Portland Phoenix, November 25, 2015
What a difference a year makes, especially in the life of a grocery cooperative. Nearly a decade ago, the Portland Food Co-op was little more than a meeting topic among hopeful residents.
But the last year has been a doozy for the cooperative. Its retail grocery store at the base of Munjoy Hill has thrived, member-owners reported, and listeners could almost hear sighs of both relief and gratitude.
“This year, the Portland Food Co-op has exceeded all of our original expectations. … We have almost 3,500 member-owners, and we have exceeded all projections for sales and purchases,” said Portland Food Co-op General Manager John Crane.
Today, 27 employees work at the co-op, and the business logged more than $3 million in sales this year and invested more than $2 million in Maine’s economy, organizers said.
Katia Holmes, who runs Misty Brook Farm in Albion with her husband, Brendan, recalled selling a little bit of milk at the cooperative in its early days of tentative retail sales. Since then, the organic farm has sold more than 5,000 pounds of vegetables, 1,500 gallons of milk, 1,200 dozen eggs, 450 pounds of meat and 350 pounds of grains through the co-op.
“Over this first year, they have become our number one biggest customer in sales, and I believe that’s because of the diversity of products that they offer,” Katia Holmes said.
Brendan Holmes said the “micro economy” of Albion benefits as well, as the farm has been able to hire locally to meet this Portland-based demand.
Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said the cooperative model is the most locally sourced and focused of any business setup.
“When you spend a dollar here, not only are you supporting this business and everyone who works here, but you’re also supporting all of the other local businesses that the co-op uses … and you’re supporting all of these great food producers in Maine, so when you spend money here, there’s just this great ripple of benefits that goes through the local economy,” Mitchell said.
As an example, Tortilleria Pachanga of Portland logged sales of 20,000 tortillas at the co-op, a success story for one of the member-owners.
For more about the Portland Food Co-op, call 207.805.1599 or visit www.portlandfood.coop