One of my newest favorite things about our town is the presence of a Co-op to help enable me to buy local foods and goods. I’ve loved the localvore idea for a while but lacked the gumption to seek out vendors and farmers and artisens for all my goods. The idea that I can arrive at Meijer and get it in my cart and out the door in under an hour held too strong a temptation. But Stone’s Throw brings together these goods in one roof (where the world’s best bacon is also sold). I love the whole idea.
So we joined the cooperative this spring (don’t ask why it took us 9 months… because I’m positive laziness had nothing to do with it. *Insert sarcastic eyeroll*) and have been enthusiastically showing patronage to “the market”. Gradually, but with increased vigor.
Tonight a friend invited me to a meeting for all member-owners where the work of the coop is discussed and distributed. Up. My. Alley. They spoke of newsletters and signups. Words like “community” sloshed freely. I might have even piddled a little when someone made mention of a board retreat.
As poor attendance at board meetings took the lead in discussion, I almost blurted out a remark about the drastic similarities in operation with my church work life, but held it in. From that point forward, I began making a mental list.
1. First and foremost, it’s a group of people with a common vision. Ask any person about that vision and you’ll get unique answers, but among the group it’s narrow enough to become distinguished. Everyone’s initial reason for joining stems from a different source, but at the end of the day the thread of the vision sews the people together.
2. Board meetings, newsletters, committees. None of which have ever actually proven effective, but alternatives are few and far between. So the machine moves slowly, no matter how much energy and excitement the people put forth. Not a criticism: a statement of reality. I imagine it like a group of people pushing a large steamroller up a hill. I’m enthusiastically getting out to push.
3. Buildings. I never took an Org Comm or sociology of groups class, but I wonder if territory always sits in the high place of goals and conversation. Our coop currently borrows space in the meat shop (which, as mentioned, sells the best bacon. Yes, it’s good enough to warrant a second mention), but a storefront has been a part of the original plan. However, that conversation has been tabled to (as my business world partners would say) “focus on the core needs of the business.” But meshed into the conversation is the idea of if we build it they will come vs. other core principles of identity. This one might be most fascinating to me.
4. Beliefs. It comes down to how a person sees and interprets the world and what is true about it. Whether it be about the celestial, green, local, or health views, people participate and engage because something at their core says, “this. is. good.”
Despite ineffective delegations and monotonous meetings, people seem to congregate together for a common purpose to see change. As if, whether or not they have a church that worships Jesus, they have other churches. And in some ways these pseudo-churches are doing better at having church than the Church. They understand that breaking bread is instrumental. Members show excitement for the cause and engage on more than a surface level. The rate at which participants show up on Sunday for the sake of coming seems much lower – probably because there’s no fear of eternal damnation, just the threat of cancer from bad food.
I think we have a lesson to learn. And I’m super excited for a ringside seat with my coop. Actually, more than a seat: a shovel. I’m ready to dig in.