Metrics from the Field: Co-ops and Collective Impact


  • Ken Meter Crossroads Resource Center





First paragraphs:

The nonprofit Cooperative Development Services (CDS), a cooperative that offers business consulting services to co-ops, just released an incisive report showing how co-op groceries in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area grew over the past 40 years into a US$180-million commercial cluster (Stockinger & Gutknecht, 2014). This is strong growth for an upstart sector amidst established competitors in an often-hostile economic climate. While they still represent only two percent of the region's grocery trade, food co-ops have built a solid membership base. Their stores define the cutting edge of grocery retailing in the Twin Cities (where I live), and have had a profound influence on the ways groceries are sold here.

The growth of this co-op sector offers important insights into collective impact — an approach that advances the notion that even discrete steps taken by a given initiative will have importance across sectors, creating synergy and larger impacts over time — now widely in use by food initiatives across the U.S.

Let’s start with some basic facts from the CDS report. Today there are 15 food co-ops operating 17 stores in the Twin Cities region (with plans underway for adding three new outlets). These co-ops have enlisted 91,000 members and attract an estimated 50,000 additional shoppers annually. Combined, the stores offer food items from more than 300 farmers located within 250 miles (400 km) of the metro region, who earn an estimated US$31 million of farmgate revenue by selling to the co-ops through various channels. About 60 percent of this revenue was earned by selling directly to each co-op store....


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Author Biography

Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center

Minneapolis-based Ken Meter is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the U.S., having produced nearly 100 state and regional studies of farm and food economies in 36 states, including (with Megan Phillips Goldenberg) Making Small Farms into Big Business, a US$9.8-million investment plan for local foods commissioned by the state of South Carolina, and a forthcoming review of economic impacts of institutional food purchasing compiled for the Illinois Public Health Institute and the Centers for Disease Control. Meter is now part of a national team devising innovative ways of measuring impacts of food business clusters.

Ken Meter



How to Cite

Meter, K. (2014). Metrics from the Field: Co-ops and Collective Impact. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 4(3), 11–14.

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