As with many new wave co-ops in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Upper Valley Food Co-op was influenced in its early years by the social and cultural forces of the times. In West Lebanon, NH a group interested in whole foods, as well as building community, started the “(Don’t Just Talk About It), Do It Store”. Besides a food store, the Do It Store served as a meeting place for antiwar, women’s, and other social groups.
The store and its members also helped residents to form buying clubs in the area. The clubs focused strictly on providing whole and unprocessed foods, items generally not readily available.
They realized that they all shared an interest in cooperative effort and that by working together, all could accomplish their own goals.
Over time, they began to coordinate their purchases and rented two Quonset huts in Pompanoosic, Vermont to serve as a warehouse for the groups. Two years after the warehouse operation opened, the store closed. This endeavor grew to 20 pre-order groups serving 500 families. In 1976, the warehouse group was incorporated as the Upper Valley Cooperative.
Support for retail sales grew quickly and with this growth came an immediate need for a larger and more suitable facility. Over the next few years, the UVFC moved first to Lebanon, NH and then to South Main Street in White River Junction, VT. The move to White River Junction provided a store with 1,000 square feet of retail space!
The co-op focused more intensely on whole foods and had a produce delivery once a week. The co-op had some staff members, but member-volunteers continued to play an integral part in daily operations.
The UVFC continued to grow and prosper, and in 1992 the store moved up the street to its current home. The new location offered five times the space: 4,700 square feet of retail space and almost 6,000 total square feet.
Currently, the co-op’s membership is 1300 active members. Our commitment to providing wholesome and high quality food and other products remains strong, as does our support for local growers and producers. Additionally, we continue to educate consumers about food and nutrition, food safety issues, and other health related topics. Finally, the UVFC networks with other co-operative businesses regionally to encourage an economic environment that benefits all consumers. Join us as we continue to grow and improve. Become a member today!
Why are Vermont co-ops so successful?
Give a listen to this podcast episode by Brave Little State of Vermont Public Radio, about the history of co-ops in Vermont and why they're so successful.
"When the back-to-the-landers moved to Vermont, there was literally no way to get natural food. I mean, you kind of take it for granted today that you can go into any supermarket and get three kinds of oat milk out of the dairy cooler. But back in the day, it really was not available. You couldn't find brown rice, you couldn't find whole-wheat flour."