. Crazy that is isn't happening faster. I wonder how much JMU students know about it . . . . maybe the co-op could approach JMU and ask them to provide some incentive for students to join . . . . would they consider that competition with their cafeterias? In other respects they're very committed to the "going green" effort.



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