By Suzannah Schneider, Communications Manager and Certification Coordinator
Mary and the Giant Pumpkin
Moscow Food Co-op is not only part of our Guide to Exceptional Markets (GEMs), but they're a Business Ally of CNG, too!
This Idaho co-op is a GEM because they clearly indicate which vendors or products are CNG-certified in its 46 year-old organization. If you're a local shopper, you'll notice CNG stickers on produce grown by local CNG farms!
We are really looking forward to having a presence at Moscow Food Co-op's annual Farmer Mixer this fall, where the co-op's farmer vendors are invited to come together and learn from one another.
As a Business Ally, Moscow Food Co-op has made a financial contribution to our grassroots organization to help keep CNG affordable for direct-market farmers.
We wish we lived closer so we could swing by their exceptional deli hot food bar daily for lunch! Meantime, we spoke with Moscow Food Co-op's Market Manager, Alycia Rock, to learn about the co-op's rich history and how CNG makes a difference for both its vendors and eaters.
We are proud to have such a strong connection with this Exceptional Market!
Alycia Rock (AR): Counterculture ideas and increasing concern about soil, water, and air pollution spurred the formation of natural food cooperatives all across the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So too in Moscow, Idaho, when friends Rod Davis, Jim Eagan, and Dave and Katie Mosel decided to start a natural foods store to address their concerns about rising food costs and the environmental impact of corporate food production. First called the Good Food Store, our founders opened our doors at 112 East Second Street with an inventory that consisted of peas, lentils, cheese, spices, and a few miscellaneous items. We were run entirely by volunteers, and in our first month sales totaled $126.88. In the second month sales grew to $1,000 – it was clear that Moscow wanted its Good Food Store!
Then, with 25 members and a few grants and individual loans in place, the Good Food Store officially became a nonprofit cooperative association with the state of Idaho on April 25th, 1974.
AR: As noted by the International Cooperative Alliance, "Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity." For over 40 years, we have promoted our cooperative identity by being good stewards of the earth and each other. Through providing healthy food, we have created a healthier planet and a stronger, healthier community. We have built our cooperative community based on the recognition that we are stronger together. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
CNG: How did you make the decision to support CNG as a Business Ally?
AR: Our customers care about how their food is grown, and our vendors are looking for an alternative to expensive and inconsistent USDA organic certification. We understand our vendors value communicating they are using chemical-free or reduced chemical and/or sustainable growing methods, and we know they appreciate being validated and certified for those efforts.
As noted on the CNG website, becoming certified also provides farmers with the opportunity to network and receive feedback from similar growers. There is a great sense of belonging within the CNG movement.
CNG: How does Certified Naturally Grown support Moscow Food Co-op customers?
AR: It helps customers navigate and trust their vendors, and helps them make decisions about what food they want to eat. It also helps them support and understand growers who may need an alternative to USDA certification but who still use land which has been “free of prohibited pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers for at least three years from the date of the first saleable harvest this year.” Including CNG products allows our customers to feel comfortable with their purchases.
CNG: What are some exciting developments at Moscow Food Co-op our CNG community can look forward to in the future?
AR: The Moscow Food Co-op has a lot going on each year! For instance, we are expanding our bakery operation to a new space and adding some exciting new products. We are constantly on the lookout for new businesses, new local producers, and new farms to support. We of course are scheduling more events and classes for our customers, and striving to supply the best deli hot bar food in Moscow! We’re always building and learning, so following us on social media and subscribing to our eNewsletter is definitely the best way to stay on top of all the Co-op’s news and information moving forward.
CNG: If you had a magic agricultural wand, how would you use it to improve farm systems in America?
AR: It’s a dream of ours that everyone has access to locally grown, sustainable options for produce and food. We try to reduce the mileage between farm and table and offer options that keep our local community and economy thriving.
CNG: Is there anything else CNG growers should know?
AR: Growers should know that the Moscow Food Co-op is on their side! We value their time and efforts, and we always aim to treat them fairly and open all lines of communication. We want to make sure we can provide a platform for their products and get their goods to more and more local people, and we want to share with them all the information we have!