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Ideal Green Market Co-op looks to serve community

Diane Wagner from the Twin Cities buys syrup and tomatoes from Thomas Leinbach of Motley on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Ideal Green Market Cooperative farmers market in Ideal Township.Photo by Nancy Vogt1 / 3
Booths are set up outside at the Ideal Green Market Cooperative farmers market Saturday, Aug. 15, in Ideal Township.Photo by Nancy Vogt2 / 3
Wanda and Dave Sandberg sell fresh produce at Cookie Crumbs of Pine River on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Ideal Green Market Cooperative farmers market in Ideal Township.Photo by Nancy Vogt3 / 3

The Ideal Green Market Cooperative was founded as a way to support the community of Ideal Township with healthy foods found within the community itself.

"It's a win-win for everybody," co-op coordinator Barb Mann said. "It is not about the competition so much, although that is there to a degree. It is really about doing it well and doing it sustainably and responsibly, and having fun in the process."

Since its inception, the co-op has looked to generate interest in shopping local and providing natural alternatives to the average store-bought product, and its weekly farmers market has helped in doing so.

The co-op, located next to the Old Milwaukee Club at County Roads 16 and 39 in Ideal Township, has hosted farmers markets on Saturday mornings, allowing local vendors to sell their goods, many of which are all-natural and without genetically modified organisms (GMO). This has been done thanks in part to a $2,100 grant from Crow Wing Energized, which allowed them to purchase signs, advertising space and basic supplies for the weekend events.

""It's about getting local foods to be accessible for people, whether they are residents or visitors," co-op member-owner Mary Plein said. "We want them to participate and enjoy the bounty of this area."

The co-op has 105 member-owners currently, but is always looking for more members, as well as community donations.

"We want the community to step up and embrace this co-op with us," Plein said. "When this co-op becomes successful, it will boost the entire community on many levels."

Mann said the purpose of a co-op is to serve the needs of its members and its community, as opposed to earning a profit. However, the co-op is still a for-profit venture.

"The reality is we are incorporated as a cooperative in the state of Minnesota as a for-profit cooperative," Mann said. "Our steering committee visited the whole concept of whether we work to file for nonprofit status or advance the cause and move forward. In the evaluation process, it was costly and time-consuming to work for nonprofit status, and there was no guarantee we would be granted that status.

"The primary thing is not about profit; it is about servicing the needs of our members. A lot of co-ops - and I think this one would be the same - are able to then give back to the community, which is part of our reason for existing."

In the future, Plein would like to see a variety of improvements made to the market, including a vegetable garden behind the store, solar panels on the roof and a root cellar, if possible. She also indicated the market is looking for a general manager.

"We are really looking for somebody with the skill set and passion for local foods and the co-op model to be able to work here for us," Plein said.

Though their focus is providing good, healthy food for the area, the co-op will host an artisan/craft fair along with the farmers market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, in an effort to support and promote the other good things local vendors do.

"We pitch in and help each other," Mann said. "We have volunteers here to help vendors set up and get where they need to be ... It makes it more welcoming. People know who you are. It makes a difference. You can feel it."

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879