The Signs of Sustainability (SOS) Project is a citizen-led initiative created to show gratitude to our friends and neighbors in the Rondout Valley who demonstrate sustainable practices. Sustainability is defined by this project as stewardship and care of the present and future vitality of our wild, agricultural and human resources. Since it began in October 2012, the Signs of Sustainability Project has recognized 24 local individuals and organizations by documenting what they have done. Each year the past recipients of the award are invited to join in the selection process.
The High Falls Food Co-op
|Photo by Ilene Cutler.
The United Nations declared 2012 the international year of Co-operatives. Throwing a spotlight on our very own High Falls Food Co-op (HFFC) helps us to understand why this unique model for business, that seeks to balance economic viability with social responsibility, is worth celebrating. The HFFC has been in operation for 37 years. It was founded by a small group of locals who wanted to buy clean, sustainably produced food, local if possible, in bulk. They formed a buying club that would split the bulk purchases, whether it be 50-pound bags of organic oats or 10-pound wheels of cheese, among the members. The result: reduced packaging waste and food miles, great savings on high quality food, and community!
The Co-op now boasts over 500 members and sells the food products of over 100 local producers. It looks and feels very different from the original Co-operative but it still operates by the same practices and values of open membership, democratic member control, economic participation, food education and community.
Jodi Fogel is one of three managers at the Co-op and has been an employee/member for 23 years. She describes the good and the bad times of the Co-op as a reflection of the level of responsibility its member/owners have accepted for its operation. Currently she sees an enormous positive energy surging through the Co-op. The Co-op Board is active and dedicated and renovations and beautifications have occurred inside and out. There are many hands to help, keeping the Co-op in good shape with sound management and business practices that reflect the wisdom of its active members and employees.
Food co-ops educate their communities about the importance of local food systems and help to reduce our carbon footprint. The HFFC provides jobs and a marketplace for local foodpreneurs. It is also a place where neighbors catch-up, news is shared, and community connections are developed. It is a place where folks, members and non-members alike, who are passionate and educated about food can shop and schmooze. The High Falls Food Co-op is a unique kind of store that every town should have. With a Sign of Sustainability Award we show gratitude to those who started this Co-operative and for those who currently work to keep it going!
– text by Lisa Jones