Utah organizers try to launch grocery co-op

Utah organizers try to launch grocery co-op

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A network of grocery cooperatives is being planned for Utah that would emphasize organic and local food selections and compete against established store chains. It would operate as a for-profit venture for thousands of owners -- consumers and farmers.

About 200 people are involved in the launch of the Wasatch Cooperative Market, which would start with one store in Salt Lake City and later add others throughout northern Utah.

Environmental consultant Ben Gaddis, a member of the cooperative's steering committee, said there is keen interest among farmers who can't produce enough goods for larger stores, but who still need a larger market for their produce.

Gaddis said he was encountering some resistance among people who say they'd buy an ownership stake in a co-op, but only after it opens.

Organizers need people willing to contribute now to cover a lease and operating costs for the first store. They say it could take three to six years before the first co-op opens.

Alison Einerson, executive director of Local First Utah, told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City that the plan was to "bring in as many local foods as possible and be organic as much as possible."

Other organizers said some produce would have to be shipped in seasonally from outside Utah to meet customer demand.

Supporters are working with an attorney on the best way to incorporate a cooperative or partnership.

Co-ops have a historic tradition in Utah, where Mormon pioneers established a variety of cooperative living and trading arrangements. The tradition dates back to the founding of Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution in 1868.

Initially, ZCMI's charter was to act as a counterweight against non-Mormon merchants of Utah who were accused of gouging members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for necessities. Outlet prices were set the same and low for such goods as groceries, clothing and hardware. ZCMI was later bought out by a succession of retail chains.

Information from: Deseret News

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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