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Branching out

The Brooklyn Paper
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The push to create a Fort Greene food co-op is beginning to resemble something more than a kale-fueled fantasy, with nearly 50 people turning out to a recent meeting, the creation of a co-op Web site, and the germinating seeds of an organizational structure.

“Everything’s moving very fast,” said DK Holland, who hatched the idea to replicate the Park Slope Food Co-op with her friend Kathryn Zarczynski. “It’s a groundswell of amazing energy.”

A meeting on Jan. 23 at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church was so well attended that the supermarket group was able to form committees and began organizing a functioning cooperative grocery store. A second meeting was held last Thursday.

Organizers say the hardest part will be finding a space large enough — at least 6,000 square feet — in which to house it.

The idea is to re-create the Park Slope Food Co-op, which upholds (to the amusement of the cynical) do-gooder ideals of community, teamwork, and the notion that one should labor to attain discounted produce. Members must work one two-hour-and-45-minute shift every four weeks, performing tasks ranging from checking out customers to stocking shelves.

Joe Holtz, the general manager of the Park Slope Co-op, said a Fort Greene version made sense because hundreds of the Park Slope co-op’s 13,500 members trek from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill to the Union Street grocery store, between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

One of those Fort Greene-based members is Jim Colgan, now also a member of the Fort Greene co-op’s “Outreach Committee.”

“It’s a great feeling to know you’re not being ripped off,” said Colgan, who visits the Co-op about once every two weeks on his bike and only buys what he can fit in his backpack.

Holtz, one of the original 10 people who founded the Park Slope Food Co-op in 1973, has taken an active role in the breakaway effort. He’s sent letters to Co-op members based in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill and is even allowing members to earn credit by assisting their Fort Greene brethren.

Odd? Not in the co-op world, where one of the main rules (and there are a lot of rules) is “co-operation among co-operatives.”

The next Fort Greene co-op organizing meeting will be at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (85 S. Oxford St., at Lafayette Avenue) on March 6 at 7 pm. Visit www.fortgreenecoop.wordpress.com for info.

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Reader Feedback

friendly cooperator from flatbush says:
Why do you find the need to report it as a "rivalry"? I find it amusingly frustrating that this topic gets written about in a sensational tone which infuses this story with some weird conflict-ready coating. Calling it a "breakaway effort" waters-down what the folks in Fort Greene are doing, which is building a community project in their neighborhood to fill a need. It takes a tremendous amount of community support to plan, open and keep running a store based on non-paid labor. Who better to turn to than the Park Slope Food Coop, being well aware of needing "all hands on deck" since it's formation almost 35 years ago. The way this reader sees it: the more member-run coops around, the better - it gives people the opportunity to purchase their food from a place that isn't jacking up their prices and offers better quality, nutrition-dense foods at prices that people can afford. Get rid of the presumptive "rivalry", and you've got a pretty fantastic story about groups of people working with groups of other people to achieve a common goal.
Feb. 15, 2008, 9:18 am
mork from prospect hts says:
F.C. -- Was the article edited after your comment? I'm not seeing the "rivalry" angle in the main text.
Feb. 15, 2008, 10:07 am
Dk Holland from Fort Greene says:
The Friendly Cooperator above is right about the rivalry - Brooklyn Paper's first article pitted us against PSFC which couldn't be further from the truth, as the FC suggests.

I spoke to Dana Rubinstein personally and said what the FC also says - 'its all about cooperation in coops' and added that I know that the press needs tension to sell papers but this is the anti-tension story. She obviously spoke to her editor and changed her approach. Still - note the cynic comment about the do-gooder ideals of community (I guess she can't help herself).

I've invite her to come over to the PSFC with me sometime and see what its like first hand. Democracy in action. A happy place. Maybe she'll take me up on that. I hope so.

Thanks for the follow up Dana. Even cynics will be welcome at our coop.

DK Holland
Feb. 15, 2008, 3:50 pm

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