How do you like them apples? Fort Greene food co-op moves ahead

The Brooklyn Paper
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By Laura Gottesdiener

Pass the scorzonera!

The long-awaited Greene Hill Food Co-op — which hopes one day to rival Park Slope’s legendary members-only supermarket — has moved another step closer to operating a full-fledged cooperative by opening a buying club.

It’s the first time members will actually start getting food at this food co-op, which has been in the works for the past four years.

Members fill up a virtual shopping cart online, and then Greene Hill places one large order, allowing foodies to get organic products at wholesale prices.

“It’s been successful,” said John Wepking, co-chair of the merchandizing committee. “We’re getting really fresh and affordable food to the community.”

The system is also a great recruiting tool; since the buying club’s launch in early February, membership has expanded to 250, with 80 people currently placing orders.

Buying clubs are often set up as a first step toward a full-fledged, members-only co-op, allowing organizers to raise money for a freestanding location. Greene Hill started renting a storefront on Putnam and Grand avenues last July, and the twice-monthly buying club pick-ups are at that location.

Membership costs $175, plus a $50 security deposit, in case someone leaves her kohlrabi to rot. But for that money, you get in on wholesale prices directly to farmers.

The goal, of course, is a co-op modeled after the famous, 38-year-old Park Slope version, which was called “world’s most annoying grocery store” by a Gawker writer who was not actually a member. Co-op member DK Holland and eco-friendly Web site owner Kathryn Zarczynski spearheaded the creation of the Greene Hill co-op so they could shop — and work their monthly shifts — closer to home.

Building the co-op itself could take six months and $10,000. Or it could take years and 10 times more than that, as members are debating what type of store to build. A luxurious replica of the Park Slope Food Co-op probably isn’t in the works.

“Our mission is not to have a really fancy store, but to serve the neighborhood with fresh food,” said longtime member Anna Muessig.

One key will be to shed the elitist stigma that adheres itself to organic produce (you don’t get purple lacinator kale at your corner C-town) and to private “food clubs” with members whose eco-pride sometimes turns off non-members.

“We need to get the full spectrum of our community involved,” said Muessig.

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018: Full disclosure: Anna Muessig has no relation to former Brooklyn Paper reporter and legend Ben Muessig.
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Reasonable discourse

Lamb from Boerum Hill says:
Who is Muessig? Her introduction is missing from the piece.
Feb. 28, 2011, 10:27 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
headline is misleading. the co-op will not be in Fort Greene...but I don't really blame you, Greene Hill is a really annoying name. How about ForGreCliHiBeStu?
Feb. 28, 2011, 10:33 am
Mike says:
Should be called the Stuy Hill Food Coop. Its location makes it useless for many Fort Greene residents. A shame.
Feb. 28, 2011, 10:36 am
janor from park slope says:
co-ops are a scam!!!!! you save money on paper but you lose time. and as we all know time in money. so you are basically paying more in the long run then shopping at whole foods or the smarter choice trader joes.
Feb. 28, 2011, 11:10 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
Right, Janor, 'cause it's much quicker to go to Atlantic & Court Street or Houston Street in Manhattan than for me to run over to the PSFC on Union Street. Huh?
Feb. 28, 2011, 11:45 am
OnGreene from Clinton Hill says:
I know it's not all that close to everyone in Fort Greene, but, really, I live right around the corner from the co-op on the border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy and I can get to nearly any part of Fort Greene in about 15 minutes! These are tiny neighborhoods we're talking about (well, not Bed-Stuy, but the other two).

I'm, admittedly somewhat selfishly, totally psyched about the location and had my first pick up from the buying club last week. The food is similar to what you get from the farmer's market, but seemed cheaper. Can't wait til we get out of the root veg-only season!
Feb. 28, 2011, 1:46 pm
kay from ft greene says:
if they really want it to be "full spectrum" (a somewhat condescending way of saying they need more people of color involved to have street cred), they need to involve said full spectrum people from the start, with decision-making responsibility and shared accountability.
Feb. 28, 2011, 8:58 pm
Pablo from Bed Stuy says:
I loving seeing press coverage, but there are a few things that should have been fact-checked.

The only actual cost involved in becoming a member is $25, the member investment is $150 and so long as the money isn't tied up in construction at the time, you can get that back if you move away ... and the $50 deposit is only if you want to take part in the buying club, which is optional.

Many of our Members are also members of PHFC and keep shopping there while we get our store running.

Not sure where the whole paragraph starting with " Building the Co-op" came from but none of it is right. The building exists already and we can start fitting it out as a store just as soon as we get enough members (just over 400 should do it, we're more than half way there!) ... in the mean time The building is already serving as our home base for the buying club and certain committee meetings.

Everything else is great, and the picture they picked is hilarious!

As for some of the previous comments, the location is in Clinton Hill so, I agree the title could have said that. As for the alternate name suggestions, haha but it's hardly useless for anyone who's near an A/C train or buses B25 B26 B45 B48 B52 or B69.

And you bet that Co-ops are a scam ... we scam big businesses that claim local and organic foods should cost big money, we scam the for-profit system that claims the bottom line has to be the driving force.
But our memebers? no sir, no scam there.

in food,
March 1, 2011, 3:03 pm
Smitty from Prospect Heights says:
The article doesn't say anything about race. In this context "full spectrum" implies ecomomic diversity. Anyway, why are we presuming that decision making and accountability are exclusive? Co-ops usually spread those responsibilities through their whole membership, and I assume anyone can join this one.
March 1, 2011, 3:52 pm
kay from ft greene says:
Smitty, you're being quite naive if you think that economic diversity and race are not two sides of the same coin in this particular place and time.
March 1, 2011, 8:55 pm
JW from Clinton Hill says:
Great people, with a long history of community involvement and a love of their neighborhoods - folks with great intentions who literally said, "We need a grocery store with fresh food". They went out and worked to make it a reality. This is how it's done. I can't say a thing other than congratulations!
March 2, 2011, 8:53 am

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