North Country gives back

Since opening in 1971, North Country Co-op Grocery has been linked to the peace movement, and now they're taking it one step further. The store started the campaign "Produce for Peace" in February as an effort to help groups supporting peace in relation to the Iraq war.

The campaign works by choosing a peace group every other Wednesday, highlighting and publicizing it in the store for two weeks and contributing 5 percent of both Wednesdays' produce sales to the group.

Employee Victor Martelino said the donation totals about $50 each week.

Erik Esse, North Country marketing and membership manager, said because of the store's organization, it can afford to be more political.

"Other stores may be afraid of alienating their investors or customers," he said.

As a co-op, North Country is owned by employees and the people who shop there.
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Raechel Bosch
North Country Co-op Grocery on the West Bank has a new program called “Produce for Peace.” Every Wednesday, the co-op donates 5 percent of the profit made on produce purchases to local nonprofit organizations.
Shoppers can buy a share of the store for $75 to become a co-owner, with everyone owning an equal share.

"It's not like a corporation where you can buy more stock and hold more rights," Esse said.

The co-op currently seats about 500 members and Esse said it's a way for consumers to come together and provide for what they need, nutritionally and emotionally.

"We're only here because of our shoppers having the need to have this type of food (organic, natural, bulk, etc.)," he said. "But they also had a need and a desire for their co-op to have a positive effect on the community and the nation."

Martelino, an employee for six years, said the idea was a result of a brainstorming session to figure out ways to promote the store.

Martelino and the produce department thought the store could draw people in for a special cause instead of putting the actual food on sale.
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Daily

"The goal is to promote the store through the produce department, and, at the same time, help groups who are trying to do something for the world," Martelino said.

After introducing his plan, management agreed with Martelino and "Produce for Peace" was born.

Groups chosen usually have a link to the store through members or shoppers. After the group is nominated, the store's board members meet and make the final decision, Esse said.

Today is the last day of Veterans for Peace's two-week run as the featured group. It works to educate youth about alternatives to military service with an ultimate goal of stopping the war and taking care of all victims.

North Country member and founder of the Veterans for Peace's Minneapolis chapter Jerry Rau said he's not surprised the group was selected.

Rau, a musician, is loosely connected with the group, playing at occasional events, but said he was an instrumental member of the group in the late 1980s.

"It's a valuable organization," Rau said. "Any money that can be sent their way is money well spent."

Esse said the store plans to continue the campaign as long as it can, depending on the war and the store's financial ability to keep it going.