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You’re A Co-Op? What’s That?

What typically comes to mind when you hear the phrase “co-op”? Do you see a group of people working together cooperatively to run a business? Or maybe you envision “hippies” protesting and only eating organic foods. Or maybe you even just see a grocery store.

Only about 11% of Americans can give an accurate definition of a co-op. However, we at The Common Market feel sure that once you know a bit more about cooperatives, you’ll want to join in.

A co-op can have a variety of looks to it, and they are not limited to food.

What is a Co-Op?

A co-op is a community-oriented business that is owned by its members and democratically run. Individuals buy into the co-op through membership, and they can then have their voices heard in how the business operates. One way of doing that is through voting for members on the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is responsible for operations and financial decisions, but they cannot make decisions without the consent from co-op members.

There are seven pillars that make a co-op what it is:

Voluntary and Open Membership
A co-op is open to everyone, and anyone can join.

Democratic Member Control
A co-op is controlled by their members, and members actively participate in the organization

Member Economic Participation
All members contribute equitably to a co-op

Autonomy and Independence
A co-op is controlled by members, not an outside organization or individual

Education, Training, and Information
A co-op provides education, training, and information on their service and benefits to the community

Cooperation Among Co-Operatives
Co-ops work together to help each other succeed in the broader co-op movement

Concern for Community
A co-op is community-oriented, striving to help community development through member-approved activities

Since co-ops are community-minded, there are a variety of co-ops that can meet community needs. Some types of co-ops include the following:

Housing Co-ops
Consumer Co-ops
Worker Co-ops
Land Co-ops

How is The Common Market a Co-Op?

Having begun as a buyer’s club in 1974, The Common Market became incorporated as a cooperative in August of 1981 as the Frederick County Consumer Cooperative.

As the incorporated name suggests, The Common Market is a consumer cooperative. This means consumers buy goods or services from the organization, thereby investing in the cooperative and its mission. Since owners are equitably invested in the organization, an individual pays a fee to become an owner in the cooperative. At The Common Market, this fee is $200 for lifetime ownership and investment in the co-op.

If you’ve ever wondered what a co-op is, now you know. And now that you know, we hope you’ll learn more about us and consider investing in the sustainable food culture we pride ourselves on providing our community.