Fall 2011 –
The MOON (Miami Oxford Organic Network) Co-op is finally set to open the doors of its new Oxford store featuring organic products and locally grown produce on Oct. 31.
MOON became the first consumer-owner co-op to be incorporated in Ohio in over 45 years in 2004, and currently has 560 households share owners and is managed by a nine member executive board. Since its foundation, as a platform to educate Oxford about organic food and to bring that food to the city, the Co-op has been interested in opening a store.
“We have always wanted people to have access to higher quality foods and the best way to do that is through a store,” said MOON’s current president Bernadette Unger who has been a part of the Co-op for six years.
The store is located at 512 S. Locust Tollgate Mall, behind Little Caesar’s Pizzeria, and will be like a mini-Whole Foods Market according to Unger. She said the store will carry everything from locally raised sweet potatoes to natural shampoos and conditioners. There will even be a bulk food section including organic grains, honey, and coffee where customers can choose how much of something they want to buy.
“We also really want to cater to what customers want,” explained Unger. “If someone wants something and we don’t have it, we are going to try and get it for them.” The store will also have a feature on its website where consumers can request items.
Unger said the biggest misconception about the Co-op’s store is that people need to buy a membership to shop there. Although, there is a refundable $150 membership that will give them access to special member-only deals and promotions, people do not have to be a member to shop there.
“Anyone who is interested in keeping the earth and their body healthy is welcome (in the store),” said Unger. She explained when produce is grown locally it allows for more time in the sun to grow and absorb nutrients since it does not have to be shipped across the country or between continents, which provides for a more nutritious product.
One of the local farmers that will be selling his organic produce at MOON’s store is Harv Roehling, the owner of Locust Run Farm and one of the founding members of MOON. He said one of the main reasons he chooses to be organic is because it is good for the environment.
“The greatest difference between conventional and traditional farming is the soil,” said Roehling who is said by Unger to be the best organic lettuce farmer in Ohio. “Unlike conventional farms, I don’t have to use fertilizers that pollute the surrounding land with its run-off.” He explained that instead he uses a combination of compost, plant rotation, and cover crops in the off-season to have plants absorbing vital nutrients yearlong to keep his soil healthy.
Roehling said the owners of the Hamilton based Richard’s Pizza, who run five restaurants in the area, approached Roehling at the Oxford Farmer’s Market because they were interested in using his lettuce at their businesses. “They wanted to upgrade their food,” said Roehling. “I like to think I make a good product, so I’m glad other people think so, too.”
Organic farming is actually more efficient and cheaper than traditional farming, but government subsidies paid for by tax dollars keep the conventional produce’s prices artificially lower according to Roehling. Unger said the MOON store will try and keep its prices as low as possible. In the future, she said the store hopes it will be financially sound enough to offer lower-income consumers major discounts on staples like milk, butter, and eggs to ensure everyone can enjoy quality food.
“Co-ops spring up when there is a need for a certain product by people who are a part of the community and are therefore invested in that community and its resident’s well-being,” said Unger. The store’s foundation was made possible in part by a $243,000 economic development loan from the City of Oxford because the city recognized so much of MOON’s mission fell in line with its commitment to fair wages and agricultural practices, while being a walkable distance for most Oxford residents.
Unger said the store’s produce will come from farms within 100-150 miles of Oxford because of its dedication to supporting the local farmers, and consequently the local economy. Therefore the store’s available produce will shift with the seasons and what Oxford farmers are able to harvest.
“I’m thrilled that student’s will now have access to local produce seven days a week,” said Oxford’s Uptown Farmer Market manager Larry Slocum. Most of his market’s vendors will actively sell their products at the store. He also thinks those farmers will begin to plant more crops to meet the store’s demand, which will expand their business and connection to Oxford.
“From a student’s perspective, I think having a place where you can get fresh and healthy produce is extremely important,” said sophomore Katie Reed. “Having the (MOON) store will give students more variety to do their grocery shopping, and make them feel good that they are feeding their body’s nutritious food that also has integrity.”
After its opening Oct. 31, the MOON Co-op store will be open Monday-Saturday from 9am-9pm, and Sundays from 10am-6pm.
By: Bridget Vis