When you think Eastside Food Co-op – think ROOTS. First come images of root vegetables – carrots, beets, yams, parsnips, radishes and all of those staples of the summer garden and the winter dinner table.
When Amy Fields speaks of roots it’s about the roots of the EFC itself, the core values that have shaped the community resource since its beginning, Like those vegetable roots, the vision of the Coop is sometimes buried, more visible in a flourishing program than in the ideas that lie beneath the surface
When the first shoots of EFC sprouted in 2003 and for the first few years of operation, the focus was on the tangible — the plant sale, the farmers’ market, building a revenue stream and a sense of community among the thirteen neighborhoods, the schools, nonprofit civic and service organizations in Northeast. Always at the root were the implicit core principles of training and community building.
As the store has grown and the revenue stream has stabilized EFC is able to focus on the less tangible but no less real goals of the cooperative. The developments are visible.
- Outreach opportunities, particularly with education and training programs. EFC’s services now reach an area that incorporates Columbia Heights, Roseville, and St. Anthony Village with programs such as the Senior Wisdom Program in Roseville, classes at Northeast and Pillsbury Schools and start-up support for the new co-op on the Northside.
- Expanded collaboration with a wider range of community organizations, such as the Northeast Regional Library and Neighborhood Healthsource and the University of Minnesota on a shared approach to identifying and meeting the health and nutrition needs of the area.
- The success of the Recovery Bike Shop which has led to meeting the interests and shopping interests of a common customer base.
- The popularity of the Yoga Studio and the wellness program as prime services of the EFC.
By far the most visible is EFC’s development of the Granite Studio as a major community gathering place for learning and community building.
- The popular Indoor Farmers’ Market.
- Monthly movie nights, third Thursdays at 7:00 p.m, have become a community staple. EFC has hosted a powerful program of community film screenings for adults and children – all free and open, complete with popcorn!
- Northeast Network sessions that meet the second Thursday of every month, 7:30 -9:00 a.m. offer a unique opportunity for Northeast neighbors to explore a range of community options and concerns – from development of the Mississippi, to the arts agenda, to the impact of Census 2010 findings. Northeast Networks provide a venue for concerned residents to learn, to share experience and ideas – not to mention energy. Elected officials participate as learners and listeners. All ideas are welcome. Again, free and open to all, complimentary tempting treats provided. Though the program ends by 9:00 sharp, the discussions continue and the ideas that flow are better informed and often reinforced and expanded as they mature.
- The Granite Studio has also been the venue for countless groups ranging including a USDA hearing on meat safety, meetings of the Northeast Investment Cooperative and the Sierra Club, Art-A-Whirl events and a recent kickoff for Altered Aesthetics.
One subtle service of EFC that caught my imagination was the Co-op’s support of local musicians. Because the music played on the market’s audio system must be licensed, EFC offers an easy option. Local musicians are free to upload their digital offerings to the Co-op which will then play the music on the in-store system.
The fertile minds of Amy Fields, her staff and board seem to know no bounds.
Right now they are planning EFC’s participation in August Eat Local Month. One feature of EFC’s participation will be a special thank you to Co-op members – a generous bag of EFC groceries for members participating in National Night Out , August 7, 2012 – one way Amy wants to thank the people who share by supporting the Eastside Food Co-op on a regular basis.
The harvest of services, programs and ideas implicit in the seeds of those original core principles is plentiful indeed. This community is enriched by the Eastside Food Co-op.