In recognition of the International Year of Cooperatives, we will be sharing the stories of different cooperatives throughout the year. This month, we're highlighting La Montanita Co-op in New Mexico. Read on and enjoy!
La Montanita’s patrons have the option to become members. If you’re a member of the co-op, you also own a share of the business. Unlike other investors, co-op shareholders live near to and frequently use the business in which they invest. Surplus revenue is returned to member-owners in proportion to how much they use the co-op. In other words, it pays to shop your investment.
Second, La Montanita is strongly vested in the communities it serves. While the co-op spearheads many community development initiatives, tops on the list is the support and development of local/regional food producers. To that end, the co-op added a distribution center (DC) to their lineup of five stores in New Mexico—three locations in Albuquerque; one in Santa Fe; and one in Gallup.
Managed by long-time “LaM” employee member-owner, Michelle Franklin, the DC accomplishes several things: “It gave us the ability to provide logistics for producers (trucks, warehouse, staff)…and to guide and partner with new producers. How does one go from making a tub of chevre to getting it into retail stores?" Roughly 55% of the local products shelved at the DC go to La Montanita stores; the rest supplies stores and restaurants all over New Mexico.
But the La Montanita DC also stocks and distributes nationally branded items. For instance, it’s the New Mexico distributor for Organic Valley and Organic Prairie products.
As General Manager Terry Bowling points out, “The DC enables us to get product to a lot of mom-and-pop stores that are too small to get product from national distributors.”
In operation since 1976, LaM welcomes local competition from newer Whole Foods and Traders Joe’s stores. “We have the best service in town and people come back for that. We’re local, and we know people when they come into our stores.” In 35 years they have grown from 300 member families to nearly 15,000, and today provide jobs for 200 community members.
Learn more about La Montanita and its commitment to community development and education at lamontanita.coop.
Most folks think of Organic Valley and Organic Prairie as sources of delicious and healthful organic foods. What they don’t know is that the key to our success is our cooperative business model known as Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP).
In recognition of the International Year of Cooperatives, we will be sharing the stories of different cooperatives throughout the year. Please join us this year to celebrate the benefits of working together!