Longevity, Locavores, and Member Labour: Karma in the 21st century
Which co-op in Ontario is one of the oldest food co-ops, maintains a staunch commitment to local food, and is located in an urban laneway? Karma Co-op is all of these things; they just celebrated their 45th birthday, holding a gathering in the laneway with partners like Together We’re Bitter Brewing Co-op and some founding members reporting on the early days.
Unlike many more recently founded co-ops, Karma’s members are actively involved to meet a work credit requirement; they provide critical labour in many aspects of the operations, from merchandising to cash and clean-up. Launched in 1972, in the heady days of new wave co-ops in North America, Karma and Karma’s model has survived economic crises, distributor bankruptcies, and the ever changing world of food trends to remain one of Ontario’s premier food co-ops, and a proud member of LFFC.
Karma prioritizes local and organic foods, and like many of LFFC’s members, works with many local producers. LFFC members’ stores focused on local food and seasonal products, with many smaller producers in their supply chain. Most LFFC co-ops work with a much larger range of suppliers than conventional stores, contributing to many local rural and urban economies in Ontario. The graph shows that the majority of LFFC member co-ops reporting in 2017 had over 100 local suppliers.
As a non-profit, consumer-owned co-op, Karma Co-op also gets the word out, keeping members informed about issues and innovations in local, organic and natural products and sectors. They host regular workshops and talks on a variety of issues (recently it was a DIY Sunscreen workshop). They issue a substantial quarterly publication called The Chronicle with relevant articles that can count towards work credit for members. Karma has been a key supporter of LFFC from its beginnings, so help us celebrate their 45th. Way to go, Karma!