Behind the scenes in a business there is usually someone or even multiple people who are occupied with analysis about the business. They may be forecasting, planning ahead, comparing trends, or theorizing. They use all sorts of tools developed to do this and as you might expect there is heavy use of data. Business classes from many universities teach this science. At Willy Street Co-op we’ve undertaken some of this investigation and it has certainly helped us.

What we know about how much rice and beans you all might buy can be understood with some certainty. I’d like to talk about something more esoteric today. I want to challenge everyone to think about their values in relation to their consumption. Recently I viewed the movie “Detropia” which is a documentary about the decline of Detroit. The movie was shown in the Community Room as the kickoff movie for Green Thursdays, which will be the first Thursday every month.

The movie described how the choices Americans made with their automobile purchases propelled Detroit to unheard of levels—one of the fastest growing cities in the world at one point—and certainly a city that helped lead the post World War II rise of what we all call the middle class. And then something happened. Historians may debate it for years to come. The choices Americans preferred changed. Outsourcing became a real situation with catastrophic consequences. Now Detroit is bankrupt and it finds itself with a shrinking population and whole neighborhoods becoming vacant. The movie shows the decline but stops short of a solution. Detroit’s economic model was just not sustainable. So what can be done about it?

At Willy Street Co-op we resist the tendency to outsource America’s food supply. I’ve seen the diminishing farms of America consolidating by the square mile. I think our model can emerge as another choice. That choice has to do with values.

What do we know about how consumers connect their shopping to their values? I just saw an infographic published by the Hartmann Group, an organization that studies consumer preferences. Their graphic illustrates that when asked the following question “Which of the following has the greatest impact on society?” respondents answered this way:

  • 34% said it was their purchasing decisions
  • 40% said it was their voting decisions
  • 27% said it was involvement in their local community

So considering our Co-op lets us all purchase food and returns significant amounts of support to the local community, we can all feel pretty good about our business model and its commitment to sustainability.

This year will be as challenging as any other for our Co-op. I’m sure it will be another successful one for us because I believe that people joining every day and choosing to shop here is a powerful assignment of money that is offered for value. We offer great-tasting food from great vendors whose businesses are maintaining a commitment to sustainability. Staff here see themselves as local people working to change America’s food system to an enduring and sustainable model and that, friends, is an incredible value.

Please join us by participating in our Equity Drive. See article at the right for more details.