Co-operative Study Tour to North America: Visiting US Co-operatives

This 11-day tour visited the three cities of New York, Washington DC and Maddison, Wisconsin. Firstly, in New York we made a study visit to the Park Slope Food Coop, said to be the most successful food co-op in New York with 17,000 members. The characteristic of this co-op, with its very rich lineup of organic produce, is that all members provide 2 hours and 45 minutes of labor every four weeks, thus holding down prices and making it possible to purchase organic food relatively cheaply. Ms. Masako Yonezu of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Osaka said, “As all the members participate in the work in this community-based co-op, I felt that there was a very strong sense of community between the members.” Working in the shop confers a certain status on the members; a young man who was working on the shop floor on the day of our visit proudly stated, “I am contributing the community by working here.”

The popularity of organic produce is growing mainly among the younger generation. In New York, we were able to see people coming to collect their produce from Green Harvest, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) organization, an organization where consumers subscribe to the harvests of a certain farm or group of farms to support their work. The vegetables, eggs, yoghurt, beef, chicken and other foods produced in the New York State countryside are delivered to the square in front of a restaurant in a residential area every Saturday from June to November. The members were gathered in the square to collect their produce for the week. We talked to the leader, Phillip, a father with a small child, who told us, “We can now buy organic vegetables at supermarkets and more consumers now prefer to do that, but collecting the vegetables each week through CSA makes it possible to plan the whole week’s meals very easily, so I’m very happy with CSA.”

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