Building a More Sustainable Food System: An Organic Food Co-op in West Marin
The Foodshed is a food cooperative in Inverness, Point Reyes, California, offering high quality, organic, and affordably priced bulk and staple foods to West Marin residents. As a member owned and operated cooperative, the Foodshed hopes to serve as a local resource owned by the community for the community.
While West Marin is a food mecca of locally made and artisanal products, drawing visitors from around the world, few of these products are affordably priced for local residents and there are limited options in West Marin to purchase everyday basics. Initially motivated by these concerns, and inspired to work together because of their shared love of food and vision for a more sustainable local food system, co-founders Molly Myerson, Arron Wilder, Maggie Levinger, and Luke Regalbuto joined together to devise a solution.
Originating out of an informal West Marin buyer’s club in which households purchased products in bulk for a discounted rate, the concept quickly grew with discussion among the four friends. Together, they envisioned a community-centered solution that would provide affordable, healthy, and ecologically sound food to local residents. The resulting “Foodshed”—a member-owned and operated cooperative with a brick and mortar shop in Inverness in West Marin—opened in September 2012.
The Foodshed aims to strengthen the local food system by building relationships between producers and consumers and by nurturing the local food economy. Committed to responsibly sourcing their products, the Foodshed prioritizes organic and sustainably produced products from as close to home as possible and does not use single-use packaging. According to co-founder Arron Wilder, “We believe that as food consumers, we all have a stake in protecting our ecosystems, watersheds, and the biodiversity of our home places, and if we know where our food is coming from, we will have more awareness about the practices that are being used to produce this food.” Therefore, many of the products are made locally and some of the locally produced staples such as eggs, pastas, and grains are even subsidized to incentivize their purchase, offset by slightly higher mark-ups on non-essential goods produced farther away.
The Foodshed has been open for business for one year and recently held their first annual members’ meeting. As membership grows, they plan to expand the number of organic, sustainable, and local products they offer and will serve as a pickup location for Table Top Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program starting this spring.
Unique, creative, and a bit radical, the Foodshed began with great intentions and is quickly developing the foundation needed for longer-term staying power. As co-founder Molly explains, “What we are attempting here is to foster a cultural shift away from convenience as a bottom line towards a model that demonstrates the power, bounty, care and integrity of true cooperation between community members. It means that we must each do our part, take responsibility, and figure out what it means to belong to a whole and stand together in our commitment for a more just, healthy and connected food system. Because, if we can create something here that truly serves the people of this place through cooperation, we can do it in all aspects of our lives.”
To learn more about the Foodshed, visit the co-op when it is open to the public on Saturdays or Sundays between 11am to 4 pm, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website (in development) at http://thefoodshed.tumblr.com.
By Julia Van Soelen Kim, North Bay Food System Advisor
Local products, including eggs from Clark Summit (Marin), Brickmaiden Bread from California Whole Grain Bread (Marin), Baia Pasta (Oakland), heirloom grains from Front Porch Farm (Sonoma), brown rice from Massa Organics (Chico), granola from From the Fields (Marin), and sauerkraut and kimchi from Wild West Ferments (Marin), among other local products.
Organic produce and storage crops, including winter squash, potatoes, onions, and garlic from Table Top Farm in Point Reyes and Little Wing Farm in Tomales.
Bulk goods, including spices and tea
Household products such as toilet paper and detergent
Membership dues are $30 per quarter/$120 per year. Members contribute dues, as well as two hours of work per quarter to help keep the co-op running and in good condition. Member work includes activities like stocking bulk bins, cleaning, and staffing the counter. Membership dues help cover the cost of rent, utilities, and store infrastructure. In return, members benefit from lower prices gained by purchasing food collectively, in volume, and at wholesale prices.
12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, CA 94937 in downtown Inverness directly behind the Post Office.
Open to the public Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; accessible to members 24 hours a day through a self-serve system.