A food cooperative (co-op for short) is an independently owned and democratically run retail cooperative, owned by the people who shop there. That means Coteau Community Market is owned by members of the community, not by distant investors.
A co-op is the original crowdfunded enterprise.
Members all have a say in decisions that affect the co-op, rather than being at the whim of someone who knows nothing about our community and only cares about making a profit and not providing the community with a year-round source for local, healthy, sustainable food, like Coteau Community Market is going to do.
Of course, having all members give input on every single detail would be unwieldy and impossible to do, so the co-op's members elect a board of directors to steer the co-op by making policies and overseeing the market's general manager, to ensure that the mission of the co-op is being executed.
And instead of sending profits outside the community to distant investors, in profitable years a co-op returns profits to its members, as well as reinvesting some of those profits to provide even more services to the people who shop at the co-op.
Co-op members have been pooling their money together for centuries to accomplish together what they couldn't do on their own.
A co-op is the original crowdfunded enterprise. Think Kickstarter and Indiegogo came up with the idea of people investing their own money directly into a local project that big investors won't touch because it's "not worth their time" or won't make mega profits? Wrong! Co-op members have been pooling their money together for centuries to accomplish together what they couldn't do on their own. (For example: grain co-ops, rural electric co-ops, etc.) And now we have the opportunity to do the same.
A co-op has a limited number of ways to directly raise funds. We can do so through memberships and stock in the co-op. We can apply for grants that focus on rural businesses and local food systems. Because we're a special kind of corporation and not a nonprofit, many grants that are targeted to the nonprofit sector are not available to us.
However, if every person who has said, "We need a store that focuses on local, seasonable, sustainable food here. I'd shop there!" buys a membership and purchases stock in the co-op, we'll have much of the financial backing we need to make the market a reality.