Gorge Winds Community Grocery; A local grocery cooperative in progress

April 25, 2012

Lori Loranger (Contributed Photo)

Lori Loranger, along with the support of a volunteer Steering Committee, is currently developing Gorge Winds Community Grocery (GWCG).  This  incorporated  consumer-owned grocery store  will be operated in Skamania County for community benefit.

According to Loranger, reliable access to locally produced food is essential to food security, better for our health, and better for the environment.  Building a strong local food system will empower, educate, and revitalize our rural community.

Loranger said she learned about grocery co-ops by serving on the board of the Vancouver Food Co-op.  It seemed natural to her to use that knowledge to start a co-op in western Skamania County where she has lived for 30 years.

“I believe in the cooperative structure and how it empowers individuals to work together to fill their own needs,” said Loranger.  “Food is a pretty basic need and food decisions are far – reaching, affecting our economy, environment and health”.

According to Loranger, GWCG is a community owned  and governed, not for profit business, and not just a grocery store.  It’s part of the local food movement – along with  Farmers’ markets, community gardens, and local growers and producers.  A sustainable local food system includes many elements, with the ability to work together the key to success for all.

Loranger describes the process of  starting up a consumer owned business as taking time and requiring a lot of volunteer effort and community support.  GWCG is volunteer operated and has the help and encouragement of  local organizations, such as Gorge Grown Food Network and the Washington State University (WSU) Extension.

Timeline for opening a retail location depends upon funding, and the goal is to open as soon as it is financially possible.  In addition to the storefront, there  will be an online ordering system with delivery to drop points throughout Skamania county.

“We are dedicated to an active role in building community through education, said Loranger”.  She described annual events which include the Fall Food Forum, Spring Seed Swap, and Food Film Series.

People can become member-owners of GWCG by purchasing shares.  Shares in Gorge Winds Community Grocery Co-op are available at $150 each.  The first share may be purchased over 3 years, with at least $5 down and the balance paid in payments of at least $5 per month.  Ownership in the co-op entitles you to voting and participation rights, as well as various discounts and privileges as determined by the board.  Shares are refundable as soon as replacement equity is available, should people decide to cancel their ownership.

According to Loranger,  GWCG continues to gain momentum and move forward, thanks to the local food community, GWCG Owners and a committed group of fantastic volunteers.  Continued support is encouraged.   People may volunteer, become an owner, or be a supportive  interested member of the local food community.

Updates and information are located at www.gorgewindscoop.org, or call 509-427-3664.

International Year of Cooperatives

Lori Loranger submitted additional information about cooperatives and their structures

This year, 2012, has been named “the International Year of Cooperatives” by the United Nations.  Around one billion people worldwide are co-op members.  In the US, there are over 30,000 cooperatives, including worker cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, housing, utility, agricultural co-ops and credit unions.

Millions of Americans are co-op members.  American cooperatives generate revenues of more than 654 billion dollars and employ two million workers.  Ocean Spray is is a grower-owned cooperative; Land O’Lakes is a member-owned agricultural cooperative; REI is the nation’s largest consumer cooperative, with more than 4 million active members.

A cooperative is a business owned and democratically controlled by the member-owners who use its services, rather than by outside investors.  Co-ops  exist to serve their members, and are motivated not by profit, but by members’ needs.  Through cooperatives, people with a common need can organize to fill that need themselves.  Members invest in shares to provide capital for the business.   All net savings (profits) after bills are paid and money is set aside for operations and improvements, are returned to co-op members.

These member-owners share equally in the control of their cooperative through the 7 cooperative principles, which are common to co-ops worldwide:  Voluntary and Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, Members’ Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education,  Cooperation among cooperatives, and Concern for Community.

The cooperative model is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing business model by 2025.

For further information about Gorge Winds Cooperative Grocery, go to their website at www.gorgewindscoop.org, or call 509-427-3664.