River Valley Co-op
Community members in the Northampton area started with a vision in 1997 for a consumer-owned store to foster a healthy local food system and contribute to the local economy. The River Valley Co-op opened its doors in Northampton in 2008 and welcomed the public into their Easthampton store on July 1st, 2021. Led by Jonathan Wright, of Wright Brothers Builders, the Easthampton store was designed, built, and opened with a vision of generating all electricity on-site, on a net zero annual basis.
Since the beginning, the guiding vision for River Valley Co-op has been fostering a healthy local food system that contributes to the local economy. Natasha Latour, Director of Marketing observes, “It takes committed individuals and organizations to support people in need, champion a sustainable environment, and develop a strong food system that contributes to the local economy.”
Both stores amplify CISA’s work to connect local community members to local farms and food sources. The co-op acts upon their commitment to buy as much local food, products, and goods as possible. According to the FY21 Annual Report, the co-op bought from over 142 local farms and 203 local vendors. Purchases in 2022 should reach nearly $10 million this year! Even the timber used for part of the construction of both stores was harvested locally in partnership with Hilltown Land Trust “in a way that reflects our values,” notes Latour.
River Valley Co-op supports local farms and food producers consistently across marketing, whether in-store signs and features in the weekly flyer, monthly social media features, and using local ingredients for prepared foods. Partnerships with regional organizations that promote local food and local farms, such as Grow Food Northampton and CISA, extend the work of the food ecosystem.
With a membership structure where anyone can purchase a share and every share is equal, farmers and restaurant owners are shoppers and members too. Local farmers are recognizable within the community because the co-op works diligently to introduce community members and consumers with the people that grow and provide their food. “We could not build this co-op community without the support of our local farmers, producers, vendors, co-op op owners, staff and customers,” concludes Latour.
Trivia question: What’s the name of the River Valley Co-op’s bear?
Answer: It’s Ursula, and she was introduced in 2015.