Last week’s edition of the Gazette displayed a front page story about the latest controversies surrounding the Stop and Shop.

I am not convinced that any of the scenarios contemplated in the article are what the year-round Island community here needs. Instead, it is the right time to start talking about a food market that is built by Islanders, owned and governed by Islanders, and with all the benefits going back exclusively to Islanders. While the big corporation and single proprietor shops argue about who is getting what, it appears that the discussion loses what really matters most — a socially responsible discussion around the need for a year-round food venue that does not run for profits, but for the people whom it serves and supports the local farmers and producers. Martha’s Vineyard needs a cooperative food market.

Cooperative food markets are owned by the members who join them for an initial but reasonable investment. The markets work within the local community to offer local farm produce, dairy, seafood and meats along with regional produce and a wide variety of quality and organic dry goods and products.

High quality goods could be offered year-round at reasonable prices and with friendly and helpful service. Any profits go back to community investment and to the member-owners in the form of food discounts or profit sharing. In addition, the benefits of a community run food market are substantial beyond a central venue for local growers and suppliers. They include quality and livable wage jobs for the community, support for fair trade, nutrition services, special elder services, a beautiful and clean venue for food shopping, high quality and healthy food for a healthier community, and common space for people to shop or gather in the deli or cafe. Cooperative food markets are blossoming all over the country because they provide a positive economic force that benefit local farmers, fishermen, producers, member-owners, workers and consumers. It is a synchronistic relationship that knits communities closer together and proves a win-win for all who participate. Exercise, sleep and diet are the keys to healthy living. Islanders need healthy food options that are reasonably priced and are available year round.

To this end, a group called the Island Co-op Initiative is in the initial organizing phase to create just such a place for our community. We the Island community are the only ones who can make this happen. We need all the help and support we can get to germinate this wonderful seedling and begin cultivating its reality here on our Island. An initial kick-off meeting will offer more information at the Vineyard Haven library on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Please come and find out more about what you can do to help and tell your next door farmer or friend.

Lucinda Kirk Linn
West Tisbury