Neighbors Hopeful to Form Food Co-op in 'Hippie Heaven'

By Benjamin Woodard on December 10, 2012 8:08am | Updated on December 10, 2012 9:15am

 The Peterson Garden Project has 150 planters at its Edgewater location for neighbors to grow their own veggies.
The Peterson Garden Project has 150 planters at its Edgewater location for neighbors to grow their own veggies.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — In a neighborhood known for its good vibes and granola-lovers, some residents are hoping to solve the question of "where's the co-op?”

About 30 neighbors gathered Wednesday at the Rogers Park Business Alliance, 1448 W. Morse Ave., to discuss what it would take to open a member-owned food cooperative in Rogers Park, described by one resident as “hippie heaven.”

"Co-ops thrive in neighborhoods that care about their community," said Lisa Junkin, president of Logan Square's The Dill Pickle, the only operating food co-op in the city.

Mary Meyer and Jocelyn Gerard, a mother and daughter duo, organized the Dec. 5 meeting after having done extensive research on tried-and-true models for successful co-ops, including attending The Dill Pickle's board meetings.

Gerard and her mother were motivated to start a co-op because of their own healthy-eating habits. For Gerard, it even dictates the way she spends her free time and money.

"I don't buy clothes, I buy good food," she said. 

Residents should not expect to see a storefront populated with freshly grown veggies anytime soon. The planning and implementation could take as long as three years.

Tom Rosenfeld, an organic farmer and the majority owner of the Heartland Cafe, expressed interest in selling his organic apples and other vegetables at the co-op as an alternative to big-box grocery stores. 

He said he has had a truckloads of apples rejected by other grocery stores, sometimes without an explanation.

"And it's devastating," he said, adding that The Dill Pickle would take blemished or misshapen apples without a problem.

Laurie Smith, who owns and operates organic Fat Blossom Farm in Allegan, Mich., and has lived in the neighborhood for nine years, also wanted to bring her crops to a Rogers Park co-op.

She said Rogers Park "is a great community, not only as a resident but also as a farmer."

The Dill Pickle, which has 13 paid staff and 1,500 members, celebrated three years in business Wednesday. To get up and running, however, it took five years.

"Most don't take that long," Smith said, hoping to stave any anxiety of how hard it is to create a successful food co-op. "I want the Rogers Park folks to know that."

Sheree Moratto, the director of the Glenwood Sunday Market, a farmers market in Rogers Park, said a co-op would be the next logical step for the community.

"It's going to be an all out effort [to find out] how we are going to do this as a community," she said.

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