The Sugar Beet -- a New Kind of Local Food Co-op Coming to Oak Park

by the Sugar Beet Cooperative Team

The Sugar Beet Cooperative is a new kind of local food co-op that is coming to Northeast Oak Park. Cheryl Munoz and Jenny Jocks Stelzer are two Oak Parkers who, with the support and hard work of their friends, neighbors, and (as of right now) 338 Facebook supporters, are spearheading the effort to make local, sustainable food more accessible to the Oak Park and Austin communities year-round.

Combining Sale of Locally Grown Food with Educational Programming

The Sugar Beet is in its early development phase, and its founders are currently hard at work establishing their vision and aligning it with the hopes and expectations of the community. They have prioritized providing access to local sustainable food by connecting farmers to eaters AND developing a community organization that works to provide a space for education, discussion, and action on topics like gardening, cooking, preserving, and eating together. The Sugar Beet will be a new kind of food cooperative in that it will be both a corner store that sells food and products from local farmers and producers AND a community center with educational programming and outreach activities for the underserved regional food shed in the Oak Park and Austin communities.

Stunned by Extent of Community Support

Munoz and Jocks Stelzer have been stunned by the show of support they have received from the community and the extent to which neighbors and supporters are eager to help make The Sugar Beet happen. They are reading and responding to ideas and discussions through social media, meeting with those who have reached out as specific resources, such as Seven Generations Ahead, the Dill Pickle Food Co-op, and Oak Park-River Forest, and building working groups so that all who are interested in volunteering with the effort to build the co-op can get involved.

Opportunities to Meet Members of the Sugar Beet Team and Learn More

The Sugar Beet will be at the Local Food Forum follow-up meeting on May 16th from 7 – 8:30 p.m. At the Oak Park Conservatory; everyone who wants to get involved, or to learn about the co-op are invited.  The Sugar Beet will be at the Go Green Days at the OP Farmers' Market on May 19th  and 26th  from 9 am and 12 noon (The Market, of course, is 7 – 1)  and at Oak Park’s A Day In Our Village on June 3 (Scoville Park). They will also be talking with the community about memberships in the co-op during the Oak Park Farmers’ Market season and conducting a big fundraising event in July at Fitzgerald’s.  Details are forthcoming.  Drop by to meet the team, buy a beautiful and sustainable The Sugar Beet t-shirt, and to join in the efforts to bring a new kind of local, sustainable food cooperative to the community!

The Sugar Beet’s Mission:

The Sugar Beet Cooperative will provide high quality, locally sourced food produced in ecologically sounds ways. Not only will we offer good food at fair value to member-owners and the community, The Sugar Beet Co-op will also serve as a neighborhood gathering place for sharing and learning, which in turn will support our regional food shed.

The vision of The Sugar Beet Co-op is to nurture our diverse community through the practice of cooperative economics and through educational programming honoring a more sustainable relationship between the foods we eat and the world we live in.

The Sugar Beet’s Values:

Economy: Create a vibrant not-for-profit business whose success stimulates cooperative activity. Localism: Ensure our community has access to a marketplace with healthy, safe, and local goods that have a positive environmental and social impact. Wellness: Provide our community with direct access to solutions that contribute to heath and wellness. Education: Create opportunities for our diverse community to learn about cooperative economics and the interconnectivity between healthful foods, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. Community: Nurture ecologically regenerative and socially just community development efforts that reach beyond our community and our generation. Model Workplace: Develop a model workplace that demonstrates a professional culture of mutual support and open communication, based on the balance of personal and organizational needs.