Over the past five years, Re:Vision’s Re:Farm Denver program has laid the groundwork for a strong community food system in southwest Denver – over 300 low-income families producing food in their yards, converting two vacant properties into highly productive urban farms, distributing countless tons of fresh, organically grown fruits and veggies, and offering numerous cooking and nutrition classes.
Today, we are extremely excited to announce a milestone that makes it a community-owned food system: the incorporation and launch of the Westwood Food Cooperative (WFC), the first food cooperative in Denver, and one of the first in the country to be owned and operated by residents of a low-income community. (Actually, there was a food co-op that opened in Denver in 1976 called the Common Market but it closed in 1980.)
What is a food cooperative? Food cooperatives typically offer healthy and natural foods, many starting as local buying clubs. However, rather than being owned by a large national retailer based in another state (as most Denver grocery stores are), a cooperative is owned by its members - the community of people who shop there and receive all of the benefits!
Big plans are underway for the WFC, with the vision of opening a community-owned grocery store and food hub in Westwood, a community where you cannot find healthy food. The WFC will allow residents to sell their surplus produce at the grocery store. Any resident of the community can become a member of the WFC, meaning that when you shop at the co-op, you might buy your neighbor’s produce, or see your neighbor working there. Members get to vote on substantial business members, elect their neighbors to serve on the board of directors, and at the end of the year, profits are distributed back to the members!
Additionally, the WFC aims to launch a commercial kitchen facility that will use produce grown in the neighborhood, and train people how to create value-added food products, like salsas, prepared meals and other items that can be sold through the retail store. Walking into the grocery store, you’re likely to see the shelves stocked with quality products created by local residents and sold under the co-op brand label!
Another business opportunity for the WFC is to operate a small food hub that aggregates, washes and processes, stores and packages, and distributes food grown by Re:Vision’s family farmers, as well as other local and regional farmers. The food hub will conveniently provide quality locally-grown food products to restaurants, schools, churches, and other institutions.
Through the WFC, Re:Vision is showing what place-based economic models look like. This is a business that exists to serve the needs of a specific community, and therefore can never be uprooted and outsourced somewhere else. Several weeks ago, the community elected its first board of directors: two members from the backyard gardeners, promotoras, Somali Bantu, Re:Vision and one representative of the neighborhood coalition Westwood Unidos.
Want to get involved? We have several seedling sales this spring, along with CSA shares this summer. And stay tuned over the coming year as we’ll keep you updated the co-op acquires a site, launches a crowd-funding capital campaign, and begins offering membership!
Here's a great little video to inspire you to join this movement!