Locals launching Squamish produce co-op 

Gillespie's Kelly Ann Woods on using community problem solving

click to enlarge Kelly Ann Woods and Nicola Fairweather are two of the faces behind the soon-to-be launched Squamish Fresh, a produce co-op. Photo: KEILI BARTLETT/THE SQUAMISH CHIEF
  • Kelly Ann Woods and Nicola Fairweather are two of the faces behind the soon-to-be launched Squamish Fresh, a produce co-op. Photo: KEILI BARTLETT/THE SQUAMISH CHIEF

After seven years—and two businesses in Squamish—Kelly Ann Woods said she had a bee in her bonnet: there was a lack of fresh and affordable fruit and vegetables.

After turning to a Facebook page for local moms, Woods soon found out she wasn't the only person in Squamish who felt frustrated trying to find healthy food on a budget. Within 24 hours, 300 people joined a new page she created: Squamish Fresh.

"The post exploded. It just exploded," Woods said. She invited others to help contribute their skills.

That was nearly a month and a half ago. Now, she and other Squamish Fresh committee members are getting ready to launch a co-op in late August. So far, they're done two trial runs. It will be low-to-no waste and kept as local as possible. (Woods added they may open up membership to other Sea to Sky residents, but it will be just available to Squamish at first.)

Squamish Fresh has also seen support from the larger community. A fundraiser to help with startup costs has raised more than $900 of its $1,500 goal.

Sea to Sky Couriers is currently providing free transport of the group's goods.

Moms may have been the driving force behind the idea, but Woods said the co-op will be open to all kinds of members. To join, members will have to buy a co-op share, which earns them voting rights, and volunteer around once every few months. The capital raised by shares will go toward the traditional model of a co-operative, designed to sell fair-priced, quality goods that members could not otherwise afford.

"It's basically a community of people's response to a problem and then working together as a group of people to solve that problem," Woods said.

Once it starts, Woods said the weekly bulk-buy of produce will be between $25 and $40 per order, with pricing differing for non-members. They hope to expand to other products once Squamish Fresh is off the ground.

For Nicola Fairweather, one of the committee members, the co-op provides more than food. The newcomer to Squamish found a sense of community.

"I've been astounded not just by the strength of comradeship... by people stepping up from the community and wanting to help," Fairweather said.

To find more information, find Squamish Fresh on Facebook.

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