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Group starting a community cooperative

By Staff | Apr 29, 2014

Steering committee organizers for building a community co-op in the East Lycoming area are (left to right): Kris Laubach, Lori Smith, Lu Ann Potter and Phyllis Dufrene. Not present for photo is Sandy Ludwig. The committee has been meeting every 2 weeks.

HUGHESVILLE – “Build it and they will come.” This statement was projected at an organizational meeting held last Thursday evening, April 24 at the Hughesville Public Library in relation to opening up a county wide co-op that will provide local food and goods to the surrounding communities.

Main organizer, Phyllis Dufrene from Montgomery announced that she was committed for the long haul and with a steering committee of four others, they have begun the process of making this worthwhile endeavor a true reality. The steering committee began meeting in November 2013.

“This will be in our community, for our community and with our community,” explained Dufrene who is seeking as many volunteers and members possible to join in its structural and organizational process. Simply put, a cooperative is an organization jointly run by members.

The team has been spending some time visiting other cooperatives, such as the one in Ithaca, New York. These visits will give some insight into how things are done, what works, and what is needed. They are looking at coops that are demographically similar to this area, perhaps serving anywhere from 5 to 6 thousand people to start and offering a whole range of products with regional suppliers.

Members also are attempting to incorporate the coop, enlisting the help from a local attorney, and form it into what the community wants.

A welcoming turnout came to the meeting giving some good advice and ideas for location. Some local sites have been considered such as the former Hall’s Marine building on 220, the old Bryfolgle’s site in Muncy, the Bardo building for sale on Rt. 405 and the closed Lowe’s Super Market in Clarkstown. The group will be spending some time on finding an ideal location which needs to be near high traffic areas for greater success.

They hope to serve customers within a 100 mile radius and utilize local farmers. “It will be an open everyday business run by members and volunteers,” said Lu Ann Potter. “We have to look at the draw. It will take a couple of years to get to this point.” It needs to be close to town with good parking and easy access.

Business members from Muncy’s FBLA who were also present at the meeting are assisting in the feasibility study which is prevalent to the determined location. A website and a newsletter have already been established and rules and guidelines are in the works to see how the co-op is going to function. Members agreed that much education and training need to go into the decision making process. “A co-op works with others as a collective group,” Dufrene explained. “We are ready to take on the challenge,” said Bridget Murphy from Muncy FBLA.

“It is a long term process, but this project will continue multiple years,” said Michelle Dubbs from Muncy.

Members who join will not only support local agriculture but will receive discounts as well. Shopping will be open all year long to the entire community and will include local goods, fresh organics and hand made items. “This allows interaction to build healthy foods, healthy living and eating,” added Dufrene. “We are working with the National Cooperative Growers Association,” she stated, “to get financial help and guidance on how to form our membership. There have been a lot of start-ups all over the United States. It can be done anywhere.”

The project is technically achievable and members agreed that it could be profitable in this area. Just visiting the other coops as models boosted confidence levels when they saw how successful other coops are operating. Soon the group will be visiting another one in Doylestown.

“This will be a good fit in our community,” concluded the team as they noted the gathering of data, doing a market analysis, putting together a mission statement and seeking the viability for obtaining grants, donations and bank loans.

It is really important to get the community involved with the decision making, and future meetings will be scheduled on a regular basis. “Please invite a friend or interested members to join us,” concluded Dufrene who can be reached at 570-515-0073.

The next meeting is scheduled for May 22 at 7 p.m. at the Hughesville Library.