Coteau Community Market offers local, organic, minimal waste foods – Watertown Public Opinion
The Watertown area is in for a healthy treat. A member-owned, organic health foods co-op is in the works.
The Coteau Community Market is a sustainable food system that will offer organic, minimal waste foods to the public and plans on opening this fall.
Annie Mullin moved to Watertown with her chickens to be closer to her parents. Her chickens and their farm-fresh eggs, plus a childhood of farmer’s markets and gardening, inspired her to take her diet down a different path.
“I had completely changed how I ate. I grew it or I got it from a local farmer, at the local co-op farmers market, or from Natural Grocers,” said Mullin. “It’s important to know how your food is grown.”
When Mullin found that this network and the food co-op were missing from Watertown, she set out to change that.
“Let’s make a place to sell what they’re producing that’s open year-round,” said Mullin.
In 2018, Mullin started with creating a steering committee to help get the co-op legally established. By November of 2018, it was incorporated and had set policies and goals.
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“We have a marvelous non-discrimination policy. We’re working on a diversity, equity and inclusion statement and figuring out how to make both of those not just be hollow words but how to put them into action. Everyone is welcome, even if you’re not a member. The goal is to make healthy food accessible to everyone, and a part of that is affordability. Healthy food is not a privilege. It’s a right,” said Mullin.
The diversity aspect is one of the ways the co-op is set apart from other health food stores. The opportunity to supply unique grain, produce, dairy and meat options is a blessing for families with diverse backgrounds and different dietary needs.
Local organizations and individuals are taking notice of this inclusion and have taken part to help the store come to life. The Glacial Lakes Multicultural Center has helped with translating information about the co-op for the Spanish-speaking community.
“We’re trying to welcome all communities in this area,” said Mullin.
Unlike a regular grocery store that offers healthy, organic food options, the Coteau Community Market keeps their food sources within a 150-mile radius of Watertown whenever possible. This has many benefits, including limiting processing, preservatives and fuel to transport goods. It truly supports local growers and producers.
“Most modern food co-ops are just an organic version of a grocery store. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean that it’s not processed. That’s not any better for you,” said Mullin.
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One of the diverse, local food options will be using a flour mill within the store. Shoppers will have an opportunity to purchase truly fresh flour that is not bleached or stale from sitting on a shelf for months before purchase.
“Most people have never tasted fresh flour before,” said Mullin.
The mill will also offer varieties of grains that help provide alternatives for those with gluten allergies.
True to her mission, the grains will be grown locally, and some will be provided by Stengel Seed and Grain, a Milbank company specializing in organic processing for 40 years.
“My entire life, scientists have been saying that we have to change what we’re doing, but nothing has changed. We have to actively, physically change how we grow and sell our foods. We have to get as close to zero waste as we can get,” said Mullin.
Education on environmental health, the impact of sustainable farming and local consumption are all part of the co-op’s process. Mullin plans on using the store as a place to teach food preparation and preservation techniques. A commercial kitchen within the shop will also provide an opportunity for small producers to prepare their food goods for sale. She is also using her network as an opportunity to bring awareness and encourage crop diversity to local growers.
“I want the market to educate not just consumers but also producers,” she said. “It really is possible to grow these things, and you don’t need the chemicals and fertilizers to do it. Producers can improve the environment and be economically sustainable. Consumers can vote with their dollars. The market will pay fair wages and by buying from local producers, it keeps money in the community.”
For the Coteau Community Market to be true to its mission of being accessible to everyone, Mullin is also looking into making the products sold in the store accessible to individuals on food assistance.
Startup funds of $120,000 are needed. Mullen said they are a third of the way there. Those funds include membership fees already collected.
A storefront on Kemp Avenue is the hopeful new home of the Coteau Community Market, and Mullin said she will continue to campaign until she can reach the membership numbers necessary. A membership is a one-time fee of $100. Memberships are not needed to shop at the co-op once it is open.
“It’s a one-time investment. It’s an investment in yourself, your health, and your community,” said Mullin. “This is about food justice, food security, and food sovereignty. Food security: we’ve all seen the lines of people at the food drops during the pandemic. Sovereignty: the right to have access to and grow the foods that matter to your culture. Food justice: for everyone who gets stuck with junk food because they’re working poor or because of their race or ethnicity and fresh food is more expensive.”
For more information or to become a member, visit www.coteau.coop.
The Watertown area is in for a healthy treat. A member-owned, organic health foods co-op is in the works.The Coteau Community Market is a sustainable food system that will offer organic, minimal waste foods to the public and plans on opening this fall.Annie Mullin moved to Watertown with her chickens to be closer to her…