The Johnson City Food Cooperative Interest Group has been quietly plugging along towards our dream of being the second registered food coop in Tennessee. We now have our own Facebook page and after just a few days we are happy to report over 300 likes! We hope that you’ll find it an easy way to keep up with all the latest news and progress and become as excited about the idea of a food coop in the area as we are.
We envision a store where farmers can sell their locally grown eggs, fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats and milks year round. It can be a year round venue for our local farmer’s when the new Farmer’s Market is closed for the winter months, allowing them to plan ahead to plant and grow for the winter months. We also envision it to be a full service market where you can do one stop shopping; buy a loaf of bread, some toilet paper and perhaps some types of meals ready-to-eat, along with a bottle of wine.
But all that envisioning can’t come to reality without a market study being taken first. The cost of that study has been estimated to be $16,000 and we are happy to report that Three Rivers Food Cooperative in Knoxville has offered to join forces with us and to pay half that amount out of their own pockets! It seemed to be a case of ‘right place, right time’ because that very successful coop has been in business for over 15 years and have a long record of not only providing their members and customers with locally produced, healthy food during that time, but also of being civic minded in that they have a number of programs in place that allow them to not only give meaningful amounts to local charitable groups in their area, but also a good track record of helping other food cooperatives. They had begun to dream their own ideas of expanding their successful enterprise to perhaps Chattanooga, or another location in Knoxville, but when they heard about OUR dreams they reached out to us to see if we might fit in somehow with their own plans. After a survey was taken at the JC Farmer’s Market and during the Blue Plum festival in the summer of 2014, many meetings, hours of conversations, and a formal presentation to our own Washington County Economic Development Council to appeal for financial backing, the 3 Rivers board members voted unanimously to partner with us. The WCEDC was duly impressed with the homework we’d done, the professionalism we displayed and the way that we tried to reach out to include all those we felt might want to be involved in this endeavor that they then voted to give us half the remaining market study funding we need. Accel Now, a company that helps promote new small businesses in this region, has also jumped in to provide financial support. Presently, the group is running an early membership campaign to raise the remaining funds needed for the study.
All of this is to say that with the cooperation of a lot of people, a diverse ‘task force’ that is truly motivated to bring locally sourced, healthier foods at very affordable prices to the area, and the overwhelming support of many community and business leaders, our dream may become a reality in 2016. It also fits in nicely with Build It Up East Tennessee’s mission to improve the health of our community and economy and preserve our region’s cultural heritage through the promotion of local, sustainably grown food and with ARC&D’s desire to for a strong regional local farm and food economy in Northeast TN.
Please “like” and share our Facebook page so that you can keep up with our latest news, events and updates. It’s currently our only method of reaching as many local and regional folks as possible. https://www.facebook.com/jcfoodcoopgroup/