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Episode 8: What’s a Food Co-op and How Do You Start One?

Episode 8: What’s a Food Co-op and How Do You Start One?

Interview with Ellery Richardson from Nashville Food Co-op

Episode 8: What’s a Food Co-op and How Do You Start One

Who wouldn’t want a grocery store where they are part owners and can vote on the items being sold, where they come from and how they are packaged. Learn what a grocery co-op is and how to start one in our conversation with Ellery Richardson from Nashville Food Co-op.

Maris Masellis: Welcome to the show. This is Zero Waste Trash Talk. My name is Maris Masellis and that’s Michael Britt and today we are going to talk about the Nashville food Co-op with Ellery Richardson. Yay, welcome Ellery.

Ellery Richardson: Thanks for having me.

Maris Masellis: I don’t know too much about co-ops or food co-ops, but I’m really excited to learn. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself Ellery? We were just chatting about how you kind of grew up between here and Chattanooga.

Ellery Richardson: Yes, yes. So my dad grew up in East Nashville, back before it was cool. But when we were young, he got transferred to Chattanooga with his job. So I actually grew up in Chattanooga, but then in high school, He moved us back. So they live in Brentwood right now, but I’ve claimed sort of both cities as my own. Went to Vanderbilt then decided I wanted to do environmental issues. And so I went up to Vermont for to go to law school at Vermont Law School because they are known as an environmental for their environmental policy law program. Nice. And that’s actually where I discovered food color co-ops, and then I came back here and was shocked that Nashville didn’t have one.

Maris Masellis: Well, I am originally from New Jersey and I have a lot of family from the northeast. So but in Vermont is a special place. It’s definitely its own place. How long were you in Vermont?

Ellery Richardson: So just three years, but I remember my first year the governor allowed the first McDonald’s to come into the state. And it was like super controversial because Vermont you know, very pro local, no chains. The only way they were allowed to come in is because they promised to use Vermont maple syrup on their breakfasts. I just remember that because it was a big deal.

Maris Masellis: What part of Vermont was your law school in?

Ellery Richardson: So my law school is in a tiny town called South Royalton. It’s about 2000 people. It is maybe 20 minutes from the New Hampshire border where Hanover is. Woodstock is more of a touristy town nearby that people may have heard of, but sort of Central Vermont and I was in complete culture shock living in Tennessee my whole life to move up there with all the snow and the land of Bernie Sanders.

Maris Masellis: Yeah,

Michael Britt: I bet. Coming from East Nashville, even though it wasn’t cool it’s still not a backwoods. Chattanooga is becoming what Nashville is now or five years ago, right? Do you keep missing the waves of where the cities get cool?

Ellery Richardson: I think so.

Michael Britt: Yeah, I keep looking at Chattanooga thinking that’s a neat place. I’d like to spend more time there.

Ellery Richardson: I’ve going back, it’s a great spot. It’s just small and very outdoorsy.

Michael Britt: So you’re trying to start up a co-op, and like Maris was saying, why don’t you give us a definition of what a co-op is for people who don’t quite understand it?

Ellery Richardson: Okay, so the cooperative is a business structure just like a nonprofit or an LLC, or a corporation. But what makes it unique is that it’s owned by the people who benefit from it. So I guess the best way to explain it to people who haven’t heard of it is the owners, the members are the shareholders, but no one can have any more shares than anyone else. So it’s very democratically owned, and that’s sort of the basis of it. No one can buy extra interest. We’re all in this together. One person, one vote. And you join because you care about the mission and want to be involved in what is happening. There are a lot different types of co-ops credit unions are cooperatives. A lot of people are familiar with those. A lot of electric co-ops and farmers co-ops in Davidson County farmers co-op is a farmer facing co-op, then their consumer co-ops and grocery co-ops are consumer cooperatives.

Michael Britt: Oh, but I’m glad you explained it like that because I in my head I was confused a little bit as far as like I know Publix is an employee owned grocery store. But people can have more shares and the board can have more shares and and so that’s where a co-op is going to be a little more equal.

Maris Masellis: Everyone is equal. Yeah, like that.

Ellery Richardson: Yes, Whole Foods is no longer a co-op, but they actually started off as a small co-op. I think it was Austin maybe somewhere in Texas.

Michael Britt: Austin was the first one. I think Dallas was a second one. I live near the second Whole foods, I used to get oat pizza crusts fresh from the bakery, they would make oat pizza crusts on Tuesdays. I still miss that. $10 for two pizza crust fresh made in the bakery back in the 80s. It was nice. So the word co-op, a lot of us think, Oh, cool. Food co-op, food is going to be healthier, locally sourced, you know, and it’s gonna be a nice neighborhood, maybe a little hippie vibe kind of thing. But there’s so many people that have a negative, I don’t know what it is, feeling towards the word co-op. I read this article about how in the farm country, they don’t really have grocery stores. They’re feeding us and the grocery store chains bought everything up and then close the under performing ones. And people in these farming communities are having to go to 99 cent stores to get their food, which is ridiculous. And so there was a movement to start co-ops, but everyone thinks co-ops are socialism. That’s not anything we want to be part of. So there’s this whole article in The New York Times about how they had to call it, they couldn’t call them co-ops. They’ve had to call them something else. I forgot what they were saying. They changed the name, but it just a matter of semantics. And sometimes in the south and the Midwest, you have to play these kind of semantic games. Have you run into that? Hearing people say, Oh, we don’t want to be part of a communist co-op or anything like that.

Farm Country Feeds America. But Just Try Buying Groceries There.

An exodus of grocery stores is turning rural towns into food deserts. But some are fighting back by opening their own local markets. Great Scott! Community Market sits in an old shoe store in Winchester, Ill. Credit… Daniel Acker for The New York Times WINCHESTER, Ill. – John Paul Coonrod had a banana problem.

Ellery Richardson: Actually, no, because most people have never really heard of co-ops in Nashville. The response I get is, well, what’s a grocery co-op? But it is really interesting that a lot of the ones I’m part of as a group I mean, it’s a loose association of clubs that are starting across the country and a lot of them don’t call themselves the x city food co-op, they call themselves, you know, x market or x store. And they don’t really broadcast that they’re a co-op, even though once you get on their web page, that’s obviously what they are. There’s one food co-op in Tennessee, it’s in Knoxville. It’s the Three Rivers Market, and it’s an amazing co-op. And if you’re ever up there, I encourage you to stop by.

Inside The Store

Welcome to Three Rivers Market, Tennessee’s first and only food cooperative. We are open from 10 AM to 7 PM everyday but Christmas Day, with limited hours on Thanksgiving Day (10 AM – 3 PM) and New Year’s Day (12 noon – 9 PM). Our Patio and Dining Room are currently closed.

Maris Masellis: So is it like open all the time? Is it like it is a daily thing?

Ellery Richardson: Yes, it’s a full service grocery store open seven days a week. It actually recently expanded

Maris Masellis: I see pictures online sometimes the package free stores is it kind of like that is everything package free?

Ellery Richardson: I think a lot of the co-ops from the 70s which is getting back to what Michael was talking about were like that, you know, the bulk buys, because there was a big resurgence of co-ops in the 70s which is why there is a negative connotation because people think of those as weird hippie stuff. But a lot of the newer modern ones definitely have bulk sections, but they don’t really look like refill stores. They look like grocery stores.

Maris Masellis: I feel like the refill idea is probably going to be a little different now that COVID has changed the world as well.

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, I hope that will come back. But when we’ve been talking to our consultants, they have said, you know, everyone likes bulk, everyone asks for bulk, but when you put it up there, not enough people buy from the bulk aisle. So that’s why even co-ops don’t have huge bulk sections. They have more than other grocery stores. But people like the convenience of packaging, which is obviously something we’re gonna have to work on, right, as we all know, the problems with that.

US Supermarkets Are Doing Bulk Food All Wrong | Civil Eats

The recent wave of zero-waste stores-think Brooklyn’s Precycle and Austin’s (now-closed) In.gredients-may be well-designed, airy, and Instagram-worthy, but their novelty belies an important truth. While there’s no doubt that it’s time to reduce the quantity of plastic and other packaging waste that comes home with us from the grocery stores, shoppers don’t need to seek out stores made only of bins and jars to reduce their impact.

Michael Britt: I think that’s an education issue, something to address actively. What we’ve learned is that you have to actively say here’s why you want to do this, and here’s how to do it. Otherwise, people just have this kind of vague idea of what they want. And they don’t even know that was an option. Oh, I could shop like that I could get rid of plastic. And, you know the first conversation we’re having is why you want to get rid of plastic, and then how you do it in daily life. And I think that if as a co-op, you really work on education program

Maris Masellis: I saw that on the website that was part of it, that there’s a part of it that is educational for people to learn. Right?

Ellery Richardson: Right. So there’s a whole side that’s going to be food education. Part of that is packaging and how food gets you and local food, the benefits of local food. Most co-ops have an educational arm and you know, their own community kitchen where people can come in and use it. But an interesting thing about co-ops is that they’re owned by the people who shop there. They’re owned by the members and if the members decide we want no packaging, and you know, majority of the members makes that the mission and petitions the board then that’s what the club’s gonna do because the members control the company.

Blog – Nashville Food Co-op

Cooperatives stand for community. All community. One of the main tenets of a cooperative is voluntary and open membership. It’s never been a secret that there are massive inequities in this country, even if some of us didn’t pay attention to them before the past few weeks.

Michael Britt: Right? That’s great. It’s nice that you can have a voice. I go into a grocery store and actually I go into very few because I walk in and there’s nothing I can eat. I’m not going to eat 99% of what’s in the grocery store. And it just makes me anxious that there’s 500 kinds of sugar coated corn cereals, I just, I just can’t even believe it and they’re all wrapped in plastic and cardboard and branded and advertised and that just drives me nuts. So have you looked at, this just came into my head. There’s an online grocery store called Move. Have you seen them?

Ellery Richardson: No, I’ve seen several but not any by that name

Michael Britt: I think it was move, I’ll search for it and put the link in the transcript (Move). The thing I liked about them it was, you know I don’t necessarily want my groceries shipped from across the country this is why I’m interested in a food co-op. I’d rather have local foods and support local farmers than things driven across the country. I can do that because I have the privilege and the means to do it and go out and search it out where a lot of us want to run a store and get something quick. What I do isn’t sustainable I don’t eat sustainably because everybody can’t do it the way I do it. I buy my vegetables from a CSA, I shop at Turnip Truck and I pay extra for anything else and I can do farmers markets, but everybody doesn’t pick and choose like that. But I do have to say I don’t want to get off topic too much but the reason I started shopping differently is in California, Ralph’s grocery store went on strike. And I lived literally, it wasn’t even a half a block away from my house, I could put something on the skillet and run over and get an ingredient and come back. They went on strike and my wife’s an actress, and she’s in the union and I had a union job at Safeway in when I was in high school in the 80s in Texas. And so I’m like, I’m not going to cross the picket line, I’m not going and I started shopping at Trader Joe’s and farmers markets, and I just never went back. Once I got into those habits. I never went back to grocery stores, typical grocery stores. But back to the Move thing, what I thought was interesting with their data driven approach is they went in and analyzed all the data and realized that there were really only 500 things that people buy from grocery stores and that they made the list of those 500 things then sought out like Trader Joe’s does to you know make deals with farmers to and producers to produce just for them the one branded thing. And I thought that’s pretty interesting because grocery stores carry what is like 60,000 or more items. And you really only need 500 that tells you the branding weirdness there.

Supermarket Product Choices – Consumer Reports Magazine

Products might confuse shoppers further by touting health benefits with labels that sometimes don’t have a clear meaning. When evaluating eggs, the choices are no longer just brown or white, and medium, large, extra large, or jumbo. We faced cage-free, free-range, with omega-3, pasteurized, all-natural, vegetarian, and organic.

Ellery Richardson: Yeah that’s really interesting.

Michael Britt: Didn’t mean to take all your time talking about what I know. We’re here to find out what you know.

Maris Masellis: Yeah, personally, we’ve struggled. We’ve talked a lot about this Ellery about our struggle with plastic and our struggle with being zero waste and sustainability in general in the grocery stores and how, because there’s so many choices and because we don’t have a lot of options. Being convenience is a huge factor. And we’re used to convenience. People aren’t going to avoid packaged products or ask for anything different because they can just go into these stores and have everything given to them right and then all these different brands are, I guess, good. And in our eyes, we’re thinking, Oh, we have so many choices in that way. But really, how many do we need? It’s like, we only need 500 or less probably. And so this co-op idea I saw on the website that you guys were raising money from and that you also got a seed grant from the food co-op initiative. And is that just Tennessee that that has the food co-op initiative? Is that just Nashville or?

Ellery Richardson: No. So the Food Cooperative Initiative is the association I mentioned earlier. It is funded through the USDA, because the USDA, at least a part of it does recognize the need to support local food and local economy. And so it is a group of folks that have worked in food cooperatives and their whole mission is to help small startup food cooperatives like the National Food cooperatives startup all across the country. So you apply for a seed grant, and that is, you know, $10,000. But then it comes with free consulting, pretty much as much as you need it until the USDA money runs out, which nowadays might not last as long as we thought it used to, right. But it’s been a tremendous resource. And I mean, anyone who’s interested in food co-ops could just call them up or get on their website and mean that’s their job is to help promote food cooperatives. And so that’s where a lot of my knowledge base has come from meeting with them and meeting with other startup co-ops that are also working with them.

Maris Masellis: Would it be better to fund this just one and really put all the money and effort into one or better for multiple co-ops around the city?

Ellery Richardson: Well, my grand vision would be for multiple comps across the city. Yeah. But you really need to start with one. Okay, I know we can’t really get anywhere until we have one store that’s up and running and people can see Oh yeah, that’s what it is because like I said before Nashville doesn’t know what co-ops are. They’ve never people who grew up here have never really experienced one. I think there was a small one in Hillsboro village in the 70s. But only a small community of people even heard of that one. It’s like Nashville at large needs to see one functioning and working and saying, Oh, hey, this is great. That’s actually how I became so in love with the idea. My tiny town of 2000 people in Vermont had a small food co-op. And the first year I just drove 20 minutes to the grocery store. Not really thinking anything of it. But you know, as I got more ingrained into the community, I would just pop into the market. And then I started learning what they were about. And one thing that really sort of hit home for me, is that I would just be shopping for tomatoes, they would have two baskets. One basket would say conventional Mexico like your roma tomato Then the next basket would say Luna blue farms, South Royalton, Vermont, which is the town I was in, sorry. It’s like maybe 15-20 cents more. So one day I just bought the more expensive one like, Oh, hey, that’s right around the right around the corner supporting our town. Yeah. And as part of the educational factor, it was labeled, you know, these are biodynamically raised, I had to Google what that meant, but it was all label. And it just tasted so much better. So that was the beginning of my food education, just walking into the co-op and seeing the difference right in front of my eyes and tasting the difference.

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Michael Britt: so that’s one of the things that’s one of the things I think people don’t realize about co-ops is it is local food. So your your your focus is on making deals with farms and supporting community farmers. But you also would probably be you know, there are national groups where you joined together to get brand name items or things shipped from other countries and all of that, right? That’s so both.

Ellery Richardson: It is both. So our mission and the mission of most co-ops is to supply local as much as possible. But at the end of the day, people need toilet paper. People need paper towels, they want their frosted mini wheats are their Cheerios, that no grass or even natural organic cotton. Yes, I know that’s not really being made in that town. So there are trade associations. I’ve had a lot of restaurants get their food from Cisco. co-ops have their own that’s the forgetting the initials but it’s the co-op Association. And so you petition to join and it’s also a cooperative. So everyone who joins you know, has a financial stake in the success of that group and it supplies like equal exchange coffees, pretty much every co-op you walk into does equal exchange coffee, plus some local roasters as well of course because it’s a co-op.

Michael Britt: But you know they have deals with equal exchange you know Fairtrade chocolates paper towel seventh generation metal they provide that so that’s the difference like people it’s not a farmers market because that’s but that’s set up as farmers markets where things are only local and seasonal. This has everything like a grocery store.

Ellery Richardson: Yes that’s pretty even the most of the new ones that are in a town bigger than the 2000 person town are full size grocery stores. That market was small but you know, it had amazing breakfast sandwiches every morning I had a little hot bar it had lunch, love that had everything you needed.

Michael Britt: Nice and so how is the reception been so far here people like it hasn’t been hard to educate people are there a lot of a pent up need and want in the in the

Ellery Richardson: education is the biggest challenge right now though. It’s been interesting. So I’ve been doing this for a few years now that you know, we have a lot of transplants coming in and a lot of people reach out to us because they came from a city with a co-op and so they really recognize the benefit of it and they want it. So we sort of have two things like the nashvillians. Once I explained it to them, they liked the idea but they’ve just never seen it in action. So there is a big education barrier there. And then you know, some people you know, get it immediately Some people go well, I want to go like see one first because it sounds a little different. Then you have all these people moving in that came from places with co-ops and Google the co-op like Alright, well where’s the co-op in Nashville? I gotta go get my groceries and then are shocked to find that there isn’t one.

Michael Britt: Well and where are you thinking about putting one what area is there? Is there a range of areas or

Ellery Richardson: is not a specific neighborhood yet. This we have taken the advice of the food cooperative initiative. They told us not to commit to a specific neighborhood Nashville is not big enough to be able to do that. At this stage, just because we want to be open and honest with our members, we don’t know exactly where we’re gonna end up. It depends on what’s available. that’s big enough you need you know, truck access. It’s you can’t just pick any building in town with the for sale sign on it. You have to afford it to, I don’t know how much money we’ll have once we’re ready to sign a lease on which neighborhoods we can afford that much square footage because grocery stores are big and they’re expensive. You have refrigeration, you have trucking. So we’re not sure yet but we have committed to being somewhere centrally located. It’s easily accessible, whether it’s near interstate or on a bus line. So we don’t know exactly where that will be yet, but somewhere easy to get to as much as possible with national traffic. Makes sense.

Maris Masellis: Then news, what are the next steps? on your website? Again, it said that you guys had raised some money, raised some money and got the funds from the grant. And you’re still Are you still waiting from our members to join in order to do that to do the next step? Which is location or?

Ellery Richardson: Yes. So the way it works is there sort of different stages of starting a food co-op. And there are other ways to do this, but right now, we’re just following the FCI model that they have seen be the most successful. Of course, there are other ways. Like I said, if a space opens up immediately and money comes in, there’s an investor and we can do it, then yeah, that’s great. Let’s break ground tomorrow. But generally speaking, you know, like I said, grocery stores are expensive, you have to raise awareness, build the community, and then you have to get alone Of course, and there are specific cooperative banks that understand the co-op structure and are willing to loan to cooperatives but the way they dress edge, of course, the standard financials and business plan, but they also look at how many members you have. And you may compare that to the demographics of your city. Because the thing about co-ops is they’re different. And people are committed to them, like we’ve seen when people moving in like, Alright, well, where’s the co-op? And you need that community behind the co-op for it to be successful? Yeah. So the way the co-op banks judge whether to give money is all right, well, what are their ownership numbers in relation to their city? Is the community ready for co-op? And they do that by based on the initial owners who join before we have a location?

Michael Britt: Gotcha. Is would there be a way to like, open small or like have a small store that gets people to understand what it’s about?

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, we are actually exploring that we’re talking about that. We did do an initial market study back couple years ago, just to make sure it would be worth it. Putting all this effort into we didn’t want to do it if the market survey said no, Nashville is not ready for a co-op, but it did come back very positive. Like you could put it pretty much anywhere in the city and it would be successful. It was great news. But it did recommend a large store. It’s like you know, Nashville is big people want the convenience. So you should have Valley. Yeah, so we have considered also opening smaller, we would of course needle it would take a little less capital A little more membership initially. So we’re open to different possibilities, but for now we’re just raising awareness and getting as many members as possible.

Michael Britt: I’d vote for the Piggly Wiggly on Gallatin.

Ellery Richardson: Everyone has an idea. You need to cut it

Michael Britt: near me that’s near us and it’s empty and it’s a nice size. Actually, you know what I would like to see from from something like this is somebody who I’ve talked about this with Megan from the goodwill Do you know the good folks? Yes, yeah. You know, There’s also someone that maybe should could be part of a co-op and have, you know, her her thing going on in there. But one of the things I’d love to see is somebody go in and buy all of the closed down Dollar stores, it wasn’t the Dollar Generals, it’s the other one, the Family Dollar. They were all those empty family dollars to see, like somebody take that and just make it a chain of co-ops. Or at everything.

Family Dollar will close nearly 400 stores

Family Dollar will close 390 stores this year – one of many big changes the discount retailer hopes will help reverse its fortunes.

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, it’d be a perfect size size for a co-op.

Michael Britt: Yeah. And they have like, I’m sure they had trucking in and out and all the rest of that because of the way they did business before for all their 99 cent doodads

Maris Masellis: right? Yes.

Michael Britt: That’s it. Let’s get our checkbooks out and make this happen.

Maris Masellis: I know. Right. So how do we support the movement? How do we spread this awareness? And I know, you know, just by talking about it and putting it out and as a podcast will hopefully get more people aware that way.

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, thank you so much. Yes. So that’s what we’re really focusing on right now spreading awareness if you are willing to commit become a member, you can sign up on our website, it is $250 per household. It is a member fee, but you’re essentially buying a share. So you only pay that once. It’s not an annual. Once you pay that you have a vote. We have an annual meeting, generally March or February every year where we check in with our owners. And of course, you can check in with us anytime. We have board meetings and you know, constant things going on. So it’s $250 a share, but that is per household. And we also have a payment plan. So $50 a month, we’ll get you set up. And then we’re also taking volunteers. I mean, we’re completely volunteer board right now. So even if you can’t commit to paying right now, but you believe in the mission, or if you want to, if you can pay and you still believe in the mission so much you want to help. There. We have committees and volunteer efforts as well just to spread the word

Michael Britt: Nice. That’s a, I think it would be a valuable thing to do. And I think paying paying it off in monthly installments. You know, if it wasn’t for the fact that nobody’s working right now, $50 a month wouldn’t be wouldn’t really bankrupt most people.

Ellery Richardson: If people have specific situations, I mean, we can work with you, of course.

Michael Britt: Now, that reminds me of some questions I had had was thinking about and how this would work. Is there any mechanism for a sliding scale for different income levels? Like if you were, you know, if you were at a lower income levels or different membership level, you could join and maybe a pricing structure when you buy Is there any support built in for anything like that?

Ellery Richardson: Yeah. So we have been talking about that. We haven’t quite figured out exactly how to do that without someone donating essentially the match, because that’s a lot of co-ops do that, but they have people donate the match. And the reason that’s an issue is that it’s Essentially a membership stake. And so everyone needs to be equal, right? So we want to make sure that everyone has the exact same amount of interest. And that can happen with donations. So we don’t have it set up in our website at the at this stage, but that’s something a lot of other co-ops offer and we’ve been wanting to offer, we just need to figure out exactly how that can work. So if you want to donate to other people’s memberships reach out to us and we can make that happen.

Michael Britt: That sounds great. Oh, gleaning groups. Janine hunter works with a was at the Society of St. Andrew. Yeah. So you know, I bring her up every now and then because I really dig what they’re doing. And it’s it’s becoming more important with food rotting in the fields and no one to pick it and none of this middlemen like Cargill and all these food packagers are packaging stuff for restaurants and institutions now. So is there a mechanism or have you thought of a mechanism to work with groups That could bring in a whole bunch of crops or

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, so I don’t know of any particular example of co-ops working with gleaning groups but I don’t see why it couldn’t happen. So we definitely support their mission I’ve known about The Society of St Andrew for a long time so anyway, we can work with them, Michael can

Michael Britt: connect you and we are last we just published today, an episode with compost company. And one of the things that fascinated me when I went out and visited with them was that if the top layer of produce freezes, dries does something weird and one of those tractor trucks, they just dump the whole truck of produce when the windy percent of it is still perfectly good. It’s a write off they now they drive it up to compost company, leave everything, take the trailer and go because the trailers you know, need to be working and making money and they’re just very specific like if something goes wrong with the temperature by like, degree sometimes when they ship, they dump the whole load. Oh wow. And so he was thinking of trying to work with Janine and Jeannie, I’m sorry and hunter and the food Gleaners to try to figure out how to get all that in a timely manner somewhere. That’s what I was thinking this is the thought process so that there’s a co-op that could take that and resell it or even help package it up and donate it or something. That would be awesome. Yeah, I’m just thinking out loud as we go.

Ellery Richardson: Yeah, one I have is to have a food hub attached to the co-ops only Of course, some warehouse space but I would like to have even larger warehouse space for things such as that. I’ve had a lot of folks come to me with ideas that the club can help with that you would just need that you know, warehouse space in the back. And that’s something I would love to see the co-op be able to help with.

Michael Britt: Specifically large coolers. I think the key is produce from rotting. That’s, that’s one of the big issues is those big coolers.

Ellery Richardson: Yes, definitely. We’d love to help with that.

Michael Britt: That seems like there’s a ton of potential to have this where it’s not this adversarial, corporate grocery store, you know, throwing out a third of all of their foods so that they can make sure to entice everybody in their store. And that whole business model needs to be rethought and that not keeping things in stock not buying locally. The distribution and I appreciate the people like you’re out there trying to solve these issues. I think it’s like us want to eat like that.

Ellery Richardson: I think the past couple months, especially if you weren’t already aware that there are major issues with our food system you are now and I’d like to think that of course the food co-op can’t solve all those problems, but I’d like to think it would be a step in the right direction.

Michael Britt: Yeah, I mean, it’s like Are any of the zero waste off that we talked about and the changes and the ethics of how you deal with life it? It’s a rabbit hole. Once you go down it then you start saying, well, we can do this also we can do that and it does exist. band and I think it grows and it and people are enlightened with what can happen to learn. That’s right.

Maris Masellis: Always Always.

Michael Britt: Well cool,

Maris Masellis: was great to learn about that and the mission it says on your website just to recap the mission of the Nashville food co-op is to provide the city of Nashville delicious local food options, by way of a year round full service member owned cooperative grocery store. And some of the goals is keeping capital in the community, offering educational programs about food systems, labeling items in the store so we know what we’re buying. And then hosting in store cooking classes that highlight local eating like that. Like that. And then their vision when you’re around locally owned store will provide local seasonal and consciously sourced products as season allows. Love that

Michael Britt: consciously sourced, that’s perfect because that there’s there’s so many choices that we make on a daily basis unless you dig into the research you don’t know that the people picking your tomatoes were practically locked in trailers and treated like slaves in Florida. You know, you know, you know I don’t want to buy those tomatoes. I don’t want any tomatoes at grocery stores. And now you’re finding out avocados are you know that the drug cartels are taking over avocado farms and so what I liked, I would like to shop from somewhere that you know, just like we’re talking about mega with a good feel some people who make those inquiries and figure that out so that I can go in and buy my groceries and not have to feel like you know, I’ve made the world a worse place by my choices. I can feel like I’ve helped make the world a better place even if it cost a little more to do. I’m willing to do that

Maris Masellis: and it starts right here in our community. right here at home.

Ellery Richardson: Yes, there are definitely people willing to do it. If we can get a store open to source it.

Maris Masellis: We will have a store open Ellery, we’re gonna push for you. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for being on our show. And Spending time with us to explain your dream and we are going to support you, however you need it. Great.

Ellery Richardson: Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it. Well, good luck.

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