Cooperative grocery planned in Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, August 31, 2009

FAIRBANKS - Despite humble beginnings, a locally owned and operated cooperative grocery is becoming a reality in Fairbanks.

More than 500 people attended the Pioneer Park Civic Center for the Harvest Fair on Saturday to check out what will soon be a Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market in downtown Fairbanks.

As vendors and performers circled inside the civic center, prospective co-op members lined the halls and filled the auditorium to learn more.

"Our community has wildly diverse interests in wildly diverse things, and that could very well define Fairbanks," state Rep. David Guttenberg said as he introduced the market and read a proclamation about the co-op's visionary, Dave Lacey, who died this year.

Lacey was a community advocate for several outlets in Fairbanks and interior villages, and he worked to raise awareness about economic sustainability.

"Doctor Dave," as he was known, was the host of "Dave's Country Cavalcade" and "Daves Hootenanny" shows on KUAC-FM during his 25-year tenure as a broadcaster.

During Saturday's first meeting, the co-op's interim board of directors and co-op members paid tribute to Lacey.

Guttenberg read a proclamation on Lacey's behalf, which was followed by a short speech by Lacey's son, Vaughan Skylark, who held back tears as he told the audience how thankful he was to see his father's dream become a reality.

"There are some amazing people in here today, and I can't wait for it to be happening," Skylark said. "I feel like my dad will live on with this and for that, I'm very thankful."

The co-op's goal is to support a healthy and sustainable community by providing natural foods and products from local suppliers, as well as offer consumer education in a friendly environment.

That vision was in the spirit of Lacey, according to Cora Kelly, who presented information about the co-op to the audience.

The plan is to sell locally grown food and other items typically found at a farmers market. A selection of organic produce will be available as well.

"It's innovative. You will know the origin of your food, and it will come from local producers," Kelly said. A co-op will offer a variety of products ranging from cabbage and carrots to lamb and lotions, she noted, and it will stimulate local production.

"There's a place for everyone here," she said.

But before various committees pick and chose products to sell, the co-op needs at least 1,500 members.

Forming a member base is going well, according to Hans Geier, who noted that as of Friday evening, the co-op had 943 members dedicated to the cause.

That number grew Saturday as families visited the Harvest Fair and made $10 down payments toward a $200 membership.

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