COOPERATIVE MAINE

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Rising Tide in Boothbay Register

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Serving Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport & Edgecomb since 1876

Local market celebrates National Co-op Month, Non-GMO Month

Each October, cooperatives all across the country celebrate the role, accomplishments and contributions of our nation’s cooperatives. Damariscotta’s own natural foods cooperative, Rising Tide Community Market, is a full-service retail grocery store, distinguished from other local businesses in that it’s owned by over 3,000 local and seasonal residents of the greater Damariscotta area.

Rising Tide grew out of local buying clubs which operated in the 1970s, and its first storefront opened in 1978.

“The theme of Co-op Month this year is ‘The Co-op Connection.’ We want to highlight the ways in which Rising Tide connects with our community — whether it’s through donating to local nonprofits and community events, having local art exhibits in our café, or supporting local farms and producers,” said Elya Markert, Rising Tide’s Outreach and Marketing Coordinator. “Co-op Month is also a great opportunity to raise awareness about the cooperative movement in general, for our own member-owners and the community as a whole.”

During Co-op Month, Rising Tide is publishing an educational series of posts on its Facebook page and website. Posts for the first part of the month have included Maine co-op news, Rising Tide’s history, and history of the cooperative movement.

October is also Non-GMO Month, bringing awareness to the issue of genetically modified organisms in the food supply.

“GMO labeling is not yet mandatory, which presents a challenge for consumers who want to avoid GMOs in their food. Many of our shoppers are concerned about GMOs,” Markert said. “The Non-GMO Project works with companies to label their products as ‘Non-GMO Verified’ if they meet ingredient standards that ensure no contamination by GMOs. Rising Tide currently carries over 700 products bearing this label, all clearly marked by shelf tags …. We also provide information and education in the store about which ingredients are most likely to be contaminated by GMOs (corn, soy, sugar beets, alfalfa and canola) and how customers can choose foods that do not contain GMOs. Ultimately, we believe that people have the right to know what’s in the food they consume every day.”

The cooperative movement in Maine is thriving, with several new retail cooperatives forming or opening in Maine during 2014. Food stores in Brooks (Marsh River Cooperative), Fort Kent (Market Street Cooperative) and Houlton (The County Co-op and Farm Store) have all opened their doors in recent months and are welcoming new members.

All of the food co-op stores in Maine focus on purchasing local food, including produce, some grains, dairy, and meat. They each contribute significantly more to the Maine economy than food stores that get most of their products from outside the state. Also, the Portland Food Co-op and the Gardiner Food Co-op and Café are both expected to open later in 2014 or 2015. That will bring the total of storefront food cooperatives in Maine to eleven, including existing co-ops in Blue Hill, Belfast, Rockland, Norway, and Waterville.

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