Local group forms Paso Food Co-Op

TEMPLETON — Hungry? Good news: a new grocery shopping option is coming to the North County. Mobilized by a group of individuals who were dissatisfied with the grocery options available in the area, the Paso Food Co-Op is a community-owned grocery store with a mission to maximize the affordability, sustainability, and accessibility of local products. They are currently seeking members to become part owners of the state-registered co-op.

Paso Robles food Co-op President Greg Ellis said that the main goal of the co-op is to “tap into the underground of local products that you would know of as a foodie, but isn’t available to regular folks right now.” He and the current members are “all just consumers who are dissatisfied with the limited selection of local groceries here. We feel that the north county has a great wine and food culture, and a lot of restaurants . . . but there’s not an equivalent in a grocery store that features the local, tastier options.”

In addition to local produce, the co-op will carry a variety of local products, including spices, cleaning products, wines, meat products, and specialty breads. All products carried by the co-op follow state and federal regulations.

This kind of project has a track record of success in the North County, Ellis explained.

“Farm Supply is an example of a co-op that’s farmer-owned,” he said. “Many farmers banded together and started a co-op. Anyone can shop there but the owners get a discount: they get a year-end rebate based on how much they shop. That’s what we’ll do for our store as well.”

In order to make this a possibility, the co-op needs members.

“Because it’s community owned, we have to raise all the capital ourselves,” Ellis said. “When we get to 250 members, we’ll start the site selection process.”

The member roll is currently 100 strong and Ellis hopes to increase that number during the August membership drive.

“This month, we’re trying to get 30 new members in 30 days,” he said. “Anyone who joins in August will be entered in a raffle for a free month of veggie boxes from Templeton Valley Farms.”

For individuals who want to be involved with the co-op, there are a number of options available.

“For $300, you can become a lifetime member and part-owner of the business,” Ellis said. “This can all be paid up front or in installments ranging from $25 per month to $100 per month.”

There is also a pledge option that allows potential members to put $50 down and pay the rest once the co-op has 250 total members. In addition, new members who join at the $300 level will receive a canvas shopping bag full of local products.

The project is currently in its Membership Drive Phase and doesn’t have a brick and mortar location yet, but once the co-op hits 500 members they plan to break ground on an actual store, aiming for a 2018 start date.

Ellis and the current co-op members are also looking for volunteers.

“Right now we need people who want to do outreach,” he said. “We need people with business backgrounds, marketing, sales, food, and wine industry experience. We’re all volunteer-run at this point.”

For more information on the Paso Co-Op, you can visit their website at pasofoodcooperative.com, call (805) 242-6301, or email [email protected] Members of the co-op will also be at the Paso Event Center’s Food and Gourmet Expo on Aug. 26, and at monthly pop-up gatherings at area businesses with local producers. More information can be found on their website.

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