Get Vocal About Local

 

By Joe Romano, 

Marketing Manager

gs-community-marketI think that in many ways the local elections are even more important than the national elections. It's the mayors and the city councils and county commissioners and the school boards and the legislators that decide how to spend the money they fleece off of us in taxes.

— Jello Biafra

The city of Ithaca recently held its elections and chose a new mayor, but many of our smaller localities will hold elections in this month of March. Village elections for Cayuga Heights, Dryden, Groton and Trumansburg will be decided on March 20, and these elections, though small, perhaps more directly affect the quality of life that people experience in their communities and are more likely to have consequences regarding their homes, schools, property and taxes than do national elections.

GreenStar recognizes how important local is, and is constantly trying to make our part of the world a better place. This month sees the continuation of farmer's market offerings at The Space @ GreenStar, our community shared retail space on Court Street, with the opening of the Community Farmer's Market there.

We are also offering Local First Ithaca's Guide to Being Local. While the book has $2,500 worth of coupons and is filled with luscious color photographs of people you know, according to the Ithaca Times, the 128-page guide "functions more as an educational tool than a commercial one. Inside, readers will find local stories about businesses in Ithaca, information about the importance of keeping money in the community and a food map that details the locations of local CSAs and pick-your-owns."

GreenStar has been a very strong supporter of Local First Ithaca. Indeed Jan Rhodes Norman, a GreenStar board member, is a co-founder of the organization, and this writer, GreenStar's Marketing Manager, serves as its board president.

Rhodes Norman said the coupons are important because the shopper can get a great book and pay off the $15 book price after using just two or three coupons. "It's very clear via a quick glance at the guide what we care about here," she said. "You can get a quick insight into our different businesses, what unique programs we offer, and it just provides a great snapshot of the town."

Brandon Kane, GreenStar's General Manager, is constantly looking for ways to strengthen our local businesses, bolster our local economy and broaden the presence of our co-op in the growing movement to create a vital and living local economy. He is directed, of course, by the commitment of GreenStar's Council, which charges as policy that "the GM shall take reasonable, proactive, and ongoing steps to ensure that GreenStar's operational activities and practices support and encourage local and regional production and sustainability."

These are not just ideas. When a shopper spends $100 at a local business, $32 leaves the local economy while $68 stays in town. When you shop at a national chain, only $43 stays in town. That is a difference of $25 on every $100 purchase you make!

Recently, Brandon issued a report on Local Production that showed how GreenStar Co-op goes above and beyond in support of a local food system. Not only do we favor local products in pricing and shelf placement but our staff has also been crucial to the incubation of many businesses that are now at the forefront of the Finger Lakes local food movement.

Most notably, Cayuga Pure Organics began as a concept that blossomed from insight provided by Joe Damiano, GreenStar's Bulk Department Manager. Now, not only do they grow and supply our area with beans and grains, but they've also gone on to produce flour which is in turn used in our Bakery and by some of New York City's finest restaurateurs.

GreenStar rents affordable space for several local vendors to store their products in our warehouse, who otherwise might not be able to do business or to do so as profitably. Local vendors who used our storage facilities in 2011 include: The Good Truck, a natural foods truck serving downtown Ithaca; Ithaca Community Harvest, who store gleaned produce for their Market Box Program and Healthy Fruits and Snacks for Ithaca area schools; Fruits and Roots Juice Company, who store produce for their juicing stand at Congo Square Market and the Ithaca Farmers Market; and Emmy's Organics, who store ingredients for their raw foods products sold at GreenStar and regionally.

Farms using our storage facilities include Buried Treasures Farm, Sacred Seed Farm, West Haven Farm and Black Diamond Farm. All sell produce at the Farmers Market and/or at GreenStar.

In 2011, we instituted a wholesale purchase program available to local producers and distributors. If businesses meet the wholesale program's criteria, one of which is a $300 minimum order, then we offer products at a significantly lower margin than retail. For example, under this program, GreenStar has been instrumental in the financial support of Regional Access, who were not able to purchase the goods they needed at a price they could afford from other natural foods distributors. As a result, Regional Access currently purchases $1-$3K weekly through GreenStar.

Among the other businesses and groups that have participated in our wholesale program are: Bite Size Pieces, Coffee Mania, Culture Shock, Eco Village, Gimme! Coffee, Giving Tree, Good Stuff by Mom & Me, Kathy's Granola, Macro Mama, Manndible Cafe, Cropp Co-op, Organic Valley, Pizza Aroma, Racker Center, Sweet Melissa's, Three Flowers Bakery, Viva Taqueria and Waffle Frolic.

We also contributed $13K to the production of Get Foodie!, a local cable access show, which sought to link local consumers to our local and regional food producers.

All of these programs, along with the use of our community space, The Space @ GreenStar, create paths to local entrepreneurship spawned by your co-op. Whether it's a venue for local bands, a space for a local chef to store perishables, a yoga studio or an indoor winter market, GreenStar is making local things grow in your community.

In our stores, we sell products from Tierra Farms, A.L. George, Regional Access, Four Seasons, Casa, Byrne Dairy, and Garden Spot, which are all either local or regional distributors. In fact, we offer shelf space for any local business that meets our product guidelines. We even sell local frozen vegetables!

GreenStar utilizes locally owned services and buys from local producers whenever possible for all our administrative and operational needs, too.

While we have identified some gaps and are looking for ways to provide for, say, local carrots, when it's more profitable for the farmers to sell them at market, our percentage of local products continues to grow and grow.

So grab your Guide to Being Local and get some incredible savings at GreenStar and dozens of local businesses. Grab a ballot and vote for your local public servants. Or grab a form at our Customer Service desk and declare your candidacy for GreenStar's Council! Whatever you choose, our local scene is something to get loud about and GreenStar, as always, is right at the center of making it happen.

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