Nampa is a breadbasket in the Treasure Valley, producing some of the highest quality healthy foods available in the nation.
Yet much of it is not available for sale here in Nampa. Why?
Because big grocery stores have stringent requirements to get on the shelves, many small-to-medium-sized producers simply cannot afford to sell at Fred Meyer, Walmart, Winco, Pauls or other. So many of them travel every week to the Boise Co-op, the nearest available shelf space.
Doesn’t quite seem right, does it? Boise gets all the benefits of Nampa produce.
Why should farmers and consumers both drive to Boise when they live right here in Nampa?
That’s what the Nampa committee for the Canyon County Co-op wondered. In August, they petitioned the Boise co-op to make downtown Nampa the home of the next Boise co-op location.
Boise Co-op “snubs” Nampa
However, even though Nampa acquired more signatures than any other community in the valley, the Boise co-op chose The Village in Meridian as their next location.
This stirred the Nampa community hornet’s nest, and unfazed, the committee redoubled their efforts to build their own co-op, here in downtown Nampa, to serve all of Canyon County.
Meanwhile, they brought an enthusiastic Caldwell on board, continued with the original plans, and garnered even more support and enthusiasm than the prospect of having the Boise co-op here.
The Canyon County co-op won’t be owned by the Boise co-op, nor have the word “Boise” in the title, no sir.
Instead, the Canyon County co-op will be owned by the community members of, that’s right, Canyon County.
First-hand Report from the Planning Meeting at the Flying M – Tuesday, September 23
(by me, Aaron Baldassare)
35-40 members of the community showed up at the first public planning meeting, including leaders and members of the media.
The excitement of the attendees was palpable, as passionate community members pleaded with attendees to become involved, winning over Debbie Kling, chair of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce, who showed her support for the project.
And little old me, who wanted to shout from the rooftops, but I didn’t have a rooftop. I just had my laptop and GoNampa.org, and other friends in the community who I’ve told about this project, and who have echoed their enthusiasm as well.
This thing is ripe, my friends.
Why build a co-op?
Caldwell and Nampa, especially in the downtown areas, do not have access to produce within walking or biking distance. What if you can’t afford to drive any further? This is called living in a food desert.
- Better for environment. Fewer “food miles”
- Fresh, great-tasting, healthy food. Nothing beats a fresh-picked Idaho tomato or Peach
- Easier access to healthy, affordable, local foods in the area.
- We already have an abandoned grocery store, already zoned, in the burgeoning downtown Nampa area, waiting for use.
- Much greater diversity of food available.
- Create local jobs.
- Keep more of Nampa’s wealth flowing within the community.
- Greater sense of community connection.
- Support Nampa farmers.
- Bring together farmers and community members.
- Establish hobby farming as a viable income opportunity for Nampa residents
Tellingly, those communities who have built co-ops (there are thousands of them), who have gone through the blood and sweat it takes to build one, would absolutely do it again.
Just ask them. Information on co-ops nationwide is publicly available at The Food Co-op Initiative website, where the Canyon County Co-op committee has obtained business plans, and detailed checklists based on 40 years of trial and error.
Jimmy Speaks from Experience, building a Bicycle co-op in Boise:
Tonight’s guest used the same business model to create one of the most successful co-ops for bicycles, the Boise Bicycle Project.
He related how it all started with a couple of guys with empty heads and full hearts, who saw a problem and just started solving it. On a small scale at first, and then before he knew it, his award-winning organization crossed its seventh year.
Take it away, Jimmy:
I remember having this exact same meeting, at the Reef in Boise. We started small, and we filled the needs as people came forward. We started with the most basic need: making sure that every kid has access to a bicycle.
Jimmy confided in the group that he didn’t really know what he was doing, but that passion and dedication were enough.
People that knew a lot more about law and finance and all these things came forward. I mean, I didn’t know, I don’t know, all these things. ”
…Nampa is a really cool community with a lot of passionate people.
Sure it takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but if you surround yourself with passionate people, then the task becomes easy. I mean, you have a college with students that have all the energy in the world…
Community Q & A
Below are some questions and answers from the meeting. Abridged, of course.
Are there city dollars set aside for this project?
The co-op business model is privately owned, we want to keep government investment out of the co-op, for the same reason we want to keep corporate investment out of the co-op, to maintain control and ownership within the community that benefits from it.
How will the co-op be funded?
Primarily, funding will come from the founding members of the co-op, the Nampa/Caldwell farmers and community members who are willing to invest in making the co-op a reality.
The co-op will 501(3)c nonprofit status, so that the co-op can accept tax-deductible donations.
Also, grants. Any grant writers want to volunteer?
Why is it called “the Canyon County” co-op?
We wanted to form a better partnership with Caldwell, which has a similar degree of interest in the project and many great resources, including the College of Idaho incubator.
How much, roughly, will it cost to get started?
It depends quite a bit on the level of support we get from the community.
To make a conservative estimate…
For a brand new grocery space, with brand new equipment, it would need roughly $300,000 to start. To mitigate this, we’ll get donations, volunteer work, discounts from suppliers, and so on.
Editorial note: For the price of one family’s house, our community can have its own co-op. Instead of NOT having a co-op. Which I just realized is a total drag.
What’s the time frame for opening it?
We plan to open January, 2015.
Where’s the location?
At this time, the location is not disclosed, but it’s ready to launch. Up to 15,000 sq ft of space in the final plan.
What’s a co-op?
A co-op is Community-owned business. Like any business, it sells goods to make a profit. However, all profits are reinvested in the business and the community.
In other words, we want to pay good wages to locals who stock the shelves, we want to provide good income to farmers, we want investors to get a return on their investment, and we want the community to become healthier and better connected as a result.
Yet, as a non-profit business, the co-op will be governed by community members, not by any wealthy controlling interests. (Otherwise, it doesn’t work).
“We’re going to beat Boise. And you can quote me on that.”
As Chris Strawn, co-founder of the committee and local business owner, issued this challenge to the attendees, stifled applause erupted in the room.
Then he announced what he meant.
“I think we can have this up and running in January.”
Though controversial, the mission struck a chord. Though strikingly ambitious, the room was electrified with enthusiasm at the size of the challenge.
With you and your friends’ help in Canyon County, we’ll “beat Boise” and have the co-op up and running by January.
Ambitious? Yes. Possible? Absolutely. Inevitable? You choose.
How to Get Involved
The Canyon County Co-op planning committed has three more meetings scheduled. Come by and learn how to be a part.
If you’re interested in being a planner, a volunteer or an investor please contact Lisa at 468-4448