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Local foods co-op getting off the ground in Ohio community
Ohio Correspondent

OXFORD, Ohio — Supplying good food to the community is a goal of Moon Co-op Natural Food Market. It was formed because consumers wanted a place where wholesome, natural food was available, and local food producers wanted to be able to market their wares.

“Cooperatives sprout up when the private sector is not filling a consumer need, and so consumers join together to satisfy their need,” said Bernadette Unger, Moon Co-op president. “It took about nine years for Moon Co-op to go from an idea to opening the store. It currently has approximately 700 member-owners.”
The co-op has been open as a storefront for 13 months. Anyone can shop there, not just co-op members, said Tana Richards, general manager. It was the first grocery cooperative to open in Ohio in 40 years.

“This is a very exciting economic model and it is changing the relationship of food consumers to the food producers,” she said. “It is a full-service grocery store, not a farmers’ market with a roof. We strive to provide as much local food as we can to help drive our local community.”

Providing local, organic food is Moon Co-op’s top tier, and “local” is considered anything within a 150-mile radius, Richards said. The next tier is local food that is non-organic, and then organic but not local food, followed by natural food.

Besides locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats, the modern, attractive store offers products that can be bought in bulk quantities; there’s also cereal, peanut butter and a wide selection of gluten-free and vegan products. The deli has fresh “grab and go sandwiches,” hot soup made daily, smoothies, salads and baked goods, Richards said. Then there are health and beauty products.
“Our milk is basically the best milk you can buy on the market,” she said. “It is local, it is non-homogenized and it is about the lowest pasteurization that you can sell in Ohio – it is as close as you can buy to raw milk.”

Bill Miller and Sibyl Harris-Miller, owners of Harris-Miller Organic Farm, market their certified organic, grass-fed beef at the co-op. They were members long before the store opened – Harris-Miller’s father was Robert K. Harris, an innovator of organic farming practices.

“We’re a family farm, and we haven’t tried to do any mass marketing, so this is a way to get our product into the homes of our neighbors and make sure they’re getting nutritious meat, and to continue to grow our business that way,” Harris-Miller said. “We have sold enough that it makes sense for us to continue to sell there.”

Things have been rocky during the store’s first year of business. To be a new business in Oxford, and a co-op, is a little difficult, Richards said.

“We were scheduled to do double the business we did, and the thing about a cooperative, we don’t have a big business to back us. We were built member by member,” she said. “So yes, we’re here, we made it a year and that is huge, but we have to have people still support us who really believe in what we’re doing and believe in the initiative.”

Moon Co-op Natural Foods Markets is located at 513 S. Locust Street, Oxford, OH 45056. For information, phone 513-280-5020 or visit www.moon