It wasn’t long ago that the idea of having organic vegetables available for purchase in the Truckee Meadows was more foreign than the idea of smoke-free restaurants. Luckily, those days are behind us now, and even chain stores are getting on the bandwagon. The Great Basin Food Co-op, 271 Wonder St., 324-6133, though, isn’t a chain store, and it isn’t promoting organic food and community action because that’s the fashionable thing. The Co-op is staffed by dedicated volunteers, like Amber Sallaberry, 25, who are trying to help the community by supplying good food at a reasonable price. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m.
How did the Food Co-op come about?
I saw a flier for the initial meeting, which was Sept. 17th of 2005. … By January, we had started the Great Basin Food Buying club. Then we also put together a program called the Great Basin Basket with Pauline Hamilton. That took off on June 5th of last year. By October 3rd, we had our first storefront operation in the back of Sound & Fury Records.
What is a food co-op exactly?
Food co-ops are autonomous associations of people who are working together, pooling their resources for everyone’s benefit. There can be housing co-ops, electrical co-ops, babysitting co-ops. How it kind of plays out in my brain is it is a place, a venue, where it’s all volunteer-run and operated, and we all come together, and we work with our local farmers and a national organic distributor, and we pool our resources together to buy bulk orders so that we can make organic food as cheap and dependable for the community as possible.
For instance, at Wild Oats, I think an organic avocado costs roughly around $2—it fluctuates, depending on the season. At the co-op, we had organic avocados anywhere from 30 cents to 75 cents. I think a lot of us not only put emphasis on local food, but we also think that it’s important that people should be able to eat well—not pesticide-laden or contaminated food. We think everyone should be able to afford that.
What kinds of foods?
We emphasize organic, and we emphasize local, so anything we can get local. Right now, the season has dwindled. We just got a batch of local spinach from Tina Smith, but that’s the first greens we have seen locally in a while. Some of our local vendors, like Gary Romano in Sierra Valley does canned horseradish, and Rick Lattin out in Fallon does jams and breads, and Tina does pickles. Through the co-op’s organic distributor, we do bulk products and staple products. We try to also emphasize that people bring in and recycle their own containers. We have pumps for bulk olive oil, maple syrup, laundry soap, dish soap. We have bulk containers for flour—like gluten-free flour. We have all kinds of beans, all kinds of nuts, fruit. We try to offer vegan versions of things. And also dairy. We want to be as community inclusive as possible. Right now, we have local, grass-fed beef from Tina Smith out in Smith Valley. We want people to plug in. We want the urban market to plug in and meet their farmers and know that there are products like this available. I think that if people are going to eat meat, they should do it in the most sustainable and sound way possible.
How can the community get involved?
We can only grow organically at a pace the community can support. We’re totally based on the volunteer system. We’re a private buying club/co-op now, so it’s a $15 membership. But you will definitely get that back after shopping just for a couple months. It also helps us with our Web site, www.greatbasinfood.coop, and the bills that we pay. Joe Ferguson donated the actual space, so we don’t have to pay rent right now. We need volunteers, we need members, we need people who are interested in the cooperative model.