What is a co-op market? A co-op is a business that is owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. People organize cooperatives to achieve together what they can’t do alone, and food co-ops are a great place to shop for fresh, delicious, locally sourced food. But they’re much more than that–co-ops are a democratic approach where everyone works together for a common good. No one individual can do anything alone; no lone individual can be successful on their own–it takes a village. The democratic approach allows everyone involved in the venture to be heard, have a say, and be part of the process. It’s just one of the many ways food co-ops are making the world a better place.
The East Aurora Co-op Market officially opened it’s doors in June 2016. The market has been a work in progress since 2009. The all volunteer EACM Mini Market was launched, creating member-ownership that grew to over 500. This paved the way for the co-op to be one of the recipients of Food Co-op Initiative’s $10,000 Seed Grant.
The Board of Directors, co-op committees, and countless volunteers worked with national co-op development groups and consultants to set the stage for what would later be the very first south towns co-op food market. After many hiccups, that dream became a reality and the co-op has seen plenty of foot traffic since.
What I love about the East Aurora co-op is that it’s not just a “grocery store.” They have fresh food daily, make fresh coffee, and offer soups, salads (like their juicy watermelon salad with goat cheese) and bread from the Breadhive Company. The soups change with the seasons, and the co-op now offers breakfast every day until 10:30am. You can choose from a wide variety of healthy breakfast options, such as, steel cut oatmeal, yummy nutty granola and yogurt, breakfast wraps or bagel sandwiches. You can buy what you want, sit outside at a table with a view, and enjoy a healthy meal.
The other great aspect of this market is that you feel good about what you buy. Whether it’s humanely sourced meat and dairy products, fair-trade chocolate and coffee, or local organic produce that uses less fuel to ship, shopping at the co-op is a great way to support sustainable farming and responsible sourcing. Doing so reduces presticides and chemicals found in most foods shipped to stores. Big chain grocer’s have to have produce shipped from all over the globe, going through a torturous process during the journey, before landing on the shelves of which we pick from. Certified organic produce is free of harsh pesticides and fertilizers, but it’s also grown from non-genetically engineered seeds and never irradiated. As a result, organic produce tastes the way nature intended it to.
It makes me feel good knowing that the dollars I spend at the co-op market go right back into our community, to our farms, and our small businesses. The dollars spent at the East Aurora co-op stay in WNY!
So what are some of my faves to purchase? Let’s start with Breadhive. If you’ve ever visited 42 North Brewery, you’ll know all about this delicious, crusty bread. Breadhive is a worker cooperative bakery, owned by its workers. They produce all of the bread, bagels and pretzels in house, using a long ferment sourdough process. Two kinds of flour are used: organic whole grain flour milled in central NY by Farmer Ground Flour, and high quality bread flour from King Arthur, an employee-owned business. When possible, they use produce from local farms to create colorful and flavorful variations of their breads. Basically it’s the most delicious bread I’ve ever had. So much planning for such an innocuous mixture of flour, water and yeast; so much anticipation–and yet oh so good.
I also love the organic chicken. What is the difference from regular brand name chicken breasts or other store bought organic meats? First, it’s not as slimey when pulling it from its packaging. The color is more of a muted bone color than a yellow or pinkish color, and the texture is softer–like a baby’s skin. The taste is much lighter and not as chewy. I noticed this in England as well.
England only uses free range organic meats. All of their meats come from the farms in the countryside, and I noticed a huge difference in both texture and taste. Due to the lack of chemicals and what the chickens are fed, free range is healthier for you. The bigger bonus is that the co-op free range organic chicken is almost $4.00 less per pound than organic chicken at other stores!
The East Aurora Market’s nut bar selection (at least that’s what I call it) is amazing. A variety of nuts that I haven’t seen offered at other stores. Brazil nuts, Cacao, pinon nuts, soy nuts, walnuts and everything else inbetween. But what makes this so exciting is the health benefits of so many of the nuts they have for in stock. As an example, here are just a few that offer great health benefits:
Brazil nuts are known to help lower anxiety, depression, cholesterol, and offer an abundance of selenium. And you know me and my selenium–it’s one of the most important minerals we can consume (in moderation of course), and helps protect our cells from damage.
For those who are lactose intolerant, calcium-rich almonds are a good choice. Almonds are high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut.
Hazelnuts are great for those with heart conditions. Homocysteine is an amino acid which has been associated with heart problems as well as conditions like Parkinsons. Hazelnuts are a good source of folate, which plays a key role in keeping homocysteine within normal levels.
The co-op also offers Fair Trade Coffee’s. Fair trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards. Fair trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, and seeks greater equity in international trade. The co-op supports coffee from all over the world, and right in our own backyard. It is a bit pricier, almost $3.00 more per pound, but remember you are giving back to the country the beans are sourced from.
No matter what you are looking for, stop out to the East Aurora Co-op Market. You’ll be supporting the community and local farmers, and putting high quality produce in your body–and who can’t feel good about that!