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County Board hears update on plans for Community-Owned Grocery in Willmar, Minn.

WILLMAR — Efforts to establish a new food cooperative in Willmar got the attention of the Kandiyohi County Commissioners this week when organizers of the Community-Owned Grocery gave the commissioners an update on the project.

Frequently known locally as the COG, volunteers have signed up 382 members so far who have made a one-time membership investment of $200 to purchase a share of the cooperative that has a goal of operating as a full-service grocery store with an emphasis on selling locally produced meat and produce.

The Community-Owned Grocery is responding to the growing movement for “good, healthy foods and sustainability,” said Chuck Roelofs, a volunteer with the group.  

Kristin Anderson-Rosetti, the outreach coordinator, said the four principles of the Community-Owned Grocery are community, sustainability, quality and local.

Although there are limitations in Minnesota’s growing season, she said the COG will be “filled with local produce as much as possible” but connections with food co-ops around the country will ensure a wide variety of produce year-around.

“It’ll be a one-stop shopping experience,” said Anderson-Rosetti. The plans also include a sit-down deli in the “modern” and professionally staffed store.

By stocking the shelves with as much locally produced food as possible Roelofs said the grocery will support area farmers, which will enhance the local economy.

“We’re here to support our local community,” said Roelofs.

It’s expected the store will have 15 to 20 part-time and full-time employees and could generate $2.7 million in the initial years.

Once the Community-Owned Grocery has reached 600 members, it will kick into the next stage of securing a site for the grocery store — preferably in downtown Willmar. A search committee is already seeking locations. When membership reaches 1,000 members, the COG will begin operations.

Roelofs, who encouraged the commissioners to consider purchasing a lifetime membership in the Community-Owned Grocery, said it’s hoped the store will be open in 1 to 1½ years.

The Community-Owned Grocery will be open to everyone, whether they have purchased a membership or not, said Anderson-Rosetti. Members will receive benefits, such as reduced prices.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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