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Coos Head Food Co-op 

By Lisa Carroll, Staff Writer

Coos Head Food Co-op had its beginnings as a non-profit, member owned grocer offering natural, healthy items with as minimal packaging as possible.  Originally much of the work was done by volunteers. Deb Krough, store manager, started working as a volunteer in the late 70’s and was eventually hired as the first paid cashier. Now all the staff is paid and currently the store has 13 employees.

Although people have always informally referred to the store as a “co-op”, it wasn’t until 2010 that members voted to become an official co-operative, which is a business owned and controlled by those who use its services. Member-users finance and operate the business for their mutual benefit. While everyone is welcome to join the co-op, the store is open to the public. Anybody who wants to find natural, delicious, and honestly wholesome food can benefit from frequenting Coos Head Food Co-op.

You find products here that are sustainable, naturally raised or created, and certified organic whenever possible. They strive to acquire as many local products as they can. “What does “local” mean?” Deb shared. “Whatever the closest source is from your spot. You’re in the center of a circle, and if your closest source is 10 ft away, or 10 miles, or 100 miles, that is the most local to you.” Of course, not every product in the store can be as local as that, such as coffee. In those cases, they go for products that are sustainable or Fair Trade. 

Tiffany Perks created the stained glass logo hanging in the window of the store. If you look carefully, you will see a representation of what it takes to make a successful Co-op. (Photo by Lisa Carroll)

“Fair Trade” means that farmers or producers of the product are paid a fair wage so they are able to live well and provide for their families. Stringent environmental standards must be upheld, the crops must be sustainable, and for products that are also certified Organic, no GMO’s are allowed. Thus, not only is the fair trade a more humane way of treating people, the products tend to be of a higher quality.

 Delicious, homemade breads are delivered on Tuesday and Friday afternoons from Oven Springs Bakery, in Coos Bay. The breads are often still warm when they come in, much to the delight of customers who make a point to be here close to delivery time. The store also has a wide range of gluten-free flours and prepared products as well. Organic dairy products are purchased from one of several Organic Valley dairy farms in our area. These dairies are part of a national co-operative, as well.  

A variety of grains, seeds, and dry goods are sold in bulk, as well as a rotating stock of Oregon honey, and maple syrup as well.  You can grind your own peanut butter, too. There are also many spices sold in bulk, which has several advantages, not the least of which is you can buy only what you need at a time. This comes in very handy for holiday baking, because many of our favorite spices simply do not hold up well stored over time.

There is always a rainbow of delicious produce to choose from, too.  “Our produce is almost exclusively organic and local.” Deb tells me. “We try to pick more on quality than price, because sometimes the cheapest item isn’t necessarily the best quality of value. Our customers seem to really enjoy eating fresher, and it is the local stuff that is freshest, and it goes along with the whole lifestyle of supporting your local economy.”  Fresh eggs are also available from local farms.

Another local product you can find are delicious local meats. Says Deb, “We are so lucky to have in our area meat from Langlois and the Coburg-Eugene area, and buffalo from Salem.  We get our pork from a farm in Junction City which raises several animals. This pork is really sought after because it is such a high quality product.” The free-range pigs munch on grass in organic pastures, and the farmers supplement the pigs diet with extra milk that is generated from their cows. The pigs also eat hazelnuts grown just a few miles from the farm.  

The Co-op offers fresh, naturally raised Thanksgiving turkeys on a first come, first serve basis. “This year, we are selling Mary’s Free Range antibiotic and hormone free turkeys, which are pre-ordered  months ahead of time,” Deb said. “We order X number of each size, and people come in and sign up for the approximate weight they would like to have.”

Mutual community support is important at Coos Head Food Co-op. Deb tells me, “When our customers bring in their own sustainable grocery bag, we track the number of bags they use each per month, at a nickle per bag. We tabulate that out and send that amount of money to South Coast Food Share, on behalf of the people who participate. Anybody who shops in here can contribute just by bringing in their own bag, and we are just the vehicle to do that. What I think would be fantastic is if all the groceries in town did it. It could really feed a lot of people in our community!”  They also contribute food to the Crossroads Community Cafe, which serves healthy, homemade meals for $1.50 to the public, though no one is turned down if they are not able to pay. “The bakery next door is also connected, they contribute too,” Deb said, smiling. “We have a really nice community on our block.”

To learn more about Coos Head Food Co-op and the co-operative principles in general, visit their website, http://coosheadfoodco-op.org/ , or better yet- visit the store!”

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